Tuesday, 19 April 2011

The Great British Wedding Cake - Interview With Ruth Clemens

As the Royal Wedding gets ever closer and wedding season has now officially started, I've been spending even more time than usual thinking about cakes and bakes (impossible I hear you cry but trust me, I've managed it!). Sweet treats for weddings are such a focal point right now with gorgeous cakes, quirky cakes, classic cakes and alternative cakes. Add edible favours and other goodies into the mix and you'll see why baking is taking up even more of my thinking time than usual.

And it seems I'm not alone - this Wednesday (20th April) at 8pm, BBC2 shows the one-off special 'The Great British Wedding Cake'. Featuring baking gurus Mary Berry & Paul Hollywood as well as the three finalists from the last series of 'The Great British Bake-Off', Edd Kimber, Miranda Gore-Browne and Ruth Clemens, the show looks at wedding cakes from the earliest Tudor creations right up to the present day and also challenges Edd, Miranda & Ruth to bake some brilliant wedding cakes in just 16 hours. I am going to be on the sofa (with a suitable cake accompaniment watching this!)

As someone who was glued to the last series of 'The Great British Bake-Off' (and has literally baked her way through the series' cookbook!), I was thrilled when Ruth asked me to write the introduction to the series of wedding features she was putting together for her fabulous website. You can see what I had to say here and I would urge you to keep an eye on Ruth's website as there are some brilliant recipes coming up. The cookie 'how to' published today is such a cute wedding detail and so easy (and economical!) to make yourself. Plus, who could resist a cookie that sits so sweetly over the edge of a tea or coffee cup?!

In return for my little feature, Ruth agreed to a little interview for my blog and I'm thrilled to publish it today as a little taster for 'The Great British Wedding Cake' and the series of scrummy treats that will be appearing on Ruth's website very soon. Enjoy...

We know you from The Great British Bake-Off - what prompted you to apply & how has your life changed since the show?
I had finished work 6 months previously to be a stay at home Mum and always liked to have a 'project' on the go. When I saw the ad looking for keen home bakers, I thought I'd give it a shot - heck, did I get myself a project! Life is now completely different - a complete whirlwind! I love what I do and I feel I've finally found my 'thing'! Most importantly, I can fit it in around the boys and family life giving me the best of both worlds.

Why do you think we've all fallen in love again with cakes & baking in the last few years?
For a long time, we were in awe of what the supermarkets and chain stores were producing and we could buy extravagant cakes and bread off the shelf so much so that we forgot that we could actually make them ourselves. Baking has seen a huge resurgence with people getting back in the kitchen and giving it a go and proving that we beat off the shelf hands down!

What are you ultimate comfort bakes? What do you enjoy baking (and eating!) the most?
Coffee cake is my ultimate cake for eating, it's an indulgent bake for me because the boys won't touch it with a barge pole so I do have the majority of it myself. My comfort bakes are anything that can be shared, good old sponge cake with icing and sprinkles probably has the top spot.

What makes a great wedding cake?
Ultimately, a wedding cake has to taste fantastic but it also has to look the part too. Wedding cakes are very much about the style and the character of the wedding couple, they reflect the theme of the wedding and should provide every guest with a little piece of magic!

Why do you think wedding cakes have become so much more varied (and so much more of a statement) recently? Is there still a place for the 3 tiered white iced fruit cake?
Wedding cakes are a statement piece - both of the wedding and the couple getting married. They reflect their personalities and tastes and stand on show for all the guests to see. Cakes are now so diverse in style because really anything's possible. If couples don't want cake, they don't have to have cake - they can have cheese, cupcakes, meringues, anything goes. Tradition has taken a back seat to choice. There's still a place for the 3 tiered traditional cakes - in fact, I think they'll be making a come back fairly soon.

If someone wants to make their own cake, what tips would you give them?
Lots of people say they don't like fruit cake but actually I think they haven't tried the right fruit cake yet! Fruit cakes can be made months in advance giving you plenty of time to get ahead. Sponge cakes and cupcakes can be made and frozen un-iced. Have a practice run and test out your design. Best of all, rope in a friend or family member to help you. Most of all - consider giving it a go and you may just surprise yourself!

What would be the simplest things for people to bake for their own wedding?
Cupcakes - make the in advance and freeze them un-iced. You can also prepare buttercream and freeze that too. They can be decorated a day beforehand - get your bridesmaids involved and make a girlie afternoon of it!

Weddings, school bake sales and work cake fundraisers - have you got any suggestions for sure fire winners?!
Chocolate muffins always go down a storm but any homemade cakes and biscuits are always going to be popular!

If you were baking the cakes and treats for William & Kate, what would you make for them?
This is a really tough question! Wedding cake making, for me, is very pressurised - a wedding cake is perfect in all it's glory and it's very important that it is exactly what the bride and groom want. It's way to stressy for me. I worry too much! I have been tasked with making my sister's wedding cake next year and I'm already panicking about it turning out right. I love cake decorating for friends and family and teaching others to decorate cakes but I certainly couldn't do it as a business. William & Kate - please ask someone else who won't worry so much as me!

The Great British Wedding Cake is on BBC2 Wednesday 20th April at 8pm.
Ruth's recipe packed website is www.thepinkwhisk.co.uk and you can find her on Twitter as @thepinkwhisk


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