Celebrity chefs ensure home baking enjoys a big rise
Take two years of recession, add a fashion for cupcakes and the result is well-risen sales of home-baking equipment. Sales of bakeware have more than doubled over the past two years and decorating and icing products are up by about 70 per cent year on year.
The revival in home baking has helped the sector reach an annual worth of £576m, according to the consumer research group Mintel, which estimates that 28 per cent of people in the UK bake from scratch using raw ingredients at least once a week.
Behind this boom in baking is a new generation – raised on celebrity chefs' best-selling books and ratings-grabbing television shows – that is spending more time in the kitchen. The recession-inspired zeitgeist for "make do and mend" only adds to the trend.
Kirsty Roper-Hall, from the John Lewis Cookshop buying office, said: "This trend is led in part by baking television programmes such as The Great British Bake Off but we are also seeing a trend towards making homemade gifts as a thoughtful way to treat people, but with the added benefit of being money saving."
At John Lewis, sales of mixing bowls have increased more than 40 per cent compared with last year. Cupcake cases are up 305 per cent, while sales of John Lewis's own Satin Anodised range of cake tins and other baking equipment is up 21 per cent.
Lakeland, another home and kitchenware retailer, agrees that the increase in sales is part of this new enterprising mood among consumers. A Lakeland spokeswoman said: "This increase in our sales across bakeware can largely be attributed to a growing trend towards 'homemade is best', especially in areas such as cupcakes."
Television, as ever, is also key to this latest surge of interest in culinary matters. The Great British Bake Off was a 2010 hit for BBC2, and tonight the channel hopes to widen the fanbase further when former model and trained chef Lorraine Pascale introduces her new series, Baking Made Easy.
Pascale grew up in Oxfordshire with her adoptive mother and at the age of 16 was spotted by a model scout while shopping in Covent Garden. She was whisked off to New York where she worked alongside some of the biggest names of the day.
But she decided that modelling was not a lifelong career and joined Leith's School of Food and Wine. On completing the Leith's diploma, she did a two-year foundation degree in international culinary arts in pastry and then worked in some of the most renowned kitchens of the world, including Petrus, The Mandarin Oriental and The Wolseley.
She then set up her own business doing celebration cakes. "My first commission was making 250 Christmas cakes for Selfridges," she said. "I became so busy that I ended up renting a large kitchen. This is how I got going."
Her show is a very different take on the traditional image of home baking. The title music is by Calvin Harris and the show is shot in a contemporary kitchen in east London. It is obviously aimed at younger cooks.
Food writer and commentator Joanna Blythman believes that this is a fashionable new take on an old pre-occupation.
"We've always been a nation of competent bakers," Blythman said. "When it comes to the whole afternoon tea thing, with cakes on a stand, and Miss Marple-style tea shops, we are arguably the best in the world."
'Baking Made Easy' is on BBC2 tonight at 8.30pm
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