IF you haven’t caught the baking bug yet, chances are you haven’t seen The Great British Bake Off.
Since 2010, sales of bakeware – cake tins, muffin trays, wooden spoons and the like – have risen by 39 per cent at Sainsbury’s, and in the last year alone sales of Union Flag cupcake cases at the supermarket have shot up by a whopping 2,050 per cent.
The TV baking contest is thought to be one of the driving forces behind our love affair with all things doughy.
“I think it’s lovely,” says cookery expert Mary Berry, who judges the show alongside master baker Paul Hollywood.
“Everyone who enters is an amateur, so people at home look at them and think ‘I could do that’.
“Mothers and fathers are baking with their children, and uncles, aunts and grannies are doing it. Lots of schools and offices are having bake-offs now and it’s all to do with the show. It’s stimulated Britain to bake.”
The programme, fronted by Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins, sees 12 amateur bakers battle it out to produce the best cakes, breads and pastries.
“The show’s getting bigger and better and the standard is marvellously high this year. Higher than ever before,” says Berry.
Tensions regularly bubble over on the programme, as the bakers anxiously watch their ovens, and Berry is careful to be as constructive as possible in the judging process.
“I’m extremely fair. I want to encourage them to bake more and don’t want to frighten them off. I don’t want them to cry if they don’t do it right.”
Despite her years of cooking experience, she insists she learns ‘all the time’ from the contestants.
“They’re very modern with their colourings. One used freeze-dried raspberries the other day – I’d never seen those before – and they use the internet and come up with all sorts of creations.
“I learn so much from Paul too because he’s a brilliant bread maker. He’s taught me to always make a wet dough.”
With so many tempting treats to sample, Berry has a small mouthful of each. “But the next day I’m pretty careful,” she adds.
quizzed as to how she manages to stay so trim.
The 77-year-old is adamant she will never resort to cosmetic surgery, but admits she worries about her appearance in front of the show’s millions Mild-mannered mother-of-three Jo Wheatley says winning the 2011 show changed her life ‘massively’.