Mum making a Victoria sponge cake for my birthday with water-icing and hundreds of thousands on it. I make birthday cakes for family and friends all the time because I really enjoy it. It’s my showstopper, although I don’t make them incredibly neatly in terms of the icing. My recipe of choice is still my mum’s but I always add lemon rind and French vanilla – that’s my tip.
Are you from a baking family?
My mum baked during the week because she didn’t work. She used to make a great Irish tea loaf called Irish brack, which I make a lot, and her recipe for shortbread is still the best I’ve found. Intuitively I’m more of a cook: I love mixing ingredients and trying different things. I make scones a lot because they can be made really quickly if people are coming round. I’m much more savoury than sweet so mine come with a generous sprinkling of cheese that I should really limit…
Why do you like baking?
I find it incredibly stress-relieving. I bake every weekend and have done since the children were little. I think I baked as an antidote to guilt when they were growing up: guilt at working and being away all the time. When I was baking, I felt I was back in the home properly. My son and daughter are at university now and I always take baking with me when I visit. My son studies in America and I worried about smuggling shortbread through customs the first time. I’ve since read the small print and think it’s OK.
Did you enjoy baking for Comic Relief ?
I didn’t practise at all – I didn’t have any time – but I was dreading the technical bake. For some reason I thought: I bet you anything it’s bloody choux pastry. And it was. I knew I would be rubbish at it and the fact came to pass. I’m too heavy-handed. I did a lot of trial and error on that day, and most of it was error. My showstopper was an unusual and technically difficult cake and I ended up winging that, too. The theme was “best of British” but mine had a Scottish twist, naturally.