Building Skills

It’s three years ago today that my Great British Bake Off Final aired to an audience of 14 million viewers. I don’t think I’ll ever get my head around that. A good time to reflect on what’s changed since then. Such a lot of exciting opportunities and this week, my new building column launched too.

You may have noticed I haven’t had time to blog as often at the moment. It’s partly because I’ve started major building work on my own home, but also because I’m writing a new DIY column for the Press Association. Many of you suggested topics for me to write on earlier this year and hopefully, the ‘How To’ guides I’m writing will help. I’m also going to put them all on my website in one place when I get a chance. This week’s column was all about how to wallpaper a feature wall, and you can read it here.

I can’t believe it’s been three years since my series of the Bake Off ended, which also means it’s my blog’s third birthday – three years since my first post! It was also my wife Sarah’s birthday, so I knocked up a Ferrero Rocher cake for her to take to work (above). I’m so glad I’ve kept doing this blog as it’s been a great diary of all the cool stuff that’s happened over the past few years and it makes me feel so lucky. I’ve written over 135 blog posts during that time, which have been seen by more than 100,000 visitors over many hundreds of thousands of views. I’m always so grateful for all the feedback I get through this site, particularly from Netflix viewers in the US, who send me the kindest (and sometimes strangest!) emails on a regular basis. One of the things I’m asked most often is what the balance of my time is these days between building and baking. It’s hard to guess that, as I tend to build by day and bake most evenings and weekends but it’s probably about 80:20 building to baking these days. Baking was always a hobby for me, rather than a potential career change, and I’m so lucky to have a hobby that gives me so many fun opportunities.

I spent last weekend at the Thame Food Festival judging a cake competition, doing a baking demo, signing copies of my book, B.I.Y. Bake It Yourself, and catching up with my lovely gang of bakers, including Chetna, above. I’ve said it many times, but the friends I’ve made through Bake Off have been the highlight of the experience. What’s so nice is that it extends across all the different Bake Off series. It really is a big family, as being part of the most popular show on TV is such a weird/special experience. As well as our Series 5 Whatsapp Group, we also have a Whatsapp Group for those from the past four years of Bake Off who are running the London Marathon together next year.

Speaking of running, we had a great family day out yesterday at the RBC Race for the Kids for Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in Hyde Park. It’s the third year in a row we’ve done this race as a family but this year was more poignant than before, as our wonderful friends Natalie and Martin and their sons have been looked after by GOSH for the past seven months. Both of their sons are being treated for different, unrelated cancers. While their youngest son Arthur (nearly two) continues his chemotherapy in London with Natalie, Martin and their four year old son Freddie have flown to Florida for proton beam therapy, which is unavailable in the UK. If you know anyone who works for Virgin Atlantic and can make their many journeys across the Atlantic any easier, please do get in touch via their blog or fundraising page. Through the fundraising work I’ve done with GOSH over the past three years, I’ve met so many incredible parents and children who show such bravery, humour and good spirits in the face of incredible challenges on a daily basis.

The past two Race for the Kids events had been in Battersea Park and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, but as yesterday’s was in Hyde Park, we went home via (arguably London’s most famous shop) Harrods. I don’t think I’ve ever been to Harrods before myself, but we spent hours in the toy department there yesterday – a great place to spend an afternoon for the Lego alone. I’ve still got my eye on a Lego Millennium Falcon – maybe this Christmas…! The toy department is every bit as much of a sensory overload as you’d imagine – giant teddy bears for £3,000, a Lego replica of Harrods (above), a big children’s book department, a huge sweet shop, magicians demonstrating tricks for the children. There was something quite Roald Dahl about it all, like being in the pages of a story book, and the kids especially loved the old fashioned, golden lifts. We were too toyed-out to make the most of the famous and spectacular Harrods Food Hall yesterday so a return visit is in order.

After a hectic week of running about for both work and fun I just had time to settle down with a cuppa to figure out what to do with the giant glut of apples (pictured above) we’ve managed to harvest from my Mum and Dad’s garden. One of my favourite things about the Autumn is the rich flavours we get to harvest from all the work we’ve done throughout the year. Looks like there’s going to a fair few pies and maybe a batch of my toffee apple doughnuts this week. Until next time… Happy Baking!




One thought on “Building Skills

  1. So happy to see you so well! We are still rooting for you. Wish I could have a slice of your wife’s birthday cake! Her coworkers are a lucky bunch! Take care, Maria Jennings Cooper City, Florida USA

    Maria and Donald Jennings



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