Gorgeous vintage crockery and best ever tea

Here’s the first of my blogs which will highlight some of the amazing contributors for this year’s Bake Off. I felt so fortunate to have brilliant local companies join up to donate goods that really made the event something very special indeed.

One of those companies was Jolly Vintage Tea Party, a fab vintage crockery hire company run by Lorraine in Wheatley, Oxford. She donated crockery and teapots for our tea shop and we had so many compliments about what a beautiful cuppa it was.


Find out more about Jolly Vintage Tea Party here or follow Lorraine @jollyvintage


Huge thanks to Tea Pigs and Equalitea for donating the tea as well!

GBBO Christine to join our judging panel

Hello all,

Fantastic news to share this week. Christine Wallace, one of the stars on the current series of the BBC Great British Bake Off, is joining our judging panel. We are sooooo excited!

Christine will also be bringing along a cake which we’ll be auctioning off.

You can meet the rest of our judging panel here.


Enter our bunting competition


We were looking for really lovely decoration ideas for the Bake Off and someone suggested the idea of children each decorating a triangle of “Bake Off” bunting which we could put together to make a long, very beautiful and cute stretch of bunting. We loved this idea to bits and hope you will do!

To get those creative juices flowing, we thought a competitive element would help, so we will pick our favourite triangle and and the winner will get a craft hamper!

Here’s what you do:

1. Download this bunting template and print on paper.

2. Colour in and decorate your bunting triangle with a “Bake off” theme… cake, teapots, Paul Hollywood, whatever you like!

3. Pop in the post, addressed to 64A Burwell Drive, Witney, OX28 5LY with a slip of paper with child’s name and age, parent/guardian name, and a contact telephone number and/or email address. Donations would be appreciated to our two charities, but are not required for entry.

4. Then you can come see your addition to our bunting at the Bake Off, Saturday 5th October, Oxford High School and enjoy some cake!

Winner will be announced at the Bake Off, but if our winner’s not there then we will just get in touch via telephone/email.

Picture: Our very beautiful bunting made by the Oxford Bunting Company for last year’s Bake Off, which will run alongside this year’s special crowd-sourced bunting.

Why you should enter

Evening all,

Hope you’re all having a wonderful week and the dreary grey weather isn’t getting you down. Only  23 days, 14 hours, 53 minutes and 17 seconds to go till this year’s Bake Off. Not that I’m counting, heh!

It’s been a lovely week, I had my best day for applications on Sunday (hurrah!), confirmed that we’ll have Magdalen Swing Band coming along to get us grooving and got to start promoting the the badges we will be giving out to Rainbows, Brownies and Guides who take part thanks to the kind team behind Oxfordshire Girl Guiding.

I am still getting people saying they just aren’t good enough to enter and I would absolutely contend that you all are. This is a competition for everyone – for ANYONE willing to have a go at trying to knock up something and who wants to help us raise some money for our amazingly brilliant charities.


Image: Found via pinterest.

One of the charities we’re supporting is Oxfam. I have had the great privilege of working at Oxfam for the past 3 years. I started organising the Bake Off in my spare time, but it is certainly because of how much Oxfam inspires me that I wanted to start something that could raise money for Oxfam and other incredible charities linked to Oxford. Charities that change lives every day with very little money.

Earlier this year I visited Malawi on a trip with Oxfam and I met a lady called Rachel who I think really shows how very little money can transform lives.

Rachel is a mum of three children and her husband is very sick, so he can’t even walk a few steps. Rachel and her husband rely on a small plot of land for all their food and earn money for what they can sell at local markets. But since Rachel’s husband became so sick, she’s had to farm by herself. When the rains didn’t come last year she didn’t harvest anything at all and was forced to take her three children out of school, as she was no longer able to pay the school fees and had to spend all their savings on food for the family. She told me how devastated she was to do this to her children – to take away what little hope she had for a better future.

Luckily, Oxfam was working in the area supporting poor families and Rachel was identified as someone desperately in need of some support. Rachel was identified as part of a chicken ‘pass on’ scheme in the area. Rachel received 10 chickens, which she could breed and sell their eggs. She can run her chicken business from home and no longer solely on her land to feed her family. It has also meant (and she told me how this was simply the best thing about this project!) that she can now afford to send her children back to school. It cost £10 to give Rachel the chickens and training to look after them – £10!

I think about Rachel all the time because I think for every entry I get we’re nearly able to help another Rachel. Or help more children with life-shortening conditions and their families at Helen & Douglas house get the support they need and make the most of the time they have together.

‘Bake a difference’ is very much a corny line but it is rather a bit true, so I hope you will enter and together we’ll be able to make a bloomin hefty difference. And we can congratulate our efforts with a cake-eating feast.



P.S. If competition isn’t your thing we’d also love cake donations for our bake sale, so if you are able to bring along a cake but don’t want to enter, just fill out this form.

