by Michelle Norris
LAST year, Joanne Wheatley amazed us with her baking skills on The Great British Bake Off - and next weekend, the Essex cook will be heading to London to open Cake International - The Cake Decorating and Baking Show.
Competing against 11 other bakers from across the UK in the BBC series that explored the history of British baking, over the weeks the Ongar based mother-of-three impressed judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood and walked away as the champion of the second series in October.
And from 27 to 29 April, Joanne will be offering her expert advice and top tips to visitors to the ExCel London, taking part in a slot each day of the Bakery Theatre.
“I think that baking is such a fabulous way to relax and people in this world all seem to be so kind and giving - it gives a feeling of community,” says Joanne. “I’ve met so many wonderful people in the last year through baking.”
Since winning the show Joanne has been writing her first book A Passion for Baking, has given Jay Rayner a mini baking lesson on the art of scone making for BBC’s The One Show, receives up to 30,000 hits a day on her blog Jo’s Blue AGA, all the while running a small cookery school from her home in Ongar.
“My book has given me confidence in myself to develop recipes and do things I’d never dreamed possible,” says the 42-year-old. “But for me everything I’ve achieved has been amazing. The feeling when somebody posts on my blog how they have made one of my recipes is like nothing I’ve ever felt, so to have a cookery book published is just fantastic. Another great feeling is to see my students leave with perfect loaves when, until then, they’d said they couldn’t master bread or pastry.
“But I guess my greatest moment was when Mary (Berry) said my Victoria Sandwich was one of the best she’d ever tasted,” she says. “It was a massive compliment coming from the lady I so respect.”
Indeed, Joanne certainly won over the judges on The Great British Bake Off, serving up everything from cupcakes right through to Mille-Feuille. But for Joanne, nothing is too much of a challenge.
“I really enjoy baking everything,” she says. “At the moment it’s macaroons - I found them really tricky to start with so I had this perverse need to conquer them and now I get them I want to develop them in new flavours and add textures. I also find baking bread really relaxing as the process is quite slow so you need to give yourself time to make a great loaf.
“But I have some old favourite recipes such as scones and a raspberry torte that are like old friends - always there and can always be relied on!” she laughs.
However, there is one secret ingredient that Joanne can never do without: Love.
“I know that it sounds a little corny but if you’re baking and you’re not really concerned about the outcome, I think it shows,” she explains. “But if at first you don’t succeed just practice - normally you’ll get there in the end!”
Joanne Wheatley will be opening Cake International - The Cake Decorating and Baking Show at the ExCel London on 27 April. For more details visit ichf.co.uk/cake.