Cake? Mulled wine? Great British Bake Off Alumni? Kitchen Design? Did I mention cake?
Let’s face it, I couldn’t resist when an invite from AO.com landed in my inbox to join a baking class at John Whaite’s new cookery school. For Bake Off enthusiasts, you might remember John from Series 3 (he won, hoorah!) and upon arriving to a hot mug of specially brewed mulled wine, we started work on making a Gingerbread latte swiss roll.
The cookery school is in the heart of the Lancashire countryside, not far from Wigan. Thankfully, it’s only minutes from the M6 motorway which was a relief for myself and Sarah (my driving buddy and superstar blogger at Sequin This) as we tend to get lost on our road trips…
It would be understandable to assume that inside there would be bunting and twee pastel cake stands thanks to the show that made him famous, but I much prefer the style he’s gone for. Rustic yet edgy. Modern and clean but with nods to Industrial. A little moody with an almost monochrome style. It’s a really grown up kitchen but with splashes of pumpkins dotted for decoration – and it’s gorgeous.
It’s what I’d call a sophisticated baking setting.
For me, it’s the equivalent of being a parent, and whilst a glass of red wine at the end of the day after your kids are in bed is such a relief, you’re still surrounded by the noise and colour and mess of toys and pots. Sometimes it’s nice to seek out the soft dim lights and dark corners or a glossy bar to sip on your Barolo. Know what I mean?
Anyway, take a look below and see what I mean. The white herringbone tiles, industrial lightning, exposed cottage brickworks, piping taps. Juxtaposed against sleek, black utensils, charcoal accessories and shelving, and even John’s range of bowls fitted in with the aesthetic, with the gold detailing proudly standing out against his new cookbook (which I have and has SO many good recipes).
Onto the food! I’m a pretty good baker but do tend to follow recipes, so I was eager to learn a few tips and tricks – and even more eager to eat.
We made a gingerbread sponge first using those gorgeous Kitchen Aids and I was thrilled to see that the ovens in the kitchen were the sliding door type like on Bake Off – so easily amused. Once this was baked, rolled and then stuck in a blast freezer (who was named Albert) we whipped up a filling – a beautifully thick cream flavoured with coffee and icing sugar. This was smothered onto our bake, rolled again and placed back with Albert.
Allowing our creations to chill (see what I did there?) we were treated to a butternut squash and chilli soup which was INSANE, and the most epic cheeseboard I ever did taste. John told me it was just from the supermarket so it goes to show how much of a difference it makes when you know what ingredients are worth the cash.
Whilst we feasted, John gave a demonstration of tempering chocolate which I genuinely could have watched all day. We drizzled the chocolate onto our cakes and then got to decorating with gold dust, chocolate coffee beans, chocolate sprinkles, and gold leaf. Feeling festive yet?
I really loved the event. It was a laid back and intimate venue, and John was SO nice and down to earth. He knew all of our names and made us feel really welcome. It was as if he’d had us round for dinner, but we all did a bit of cooking and gossiping.
(If you’re wondering why my hair is all over the place, I accidentally dipped my hair in gingerbread mixture – OOPS).
I know a few people who would love enjoy John’s courses so much and I might gift it as Christmas pressies to a few of my nearest and dearest!