The Baker’s Daughter A Life Shaped by Cakes
is the story of one family of bakers, tracing my pastry chef ancestors
from an alpine village on the Swiss Italian border, through France and
to England where my grandparents set up and ran two shops, and my father
ran his own shop for over 40 years. This is a story about cakes, about
family traditions and about my journey to discover what truly makes a great
I grew up in a bake house, Peter’s
, in Weybridge, Surrey, just like my father and grandmother. Home was just one mile away but life revolved around the family tea shop.
My father, Peter, was the baker and chocolatier while my mother, Frankie,
married into this pastry making tradition and was a natural with the customers.
She trained as a nurse but didn’t leave this profession far behind. Instead
of looking after sick people in a ward she cared for the well being of
her customers who shared their problems with her over a ‘cup of tea
and a cake’.
I started working at Peter’s
on Saturdays when I was eleven
and although I watched my father bake, make chocolates and decorate cakes
I never learned the art of baking and cake making. I saw how hard my parents
worked and had no desire to follow the family pastry tradition so I left
home to go to University to study English and train as a journalist. As
my father’s retirement approached in 2000 the big question remained: who,
if any of my three siblings, would carry on this tradition? Why did it
matter to me if the pastry line ended with the closure of the shop?
The story begins in Poschiavo, an alpine village on the Swiss Italian border,
where my pastry chef ancestors came from. We follow their journey from
Poschiavo to France and to England where my grandparents ran two tea shops:
in the Isle of White and Lane’s
in Westcliff. My father continued
the pastry making tradition at Peter’s
from 1958 to 2000. My book evokes
the atmosphere of Peter’s
and describes what lies behind the service and
tea shop traditions. My story is informed and enlivened by food to explore
relationships and reveal the pressures of running a family business.
While writing The Baker’s Daughter
I realised that it was time I learned to bake
so I asked my father, to come out of retirement to teach me some
of the most popular traditional recipes from the shop plus I also asked
him for his baker’s tips. In 2010, I was introduced to the chef Albert
Roux who invited me to learn to make petit fours in the pastry section
of Le Gavroche. I discovered a love of baking in my mid-40s and went on
my own journey in cakes.
The Baker’s Daughter
is a memoir in cakes,
pastries and savouries which appeals to readers who enjoy engaging family
stories with recipes. My personal story has a universal appeal given the
nation’s appetite for baking and cakes. My book includes recipes for the
most popular cakes plus my father’s old fashioned tips which he learned
from his forebears. This personal story has a wider appeal given the sharp
decline in family bakery business; membership of the National Association
of Master Bakers has dropped by more than 50 per cent in two years. I reflect
on the popular cakes spanning 100 years and five generations up to the
present day. My children, Lara and Joe possess a passion and instinct for
baking. Who knows, maybe they will carry on the family pastry chef tradition.
Article in The Times on family tea shops
and learning to bake the traditional recipes. >
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