The Chemistry of Baking: Jane Beedle
"Baking’s a nice way of showing off really, isn’t it?"
Hailing from Beckenham in Kent, Jane Beedle first came onto our TV screens as a contestant on the ubiquitous Great British Bake Off – and was skilled enough to make it to the final round of 2016’s most watched programme.
A garden designer by trade, Jane will be showing off her culinary skills at Didcot Food Festival on Saturday 28 October. Here, Jack Rayner speaks to Jane about her passion for baking and her unlikely rise to fame.
Hi Jane, how did you get so deeply into baking?
I know that your family have some sort of background in the trade… Well, sort of. My grandfather owned a bakery in Hastings many years ago, and my dad was being trained to take over the running of it, but I’m not aware of my grandfather actually baking himself. My dad did bake, because naturally he was being brought up to learn the trade. They sold the bakery when I was around seven, back in the early sixties, and my dad carried on baking and decorating. That’s as far as my ‘background’ goes, as such.
So what spurred you into baking ‘in anger’, if you will?
Baking’s a nice way of showing off really, isn’t it? It’s lovely to bake a nice cake and it gives you a great sense of pride when people enjoy it. Before I went to university I was already able to bake fairly well, and then baking – and cooking in general – became far more important to me when I started living in my own place with other people. Then, having my kids was another jump further into baking. It starts with biscuits and fairy cakes and grows out of that.
What is it that gives you so much enjoyment from baking?
Well, baking is essentially chemistry: if you get your proportions wrong, there’s no going back, whereas with cooking, it’s usually possible to rectify an error as you go. With baking, you can’t just pour in some more red wine halfway through! You have to be prepared to have a lot of disasters, particularly when you’re learning.
Have you had some disasters?
Oh god yes! Everyone has. Even now, when I can basically do it with my hands tied behind my back, you take your eye off the ball for one second and even the birds won’t eat the finished product! Nobody’s perfect every time.
What made you apply for the Great British Bake Off and take your hobby to the competitive level?
Well, even now it doesn’t really feel very competitive, even though we were constantly reminded that Bake Off is a competition and we shouldn’t be quite so nice to each other! Anyway, I run a garden design business and my business partner at the time used to love my cakes, so along with the cakes I was making for family and friends, I was making a lot. My business partner eventually started asking me, “Why don’t you go on Bake Off?” and so I did! I applied three times over the course of four years, and when you’ve been rejected twice you start to feel like it’s never going to happen. Eventually it worked, of course!
What was your experience of the filming like? Is it as fun as it looks?
Oh my god, yes! Absolutely brilliant fun. It’s such hard work, but I’d certainly do it all again tomorrow if I could.
What can we look forward to in your appearance at the Didcot Food Festival?
Well, I haven’t decided what I’m baking yet! It’s quite late in the autumn, so I may even be coming up with something yummy for Christmas.
Well, why not?
Exactly. When it gets to that time of year you might as well start thinking about it. Either that, or it’ll be something special for bonfire night.
Finally, what’s your go-to recipe for the big Christmas bake?
I use the same Christmas cake recipe every year, and of course it wouldn’t be Christmas without mince pies!
Thanks Jane, and I look forward to seeing you at Didcot Food Festival.
Related Articles: Levi Roots