Our guide to baking
Hotcourses Editor

Our guide to baking

First published date October 23 2013 Amended date March 11 2015

In recent years, baking fever has swept the nation. Thanks to silver fox Paul Hollywood, the ever-stylish Mary Berry, along with sidekicks Mel and Sue and their constant innuendos; baking has stepped out of the dark ages and made a welcome return to kitchens around the country.


Welcome to your very own Great British Bake Off

Whilst you might had dabbled with devil’s food cake or rustled up a rum baba, turning your baking passion into true prowess takes time, dedication and skill. If you’re passionate about puddings and crazy for cakes, then you may have considered turning your home baking into something more. Whether it’s a chain of cupcake stores you dream of, or you simply want that perfect bake every time, studying baking could be the perfect next step.


The Signature Bake – ‘Baking is like love; it should be entered into with abandon or not at all.’

Just like The Great British Bake Off, knowing the basics is an essential skill for any aspiring baker. Mr Hollywood didn’t get to where he is today without knowing his self-raising from his plain, or his spatula from his palette knife. Learning some good, solid skills can be a great starting point, but going it alone isn’t easy. Finding a knowledgeable, creative teacher and a supportive, fun environment can really fire up your creative juices. After all, what would the bakeoff be without a posse of eager contestants?


Did you know? Before becoming the first ever winner of The Great British Bake Off in 2010, Ed Kimber was a debt collector for a Yorkshire bank. Today, Ed has two successful cookbooks under his belt, and has featured on many-a television programme. Just goes to show what genuinely great baking can achieve!


The Technical Challenge – ‘Baking is science for hungry people.’

Baking requires just a little bit of science, too. By understanding how and why ingredients interact, and how your input can make or break a bake, you’ll be well on your way to baking perfection.

 A great starting point is to get to grips with some kitchen chemistry; and what better time than right now?! If baking is new to you, or you’re feeling rusty, why not start with a simple back-to-basics baking course? This will fire up your enthusiasm and allow you to move on to the next stage with a solid background of knowledge.


Did you know? Adding liquid to flour creates gluten. Kneading stretches these gluten complexes and turns them into long, flexible strands. Yeast produces gases that help the dough to rise (proof), and baking coagulates/solidifies the gluten, creating that fluffy, light texture that we all adore. Don’t forget, though, fat (known as shortening) shortens gluten strands. So, the more shortening added to a dough, the more tender and less chewy the end result will be.


The Showstopper – ‘Do more of what makes you happy.’

For bakers looking to go pro, then you might want to consider an advanced course. You’ll find a wide range of options, which may include specific techniques, technical advice and tutoring on how to bake for the masses. You may also learn about the historical context of your products - knowledge that gives you an insider’s look at how baking has affected, and been affected by, the world around us.

Taking baking from the home and translating it into mass production brings with it a whole new set of challenges. Working with industrial machinery (rather than you hands or your trusty KitchenAid), working with large quantities, considering waste and profit margin are all things you’ll need to consider. Finding help and advice from the right sources can really help make your dream a reality.


Did you know? Baking and love have a long history. In the 1800s it was traditional for unmarried wedding guests to place a piece of the wedding cake under their pillow; supposedly so they would dream of their future spouse! In years gone by, Lancashire ladies would bake their betrothed a ‘courtship cake’ as a token of their affection. This rich, delicious cake is made up of a firm sponge top and a shortbread base - featuring jam or bruised strawberries and cream in the middle. That will get your heart beating!


Star Baker

If baking for business is your dream, then once you’ve mastered your skills, you might want to consider starting your own business. Further study could include a bookkeeping course, business administration or marketing and PR. Making your business work is much like baking a cake; you need the right ingredients, know-how and attitude if you want to see results.


Did you know? The UK baking industry was valued at around £11 billion in 2012, and business is booming. Economic concerns, popular culture and the ability to share knowledge and trends over the internet have all been attributed to the enduring success of the baking industry. It seems we just can’t get enough of those cakes!


By Carrie Barclay

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