Bake Off star adds a pinch of creativity
The 2018 Great British Bake Off finalist Kim-Joy Hewlett is all about “feel-goodness.”
Her debut cookbook, Baking With Kim-Joy – tag-lined: Cute and Creative Bakes To Make You Smile – epitomises that feel-goodness factor; from its burnished yellow cover (her favourite colour) to the motivational quotes and puns strewn among its pages.
Take her woodland cake recipe, bolstered with the note: “Don’t always focus on how mushroom you have for improvement – remind yourself of the things you are already good at!”
The woman streams pure sunshine. And the book, she says, matches the inside of her brain, which she likes to think is also “yellow, with frogs hopping round it, and little creatures”.
And there are many a delicately wrought creature to make and then scoff: sugar paste space turtles, pigs as profiteroles, cat-shaped buns, koala macarons, bear madeleines, meringue ghosts, and cookies in every cat, deer, bunny and honey bee form.
It’s like stepping into a fairy-tale world, one that miraculously avoids being too cutesy.
Her savoury cooking gets anthropomorphised too.
She said: “If I make a pizza, I still like to do faces.”
Surprisingly, aside from textiles at school, Kim-Joy has no real art background. Born in Belgium to a Malaysian-Chinese mother and English father, Kim-Joy moved to the outskirts of London aged five, and none of her family are arty or bakers. In the book’s acknowledgements, she notes that one of her brothers hasn’t even watched all of her Bake Off appearances yet!
Her desire to decorate, and patience for it, comes entirely from within. “I’m just focused on what I’m doing, and that’s what’s so therapeutic about it,” she said of piping and the peace it brings.
“The worst time for being anxious is when you’re not doing anything, and I think that’s why people find it hard to fall asleep, because that’s the very time you’ve got literally no distractions, no sound, nothing, in the dark – there’s no stimulus. But when you’re decorating a biscuit, you’re just busy doing that, so you’re not thinking,”
Kim-Joy is not militant about decoration though. She doesn’t expect everyone to find escape in festooning baked goods with intricate icing like her, and is clear that it takes repetition, practice, and mistake-making to get the knack.
She said: “When I say things come out of mistakes, I genuinely mean that. Like if you make choux pastry and it’s under-baked, it tastes so good!”
And cracked meringues are just an opportunity to fill in the ridges and crevices with gold, she explained, referring to a Japanese technique called kintsugi.
She added: “It’s all about things being made more beautiful because they’re broken.”