“TECHNICAL challenge”, “signature bake”, “showstopper” these now household phrases mean only one thing - the Bake Off is back. As predicted the return of the national institution that is the Great British Bake Off to our screens last week set a new record. An incredible 10.4 million viewers turned into the first episode of the seventh season of the cookery colossus – giving last year’s 9.3 million a huge whipping.

With the Bake Off comes a resurgence of baking passion as GBBO devotees hit the kitchen and try to emulate the bakes whisked up on the show, yet with each news season comes more intricate, detailed and all round amazing creations to copy.

So now we’re in the golden age of baking and knocking up a simple Victoria sponge simply won’t cut it, how do you take your skills to the next level? Practice, of course, is one way but more and more people are booking onto baking school courses in order to up their gastronomical game.

In fact baking schools have never been so in demand.

Sarah Plumb, founder of the Delightful Tea Baking School near Great Wakering is reaping the benefits of our love affair with baking. She founded her school almost four years ago and it is now in the process of expanding due to high demand.

The 39-year-old hosts one and two-day classes for individuals, groups and families where she teaches everything from basic cake baking to perfecting French artisan breads (her speciality) to making doughnuts, bagels and soda breads from scratch.


She’s set to launch a new batch of classes for this autumn inspired by the bake off. One will focus on the ever popular macaroon – the pastel coloured confections that seems to be everywhere at the moment. Macaroons have appeared many times on the GBBO in recent years to the point Paul Hollywood admitted he’s “sick of the sight of them”. Nevertheless the French cake creations are still gracing afternoon tea tables everywhere.

Sarah explained, however, that although they may look lovely, they’re not easy to master: “These pretty patisseries are known widely to be a real challenge but we can help students master them and get perfect results each and every time,” she said.

“The course will take students through all the steps from scratch from preparing their Italian meringue through to piping, finally filling and finishing them. Like all our classes this one is very small, so students can benefit from lots of one-to-one time from their tutor.”

Another upcoming course is themed on Swiss Meringue Buttercream – a variation on traditional buttercream which is known to be a fabulously soft, smooth and delicious filling and topping for cakes.

“It also can make stunning florals and other designs. We teach students how to use a range of piping nozzles to make wonderful, fully edible blooms to create eye-catching cakes,” said Sarah.

Sarah, who trained at the School of Artisan Food in Derbyshire and went on to work at the Gourmet Cupcake Company in Chelmsford before setting up her business, is also offering courses on everything from mastering cake pops – cakes in the shapes of lollipops - to baking professional - looking cookies which are becoming a popular alternative to traditional wedding favours.

Her cake decorating courses, which take participants through the finer skills of topping their sponge masterpieces, are sure to be a big draw, especially as the GBBO sees more spectacular decorations being used every week.

Sarah said: “We have a talented new tutor joining our team named Nicola Gilbert and she is going to be running selection of classes on sugar floristry, modelling and cake decorating skills.

“We are designing a comprehensive course covering all the core skills to produce stunning cakes for weddings and celebrations, as well as offering shorter versions for people looking to improve their abilities in specific areas.

“And OK, it’s still the summer but when it comes to owning your own cooking school you are always looking ahead at what people’s baking need will be. The school will be advertising Christmas cookery courses from the middle of next months.

“These will include a two day comprehensive Christmas baking where we will cover all the festive staples, such as mince pies and a Christmas pudding, as well as a yeasted stollen and a Christmas cake.

“It will also include Sugar Modelling where students will learn how to make a range of festively themed sugar models for their Christmas cake.”

Sarah is also celebrating Delightful Tea making it to the finals of the Essex Business Excellence Awards in the Best New Business category. She will find out next month if the school has won.

She said: “I am absolutely thrilled. Last year we made it to the short list stage, so it really was exciting to make the final cut this time round.

“With so many new and exciting businesses in the county, to be considered in the top three is a real honour. Reaching the finalist stage is brilliant - but of course, to win the title would be the icing on the cake – pardon the pun!

“Since launching in November 2013, there has been a lot of hard work and so this seems like a really fitting way to mark our success as our third year comes to a close. The Bake School has evolved and developed over the last few years and I feel this has helped us stand the test of time.

“I like to think that we are pretty unique and this makes us stand out from the crowd. When the business started I was the only tutor but now we have another two, as well as extending the support team.

“Seeing how things have grown makes me very proud.”

Meanwhile insurance and financial group Saga is hoping the Bake Off effect will get more families sharing their secret recipes. The company is calling on more grandparents to pass on their favourite family recipe to youngest members of their family to keep cooking traditions alive.

Paul Green of Saga explained: “The Great British Bake Off never seems to fail to inspire people, young and old, to dust off their mixers and make some delicious treats for family and friends.

“We want to encourage all the Saga generations to pass on their favourite recipes to their nearest and dearest and keep family traditions going. The hit TV show springing back on to the TV screens may be a perfect time to do this especially as we know so many grandparents are looking after their grandchildren over the next couple of weeks. Perhaps families can have their own bake off and every member can create a signature bake.”

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Other cake making schools in Essex:

  • THE GOURMET CUPCAKE COMPANY Unit 4 Eckersley Road, Chelmsford, Essex, CM1 1SL

The Gourmet Cupcake Company offer courses and classes to both novices and professionals, offering basic cupcake decorating as well as an intensive baking course. They pride themselves on using only locally sourced and non artificial ingredients, including 100% natural flavourings. They also offer bespoke private tuition which is one to one and all materials and equipment is included in the price.

  • LOTTIE AND JAKE’S The Shop Kings Head Centre 38 High Street Maldon, Essex CM9 5PN

Suitable for all abilities, Lottie and Jake’s cake decorating classes offer a range of courses including cupcake decorating, tiered cake classes, character modelling, sugar flowers and more! What’s more, if you book a class you will receive a 10% discount on any purchase from their shop! Prices vary depending on the course chosen and typically range from £40 to £150.