Cake OffIt’s that time of year again: Wednesday nights are sacrosanct for the next few weeks as we huddle round the TV to watch another set of hopeful bakers as they subject themselves to the steely-eyed scrutiny of Paul Hollywood and the softer touch of Mary Berry. Yes, it’s BAKE-OFF time!

I have adored this programme since it first started. For me, as I am sure for a lot of people, it conjures up a nostalgia for the days of baking with Grandma on a wet afternoon. My grandmother was a great baker – not in the sense of being able to produce astonishingly complex cakes with Show-Stopper appeal, but boy did she make a lip-smacking Bakewell Tart!  It was from her that I learnt that cold hands, as well as being an indicator of a warm heart, make the best pastry you could wish for. Grandma had both: her pastry was legendary and her kindness and love extended to letting me redecorate her kitchen with splatters and crumbs while I learnt to bake alongside her. My jam tarts invariably came out of the oven “over-baked” as Paul Hollywood would say, and the pastry looked a little grey after my grubby fingers had probed and prodded at it, but Grandma never failed to encourage me to try, try again until I got it right.

As a consequence I have learnt to bake cakes, scones, quiches, tarts, bread and puddings and I am more than happy to hand the kitchen over to my own kids who adore a good Bake Off: so much so, that my son asked if he could have a Bake Off Birthday Party this year! It was around the time that I was writing The Great Kitten Cake Off, and so I actively encouraged him, thinking (in that mean way that writers do) that the experience might give me some good material for my story.

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As it happens, my son’s party went without a hitch, as you can see from the pictures above. The most amazingly inventive and delicious “penguin igloo cakes” were made and my son and his friends did all the washing up!

So much for the writing material . . .

Happily, my cats had already given me a few ideas for a plot. They are both incredibly greedy and are constantly on the lookout for an opportunity to steal food from the kitchen when my back is turned. They have been known to jump up and lick cake mix out of the bowl, eat butter straight from the dish and polish off icing left over from a cupcake-baking session. Their worst offence, however, occurred last Christmas Eve when they discovered the newly bought turkey and pulled it out of its plastic wrapping, devouring a hole the size of a man’s fist from it before they were caught. Yes, raw turkey. They really will eat anything.

IMG_1401So, what with my love of baking and The Great British Bake Off, along with my naughty, food-thieving cats, it wasn’t going to be long before I thought up a story which would bring the two things together. And so, ladies and gentlemen, I bring you The Great Kitten Cake Off, published today! I hope you enjoy following the antics of Ellie Haines and her crazy family as they go through the highs and lows of preparing for a charity performance of “The Junior Cake Off”. Meet Pete Jollyspoon and Milly Barry, the judges, and Sam and Sid, the cheeky presenters with a bad line in cake-based puns. And look out for naughty Kitkat, the black and white kitten who is most definitely “the cat who got the cream” . . .

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