Shooe la la for the professionals.

Evening cake lovers,

I have been contacted by a lot of kind and generous people who run cake businesses asking whether they can take part in this year’s Bake Off. Sadly the Bake Off itself is for amateur bakers as we want anyone of any skill level to feel they can enter. We’d still love to have you involved so we’re going to have a ‘People’s choice’ competition where professionals can enter a cake (any kind!) and we will leave it to our punters to decide which one is their fave.

The winner will get a Bake Off apron (ooo la la!) and your pick of pair of shoes from the Agnes and Norman Collection, worth up to £150.

If you can email me on oxfordbakeoff@gmail.com if you will be entering.

And yes everyone this does mean you’ll be having a go at being Bezza and Hollywood yourselves.

Free Cakes for Kids

Hello lovely readers,

As the event grows ever nearer I am on a mission to do more posts to let you about what we have planned for you on the big day! Fast approaching – less than 2 months away… phoar, panic much?!

It’s been a brilliant week and among a few things which have started to fall into place, we’ve now confirmed some workshops…
*Candida from Oxford Cupcakes coming along to help us perfect the cupcake swirl
*Suzy from Oxford Cake Pops will be helping us learn the fiddly art of cake popping, including push-up pops
*Claire from Creative Cake Craft will be on hand all day to show you how to make sugarcraft roses and answer any other sugarcraft questions you might have.

One of the other things I’m really excited about is a local group we’ve got coming along on the day to run cake decorating sessions for children (and big kids too!). That group is Oxford’s ‘Free Cakes for Kids‘ and while there is now a wide network of over 40 groups across the UK, it actually all began here in Oxford.

It was set up by a lady called Henriette Lundgren who came across an article in People Magazine on a flight from Dallas to London which reported on a community project in the United States which helped provide cakes to families who find it difficult to provide a birthday cake for their child. A passionate baker herself, Henriette saw an opportunity to adapt the model and started the first Free Cakes for Kids group in Oxford in December 2008.

After dozens of phone calls, meetings and conversations with neighbours, friends, local charities, social services and food safety experts, the first announcements were put up in children centres, community halls and the local foodbank. Soon, the first ever Free Cakes for Kids birthday cake changed hands in Oxford — a football-themed cake for 6-year-old boy from Holloway.

Since then, Free Cakes for Kids has turned into fully-fledged community group. In Oxford alone there are 25 volunteers, who support 2-3 families per week with beautiful birthday cakes in the child’s favourite theme or style.

I joined my local group in West Oxfordshire last year and have had so much joy out of making cakes for local families. Homemade birthday cakes are so meaningful and I know the birthday cakes my mum made or me as a child with always stay with me. I feel so happy everytime I pass that cake on – it is such a special thing to do!

You can find about more about joining a local group here – or come chat with the Free Cakes for Kids team at the Bake Off. They’ll be up to their elbows in sprinkles and icing, but that’s how they like it.. and would love to talk to you about joining up!

All the best things happen in Oxford eh? (See our charities for example!)

You ain’t seen muffin yet

I bet you all woke up this morning thinking ‘Oh it’s Monday’, a day which often creates a mixture of feelings, but I imagine was something close to either of the following:

“Mooooondaaay, nooooo, back to work again. Where did that weekend go??!”

“Mooooondaaay, nooooo, I’ve got to entertain these children of mine and it’s bloody raining outside!”

Well I woke up this morning and realised today was not just any old Monday, but two months to go till this year’s Bake Off! With a real feeling of not just “Where did that weekend go?” but “Where did these few months go?”. It seems absolutely nuts that we’ve only got two months to go, but it’s also very exciting! I thought I’d share some of the reasons why you should be getting that date in your diary in PERMANENT marker and should get that application in too.

1. Joining in with the competition is easy peasy. You pick your category (or categories for the really adventurous!), enter via our online form, then all you need to do is bring your baked offerings on the day. And you might well win! We’ve got some lovely prizes for our category winners including baking courses with Sophie Grigson, at Le Manoir, Biscuiteers boutique and Dancing Trousers cookery school, Le Creuset bakeware, cookery books, and even an afternoon tea party for 8 people! For our overall winner, thanks to our sponsors Carter Jonas, we’re also offering £150 cash prize, alongside the coveted ‘Star Baker’ apron…

2. There will be an abundance of extremely delicious cakes, biscuits and bread, made by some really top notch home bakers. Not to the mention the fact that baked goods eaten for charity are calorie-free (fact of the day there for you).

