'Homemade? I've had my fill of cupcake fetishism, twee polka-dot aprons and smug TV bakers'

Enough already, says Rebecca Armstrong – get me to a Greggs

Until last week, I had no idea that something called a Pie Shield existed. I was flicking through a Lakeland catalogue I found on a colleague's desk when I spotted a cherry-red segmented silicone ring. "New product!" exclaimed the accompanying text. "The crust is always the first part of your pie to burn," it went on to explain. "So instead of spending time fashioning foil to try and protect it, place one of these reusable silicone Pie Shields around the edge of your pastry before baking and you'll have beautiful golden-brown results with no sign of scorching."

Having never made a pie, I can't tell how troubling a scorched crust might be. But to someone out there, it must be quite a trial – the smallest sized Perfect Crust Pie Shield costs £7.99. And given that you could buy two short-crust steak pies in Sainsbury's for £3, each with a perfectly golden unsinged pastry margin around the outside, why on earth would you need to go and buy a dedicated crust protector?

But then, I would say that. Because, between you and me, I don't really believe in baking. I'll eat the fruits of other people's ovens and I'm very fond of bread, buns and baps – but making them myself? When there are at least seven perfectly good shops that sell baked goods within a two-minute walk from my front door? No, thank you.

No thank you to the trolley dash that every occasional baker will know, where you can't remember the difference between baking powder and bicarb, buy both, plus all the extras you've forgotten you have at home (alive with weevils, mind), some muffin cases, a sheaf of greaseproof paper and end up spending £40 on eight leaden fairy cakes. No thank you to the zero-tolerance "science" of baking. Screw up a tsp or tbsp and you end up with an inedible bread Frisbee that even the birds (and those other denizens of the back garden, rats) won't touch.

And I'd also like to politely decline the invitations from every TV channel and bookshop to give baking a bash. Having managed to dodge both series of The Great British Bake Off, I now feel as though I'm under siege. In January, the photogenic Herbert siblings took to TV screens with a series devoted to baking accompanied by a cookbook, The Fabulous Baking Boys. A 13-part series recently started on the Good Food Channel featuring "young, sexy" (no, Food Channel, they really, really aren't) chefs Paul Hollywood and James Martin "delving into the world of speciality breads and the food that goes with them", while later this month, The Big Book of Baking by the Hairy Bikers hits shelves and screens, followed by the second series of Baking Mad on Channel 4.

The promotional material informing me about the latter needlessly points out that British baking is booming. With all this TV evangelising, is there any wonder? Caster sugar sales are up by 7 per cent, icing sugar by 14 per cent and vanilla extract by 20 per cent. The market intelligence wonks at Mintel saw all this coming in a 2006 report, which predicted (warned?) that sales of home-baking products would reach £550m by 2011. By 2010 it had actually reached £576m, no doubt because of the 28 per cent of us baking from scratch using raw ingredients at least once a week.

Cooking anything from scratch is, of course, a good thing. Well done that 28 per cent. But might now be a good time to take a small step away from the butter cream? I don't mind what anyone gets up to in their own kitchens, but I do mind the baking-is-a-virtue mindset. A pile of homemade cakes is every bit as obesity-causing as a stack of shop-bought ones. Yes, they will have fewer mystery ingredients (mmm, corn syrup) and they will taste lovely fresh from the oven, but come on, we have spent hundreds of years trying to escape from the tyranny of being chained to the stove. It feels a bit Marie Antoinette-ish, this playing at baking. Or maybe it reminds me of Valium-numbed1950s' housewives baking endlessly because there was nothing else they could do.

It's the Fifties' housewife vibe that also bothers me about all the pastel-hued, labour-saving baking devices that sit alongside things like the Pie Shield in kitchenware shops (you wouldn't need to labour-save if you just went to Greggs, after all). It's the cake-levelling doo-dah that gives you an even surface for your icing. It's the terminally twee stamps for home bakers that imprint the message "homemade" on any biscuits they craft, even though everyone can tell they're homemade because they look rubbish. It's the unnerving feel of silicone baking moulds in the shape of rabbits. It's polka-dotted aprons and retro-style mixers and all the other lifestyle baking tat that manufacturers and marketeers are pushing. Every time I see a cupcake stand, a part of me dies inside.

Baking doesn't have to be this way. Even a flour-dodger like me has a great deal of admiration for those who are pushing the boundaries of what you can do with a bit of Battenberg. I watch the Food Channel show Charm City Cakes and marvel at what can be done with icing sugar, imagination, some sponge and a few wooden struts. Then there's the evil genius of British creative Miss Cakehead, a PR and events expert turned Dr Frankenstein offondant. She provides cakes for big-name clients that are more Nightmare on Elm Street than I Dream of Jeannie. "I want to challenge the medium – with cake you can get away with anything," she says, while telling me about how to decorate a cake to make it look blood-spattered, as well as the edible beach she's working on for this year's Cake and Bake Show in September. "We made an edible autopsy out of cake and got a pathologist to come in and dissect it." That's my kind of cake making. She is also no fan of the all-conquering cupcake, either. "There was a horrendous outbreak of cupcakes suddenly becoming so trendy – about five years ago. They're the equivalent of painting by numbers compared with Peter Blake." See her work at staypuft.cc or follow her antics on Twitter @miss_cakehead.

But if you love baking, you won't care what I think about it. For many people baking is useful, joyful, relaxing, fun. For some, it's life-saving: the chick-lit writer Marian Keyes published Saved by Cake: Over 80 Ways to Bake Yourself Happy last month, a very personal cookbook in which she reveals that in the throes of a nervous breakdown, she turned to cake-making: "Baking... gets me through. To be perfectly blunt about it, my choice sometimes is, I can kill myself or I can make a dozen cupcakes."

She also understands that there will always be unbelievers. "I need to make something clear: baking may not be for you". Marian, it's not. But I'm glad that it can be about more than showing off perfect pie crusts and buying spotted aprons, even if you're more likely to find me buying my bread and bagels rather than up to my elbows in flour.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

    Recruitment Genius: Transportation Contracting Manager

    £33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global player and world leade...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel and Spa Duty Manager

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are friendly, sociable, ...

    Recruitment Genius: Payroll and Benefits Co-ordinator

    £22300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum group is looking for a Payro...

    Day In a Page

    Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

    Greece referendum

    Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
    Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

    7/7 bombings anniversary

    Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

    Versace haute couture review

    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
    No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

    No hope and no jobs in Gaza

    So the young risk their lives and run for it
    Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

    Fashion apps

    Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate