An acquaintance speculated recently that we would only realise after the fact what kind of mad we went during the pandemic, but I already know: I became Bake Off mad.
I used to love baking, especially the showy kind where you produce something slightly flashy to a chorus of coos of admiration. Mine almost never elicited that reaction – I lack skills, attention to detail and artistic flair – but for a few brief, glorious years when my sons were little, I was a cake magician to them. Anything a bit creative filled them with wonder. I made dragons, cartoon characters and even a giant spider crab.
But children grow up. About five years ago, my younger son asked for “a plain cake, please”, for his birthday and it was game over; a dagger through my heart. The elder is mainly vegan now and they are both extremely health conscious; more likely to reach for cashews than cupcakes. I can’t even enjoy the smug glow of producing warm scones with a domestic goddess flourish. It’s empty carbs to them – “not worth the calories”, as Prue Leith would say.
My cupboard of cake tins, colouring and edible glitter has lain untouched for years and, barring an unsatisfactory flirtation with sourdough and perfunctory birthday brownies, I hardly bake now. I haven’t missed it exactly. It is a time-consuming faff and there’s a brilliant bakery down my street. Even so, I feel a nostalgic twinge sometimes – your children growing up is a marvel, but it’s also intensely melancholic.…