3. We’ve got a day of fun and frolics planned for you and the whole family. There will be workshops where you can learn how to perfect the cupcake swirl, make cake pops and learn the art of sugarcraft. For the little’uns, we’ve got Steve Lenton, illustrator of children’s book ‘Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam’ coming along to do a storytelling workshop with some interactive elements, alongside cake decorating, face painting and a crafty corner. There will be foody and crafty stalls, a raffle and a pop-up tea shop! Best of all thanks to our brilliant sponsors every penny we raise goes directly to our charities, which brings me neatly to number 4…

4. It’s for two wonderful charities, close to the heart of Oxford. Helen & Douglas House, the world’s first children’s hospice, opened in 1982 and continues to provide hospice & palliative care to children and young adults in Oxfordshire & surrounding counties. Oxfam started in Oxford in 1942 and today is a global humanitarian, development and campaigning organisation working with the aim to overcome poverty and suffering around the world. Both charities change lives for the better and through our support can continue to do their amazing work. Now that’s got to be worth coming along to eat a slice of cake, hasn’t it?

No excuses! See you on Saturday October 5th,


“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Organising the Oxfordshire Bake Off is a wonderful thing because everyday I see how kind and supportive people are. Today was no different. I awoke to an inbox of generous offers, from providing free tea bags, to kitting us out with vintage crockery. I am so thankful for their kindness, and it always leaves me grinning ear to ear!

Whether it’s a donating prize, sponsorship or taking part in the competition, every bit of support will help us to raise funds for our charities. Charities that will then make amazing, kind and life-changing acts with those funds.

For Helen & Douglas house their amazing work is in giving time and expertise to care for children and young adults with life-shortening conditions and support for their families. Their two hospice houses offer specialist symptom and pain management, medically-supported short breaks and end-of-life care, as well as counselling and practical support for the whole family.

For Oxfam, their amazing work is in working towards a world free or poverty and suffering. This year we’re supporting a project helping pastoral children in Niger get the education they deserve.

Thank you for everyone who has shown their own kindness in supporting the event so far, and to everyone that will.

Please take the time to read about the charities we’re supporting this year. They’re a lot fab!


Save the Date and Tips from Annie Bell

Happy world baking day one and all!

I’ve been celebrating by baking a banana bread today for work tomorrow. It’s from the Clandestine Cake Club book, one of new fave recipes. Simple and long-lasting (not that it ever does – gets gobbled up pretty quick!).

On Friday I announced that the next Bake Off will be Saturday October 5th at Oxford High School in Summertown! So excited already! The staff at the school have been so generous in giving us use of their beautiful school hall and are letting us pull out all the stops to make sure we can make it an unforgetable event!


This weekend I wanted to share an interview with Annie Bell, who was one of the lovely judges from last year. I honestly couldn’t believe my luck when Annie agreed to be one of my Mary Berry’s. She really is such a talented food writer, and I was honoured that she was part of the event in it’s very first year.

Annie began her cookery career at Vogue in the 1990s and went on to work for The Independent and has been principal cookery writer for the Mail’s ‘You’ magazine, as well as regular contributions to Waitrose Kitchen, Sainsbury’s magazine and The Telegraph Magazine. On top of that she has written many bestselling books, including the Gorgeous series, The Camping Cookbook, Soup Glorious Soup and most recently Annie Bell’s Baking Bible.

For Annie, good food is all about taking something simple and doing it well. Her experience juggling motherhood and a successful career has given her inspiration, and need, to create recipes that are “emminetly do-able and enhance rather than crampt your day”.

“With two children, a career and no nanny, the average day regularly feels like a tailspin. So all the recipes have been put through their paces at a personal level. There is no ‘Team Annie’, I get great pleasure out of doing all the testing myself, and as such am a small artisanal concern.” ~ Annie.

When I met Annie in March last year, I found she really is a woman of her word. She judged the ‘Big Cake’ category, and picked the cakes that had taste over all else. At the end of the day even if a cake looks good enough to eat you still want it to be good enough to eat.

What stood out in the winning entry?

Annie: It was a simple chocolate cake cooked to perfection.


What top tips do you have for this year’s contestants?

+ You should always make the quality of the cake the main consideration and decoration the second.
+ Choose decorations that will be good to eat as well as look at.
+ Practice what you’re doing in advance, and write down how you’ve done it, with reminders for what you should do next time.
+ Test it’s shelf life too. Will it stand up to the journey, being made the day before and out of the fridge for the whole day?

Where do you look for inspiration?

Annie: My inspiration comes from any number of sources. It is whatever catches your eye or imagination, where you chance upon it. This could be strolling down a high street, watching a film, a secondhand book shop, a meal in a restaurant…

What piece of baking equiptment couldn’t you live without?

Annie: My magimix!

What are you loving baking at the moment?

Annie: I am very into middisippi mud pie, so are my sons! It’s outrageously indulgent, fab!

Thanks to Annie for chatting with me. She’s also kindly donated a copy of her latest book, Annie Bell’s Baking Bible, to help with our fundraising efforts at this year’s event! Such a lovely thing to do.


I’ll be announcing this year’s panels of judges very soon.

With love,