What’s with all the baking?

By Kirstin Buick
07 August 2013

TV chef and blogger Sarah Graham looks at the recent craze in home baking and shares a delicious and easy-to-make chocolate cake recipe.

It feels as if all of a sudden the world is feverish with a fancy for baking. And there is a seemingly endless string of TV shows leaving a crowd of baking mad aficionados in its wake. On a daily basis we’re seeing a rise in the sale of baking equipment, and men and women alike are donning their aprons and picking up their whisks with glee.

And I for one think that this is a marvellous thing. The main question, I suppose, is that after all this time of shop-bought, plastic-wrapped cakes, why all of a sudden are we mad about baking? Here's what I’ve deduced . . .

Family ties

I have a little daughter, Sophie, who’s two (and ridiculously cute) and she loves nothing more than putting on her mini apron and sitting on the kitchen counter to “make cakes” with me. Obviously, that usually translates to flour on every work surface and a lot of happy chaos. But the point is, it’s an age-old way of spending time with friends or family, and I think that should be treasured.

Afternoon tea

Afternoon tea has always been a much-loved ritual in my family, so for me it’s nothing new, but a lot of people are coming back to the age old way of celebrating afternoon teas. It is perhaps a nod to vintage glories and sentimentality, but it’s also just plain wonderful.

Take it slow

In a world that’s besotted with hurry hurry, flurry flurry, baking is a calm refuge that I think we crave. Because it can’t be rushed, and requires your full attention and care, it means that we need to slow down if we’re going to make a perfect cake or batch of cookies. It grounds us, brings us back down to earth and makes us appreciate the simpler things.

Keeping count

In our food world that’s overflowing with processed, pre-packaged, msg-laden goodies that are choking on preservatives, baking is also a way of keeping track of what we’re eating.

Let’s be smug

Of all household activities, baking seems to be the one that induces the most satisfaction. There is something profoundly rewarding about producing a loaf of fresh bread, or eating a slice of the chocolatiest homemade chocolate cake.

The telly

Yes, I suppose that the most significant reason for our current baking obsession would have to be the plethora of baking-related shows on TV. The likes of Lorraine Pascale, Rachel Khoo, The Great British Bake Off, The Barefoot Contessa, and of course, our favourite TV cook, Nigella, have all made baking sexy again.

So, to feed your baking fetish, here is my very favourite Ultimate Easy Chocolate Cake Recipe

Our Ultimate Easy Chocolate Cake?with Peanut butter and Dark Chocolate FrostingServes 6 | Preparation time 5 minutes | Baking time 20 minutes

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

Cake

1 cup sugar

1 cup cake flour, sifted

3/4 t baking powder

3/4 baking soda

3 level T cocoa powder

1 heaped t instant coffee granules

a pinch of salt

2 eggs

1/2 c milk

1 T cooking oil

1 t vanilla essence

1/2 cup boiling water

Instant icing

1 (very) heaped T smooth peanut butter

1 (very) heaped T nutella spread

1-2 T boiling water

WHAT TO DO

1. Pre-heat your oven to 180 °C and spray or grease your favourite cake tin.

2. Add the sugar to a large mixing bowl, then sieve over the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cocoa. Then add the coffee and salt.

3. In a measuring jug, whisk together the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla essence, and add to the dry ingredients.

4. Slowly add the boiling water, mixing as you pour it in and mix until everything is just combined.

5. Pour into the cake tin and bake for 20 minutes, or until the cake is just cooked through and a skewer inserted into its centre comes out clean.

6. To make the icing, mix the ingredients until smooth, altering the quantities to suit your preferred consistency.

7. Ice the cake and serve as soon as possible.

(T=Tablespoon, t=teaspoon, c=cup)

-       Sarah Graham

Food Blogger, Cookbook Author, Cooking Show Host

You can read more of Sarah’s thoughts on her blog afoodieliveshere.co.za

You can buy her cookbook bitten in major bookstores in South Africa and online via her website.

Watch her TV show, “bitten – Sarah Graham Cooks Cape Town” on Sundays at 4pm on SABC3.

More from Sarah:

Sarah Graham blogs for us

Sarah Graham: Moving forward

Souped up

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