MARY BERRY: QUEEN OF BAKING

PUBLISHED: 11:57 19 May 2014 | UPDATED: 12:37 30 August 2017

Mary-Berry-at-home

Mary-Berry-at-home

Mary Berry boasts a following bigger than most rock stars and she offers baking and cake advice

With a following now bigger than most rock stars, the presence of Mary Berry was one of the biggest attractions at The Big Cake Show in March. She tells SUSAN CLARK why she said yes to coming West…

They call her the Queen of Baking and I suspect she might pull a bigger crowd than the Queen of anything else. I am talking, naturally, about Mary Berry – the darling of TV baking shows and a woman whose withering look of disappointment at a soggy pastry base can reduce grown men to tears.

Talking about grown men, Mary says that one of the things that is unique about home baking is its appeal to all ages and all members of the family; including dads and brothers who she has been reliably informed will even miss the football’ to watch the Great British Bake Off.

'The traditional Cornish pasty is my favourite. There’s nothing to beat a warm pasty straight from the oven with its distinctive peppery smell. And if you have ever seen a Cornish woman making one, you will see what a skill that is.'

I can’t think of another person – except perhaps Harry Potter and he’s not even real – who has this kind of impact on family viewing. Cream, it is said, always rises to the top. And it would appear this is precisely what has happened with Mary-Rosa Alleyne Berry, 79, who has been working away in the world of culinary arts for almost six decades, producing some 70 books along the way.

If you caught her recent ITV Life Stories interview you may have reeled from the shock that at one point in her early career she had cooked a cow’s udder for a television task. Thankfully today, we’re more likely to see her putting the final touches to a divine opera cake or, one of her own favourites, a lemon drizzle. And, it was during The Big Cake Show, which took placefor the first time in March at Exeter's Westpoint, that we got to witness Mary making her famous lemon cake.

Mary was one of the many celebrity bakers featured in the line up at The Big Cake Show which aims to bring baking, in all its glory, with all its current stars and with a healthy dollop of the latest trends to the South West so that we don’t have to trail off to London or Manchester to feel we are part of the baking scene.

'The food from your part of the world really is good and that’s because the chefs and cooks make the most of what’s on the doorstep. They really do use local ingredients and stick to seasonal menu planning and that quality then shines through what you can eat in Cornwall.'

Although Mary is now based in the South East, she likes Cornwall. And Devon. And Somerset. She still makes regular trips to this part of the world and spent lots of her own happy childhood holidays on the beaches of Cornwall looking for mussels and other seafood treats.

“I have been to Cornwall lots and lots of times; along with Devon it is and has long been a favourite family holiday destination,” she remembers. “As a young child I spent happy family holidays on the beaches there looking for cockles and mussels.”

And more recently? “The last time I was there I had the most delicious lunch at the Victoria Inn in St Ives. The town is one of my favourite destinations in Cornwall and I think the chef, who was brilliant, was called Nathan…?”

And when she’s not baking, eating (and judging) sweet things, some of her favourite foods can be found in Cornwall. “The traditional Cornish pasty is my favourite,” she admits. “There’s nothing to beat a warm pasty straight from the oven with its distinctive peppery smell. And if you have ever seen a Cornish woman making one, you will see what a skill that is – the way she will flick the little knife to cut the meat. And then it all comes down to good seasoning.”

Mary says she likes that here, in the West Country, we work hard to use locally-sourced ingredients (instead of just paying lip service to the idea) because this also means we tend toplan and execute more seasonal menus. We’ in this instance most likely means our top chefs but she is right that the fact we live in a beautiful location does have an impact on our national foodie profile because it draws lots of the top chefs as well as creating them, inspired by the local excellent produce.

“The food from your part of the world really is good and that’s because the chefs and cooks make the most of what’s on the doorstep,” she continues. “They really do use local ingredients and stick to seasonal menu planning and that quality then shinesthrough what you can eat in Cornwall."

The next installment of The Big Cake Show is taking place from 20-22 March 2015 with tickets on sale from 1 September 2014.

MARY'S MASTERCLASS

Why do cakes sink?

You have opened the oven door too soon or underbaked your cake.

Why has my cake cracked when baking?

Your oven was too hot or your cake was on a rack that was too high which means the crust formed too soon. The cake carried on rising which caused the crust to crack.

So, how can I tell if my cake is cooked?

If you are making a sponge cake, it should be springy to the touch and shrinking slightly from the sides of the tin. You should aim for a cake that is pale and golden brown in colour. If you are making a fruit cake, gently insert a fine skewer which will come out clean if the cake is properly cooked. The cake should be light brown for a light fruit cake and dark brown for a traditional rich fruit cake.

Why do some cakes have a speckly top?

The baker has used granulated instead of caster sugar. Also, the mixture was not mixed well enough which means the sugar has not dissolved.

Why do my cakes always seem too dry?

You have used too much baking powder or left the cake in the oven for too long.

How do you avoid getting a cake rack mark on the top of your cakes?

Cover the cake rack itself with a clean tea towel before inverting the cake on to it.

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