With the return of the Great British Bake-Off to our screens, the nation once more reaches for the flour and bakes up a storm, inspired by the incredible creations that the contestants produce. As a keen baker at any time of the year, I thought I would take a look at my overflowing cookbook shelves and pull out some of my favourite baking books.
The end of the series always brings with it an outflowing of baking books from contestants, as well as the official GBBO publications. Here are a few of my favourites from series past.
Baking with Kim-Joy - A finalist in the 2018 series, Kim-Joy is well known for her beautifully designed bakes. This book is one that offers inspiration, although you do feel that there’s a level of artistic skill involved that the average baker might not possess. These aren’t quick projects, but if you have the time they are more than worth it (you can, of course, just make the bakes without the decoration if you’re short on time). There are some brilliant tips for creating bakes that look impressive but are much easier than you’d imagined. I’ve mostly used this book by picking out certain design ideas to incorporate into slightly different, simpler designs. Really useful for those who want to up their showstopper game.
John Whaite Bakes - He might currently be gracing our screens in the ballroom on Strictly Come Dancing, but he came to fame as the winner of GBBO in 2012. This book is the first in a series of cooking books he’s released and has a great selection of recipes, organised by the mood they best match. I’ve made quite a few recipes from this book but every time I flick through there’s more that catch my eye. The black cherry doughnuts are next on my list.
How Baking Works (And What To Do When It Doesn’t), James Morton - a finalist in the 2012 series of Bake Off, Morton was known for his fair isle knitwear and turning baking disasters into successes. This book is brilliant for anyone who really wants to understand how baking works. Armed with your new knowledge, it may even inspire you to get experimenting with your own recipe ideas.
A Passion For Baking, Jo Wheatley - Winner of the 2011 series, Wheatley was welcomed into the hearts of the nation with her low self confidence in direct contrast to her skill in the kitchen. Her recipes are family focussed and will have you baking on a regular basis. This book has been used time and again and contains my go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe.
Peyton and Byrne: British Baking - Peyton and Byrne once had an impressive range of bakeries across London, with outlets at many of the main cultural attractions. Sadly, many of these have now closed, but you can whip up your own delicacies with this book. Simple, no-frills recipes that work, this is a great book for family favourites to make again and again. My most baked cake from it is probably the chocolate marble cake.
The Hummingbird Bakery: Home Sweet Home - for those with a sweet tooth and a soft spot for
American style bakes, this is a great book. An impressive range of cupcakes, layer cakes, and indulgent desserts, there’s much to tempt within its pages. Some favourites include the cookies and cream cupcakes, and lemon layer cake with cream cheese frosting.
The Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook, Lynn Hill - the Clandestine Cake Club, a supper club focussed entirely on cake, with bakers bringing along their creations based around an unusual theme, and meeting at a secret location. For those of us who haven’t been lucky enough to attend in person, this book helps give us a taste of the experience. The recipes are from members of the Club, and although they can be a little hit and miss, there’s a lot more hits than misses. This is a brilliant book for those wanting to bake something a little out of the ordinary. I’ve particularly enjoyed the elderflower cordial cake with white chocolate ganache, and the chocolate nut rum cake.
Patisserie: Mastering The Fundamentals of French Pastry, Christopher Felder - This is a weighty book both in physical form and in content. Containing hundreds of recipes for delicious French patisserie, this is one for the ambitious baker who has some time on their hands. Each recipe is accompanied by multiple photographs, giving you confidence at each stage that you’ve not made a mistake, although you do need to remember to read the written instructions too so as not to miss anything. The hazelnut buttercream may take some time commitment but it is absolutely delicious (and can be frozen to save some time when the cravings next strike…)
Easy Baking (M&S) - a brilliant selection of recipes for everyday baking. Cakes, cupcakes, brownies, and pies, this book is full to the brim with tempting bakes. A recent favourite is the cranberry and banana loaf, giving that lockdown staple a slightly different edge.
BBC GoodFood, 101 Tempting Desserts - cheap and cheerful, with photographs for every recipe, this is a great book for fans of cream, puddings, and ice cream. The strawberry toffee tart is a longtime favourite, but I’m currently making my way through their ice cream ideas, next up blueberry, coconut and lime.