Edd Kimber – the original Great British Bake Off winner – aims to keep things simple in the kitchen
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If you could have been stuck in any household over the past few months, Edd Kimber’s would’ve made a very lovely haven.
While the rest of us have been scrapping over who ate the last biscuit, or who forgot to put French Fancies in the online shopping basket, baker, food writer and blogger Kimber (theboywhobakes.co.uk) has been deluged in cake.
Any hint of a sweet craving and he can just “pop into the kitchen, because there’s 17 different things I could have,” he casually points out.
Bradford-born Kimber has been baking professionally for a decade now, since winning the first ever series of Great British Bake Off back in 2010, and has, over that time, “realised that the amount of questions you get about equipment is very high”.
Most food writers or bakers, he says, overestimate what home bakers have in their cupboards – and so his latest cookbook, One Tin Bakes, only requires either a short rummage for a single version of the classic and ever popular brownie pan, or a small investment in one. It means whatever level of baker you might be, you won’t need to “go out and buy 300 different types of bakeware”.
As we speak, Kimber has a tin of the book’s tahini babka buns (“a modern take on a cinnamon bun”) in the oven, and is just as regularly found cooking up a batch of his turtle brownies (a rye brownie with caramel, pecans and dark chocolate), or the oatmeal raisin cookie bar with a caramelised white chocolate ganache on top. One Tin Bakes also features rather grand treats, like a giant Portuguese custard tart, a slab of an Eccles cake, and entire tray of burnt Basque cheesecake.
Kimber (35) says his time is usually spent 50 per cent in the kitchen, 50 per cent writing things up, but during the last few months of lockdown, he reckons he’s “probably baked more than I ever have done in my life”.
And yes, in the early days, when flour was basically gold dust (he had to “hustle” for his stash) and bananas were left in fruit bowls to deliberately gather bruises, he too got involved in the sourdough and banana bread phase – even “combining both lockdown obsessions” by using discarded sourdough starter, usually thrown away every day, to make said banana bread. It’s a trick he uses to make sourdough chocolate chip cookies too (“There’s a few of those in the freezer most times, ready to be baked off at a moment’s notice”).
Kimber has now moved on from those original pandemic baking clichés but has continued to recipe-test throughout, all the while continuing to be aware of cutting waste. Normally, he’d be plying friends with all these surplus creations – but this hasn’t been possible with all the restrictions in place. Instead, Kimber, who lives in London, has been helping support a local restaurant via cake.
“I could tell it wasn’t the most fun time for them,” he says, “and I’ve got all this baking I can’t get rid of, so most days I wander down with some of the baking, a random assortment of things.”
For someone whose life revolves so much around home baking, how exactly does he feel about shop-bought cake? “Sometimes there’s nothing wrong with those because they have a real nostalgia factor. It’s what we all had growing up,” he says with feeling. “When I was a kid, we always used to have Mr Kipling battenberg. Something like that you will just always, always have a sweet spot for, because they just remind you of something, or they really take you back.”
That said, any solid memories of eating a Colin the Caterpillar cake do seem to elude him. “I’ve definitely had a Colin the Caterpillar cake, I must’ve done! It’s funny because I often make my own birthday cake, which is incredibly sad and also controlling,” he says with a laugh. “I’m a baker! So I know what I like! If I wanted it, my partner would definitely make one for me, but it’s one of the few times I get to bake just for me.” This year’s birthday, you’ll be pleased to hear, was marked with a pistachio and cherry cake.
Talking of ‘knowing what he likes’, sweets, he says, can be incredibly personal. “Balance is really important, and it’s really interesting because people have very differing requirements for what they consider to be balanced,” Kimber explains. “Someone commented on a recipe of mine the other day, saying, ‘I reduced the sugar by 50 per cent and it didn’t work’, and I was intrigued because I thought, ‘Well yeah, of course it didn’t work – you reduced the sugar by 50 per cent!’”
It turned out his reader considered it an American-style recipe, which they found too sweet – but it all comes down to an individual’s interpretation of what constitutes ‘too sweet’.
“I’m not a massive cupcake fan, and there’s no reason for that, because if they’re made well, they’re delicious,” muses Kimber. “But I find a lot of times when you buy a cupcake, they’re just overly sweet.” Not that he won’t give them a go, though – Kimber is always willing to have a taste. “I’m not a huge fan of chocolate and raspberry together and find that a little bit awkward flavour-wise, but I’m one of those people that will happily try anything once.”
Kimber grew up baking mince pies and scones with his mum, and those scones are still “one of the things that I don’t even think about making, I just do”. As One Tin Bakes goes out into the world, he hopes it can exist as a similarly ongoing and enduring guide for bakers.
“Say this is the first baking book you ever buy, you will be able to bake from it for years as you get better and better and better, and you’re willing to try harder and harder things,” he says, enthused. “I like books to be able to live with you for a long time.”
- One Tin Bakes by Edd Kimber is published by Kyle Books, priced £17.99. Photography by Edd Kimber.
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