We spoke to our fave Great British Bake Off contestant Benjamina Ebuehi to get the inside scoop on what it’s like to be in the show, how her life plan went from banker to baker, and she even shares an extra special recipe for you to make your own Mother’s Day Showstopper Cake this Sunday!
First of all, we want to know what it was actually like being on the Great British Bake Off! Was it what you imagined?
It was stressful. I think it was a lot more intense than any of us thought it would be. It looks tough when you watch it and just getting really tired and all the practicing and then up and down every week with emotions. But it was still so fun and meeting all the other bakers and Mel and Sue was a highlight. They are so great! It was an amazing once in a lifetime experience.
So the stress was definitely worth it! Was this something you always knew you wanted to do or was it more of a last minute thing?
It was a weird one, I’d always loved baking and stuff, and I watched Bake Off every year like a hard-core fan! All my friends were like you should do it so I downloaded the application form but it was soooooo long and I was like nope no way that’s too much. It was really detailed so I just left it. But the year after I thought why not? The worst they’ll say is no. Let’s just have a go! I’m glad I did it. I thought ‘I’ve got nothing to loose’. If I get it great, if I don’t, then just carry on with life.
Wow when you first saw that application form I bet you never imagined where you’d be now! You said you had always loved baking. When did you first get in to it?
I was about 13 or 14, but back then it just for fun so I would make fairy cakes, cookies, and basic stuff. We don’t really have bakers in my family – great cooks, but no one bakes apart from maybe a crumble every now and again. But I just really enjoyed it! When I got to uni is when I took it more seriously because I had more time on my hands to practice. I started following lots of food blogs and was on Pinterest a lot. I saw all these different cool cakes and thought I want to try that!
Did you ever think you’d have a career in baking?
No it was always at the back of my mind that it would be really cool but I thought I could just do it on the side, and I’ll get a ‘proper’ job. And I could bake on the weekends or when someone needs a birthday cake!
I was always in to maths and business, so I did maths and economics at A level and really enjoyed that, so I did economics at uni, and thought oh I’d love to be a banker or work in the city and earn loads of money. But by the second year of uni I was like oh gosh, that is not the lifestyle for me! I couldn’t hack it. And then I wanted to go into teaching. During the bake off I was working in a school, getting experience and then was planning to start my training to become a maths teacher so I was going down that route but then Bake Off came up and I thought, forget teaching!
To enjoy what you do is so important! So as you don’t have a normal working day, what is a day in the life of Benjamina?
Every day is so different, which I love! I’m doing a lot of blogging to try and get that stronger, a lot of baking, and a bit of charity stuff. I’m working as an ambassador with a social enterprise bakery in east London called Luminary. They work with disadvantaged women and teach them how to bake. I love what they do!
There are so many different kinds of jobs and careers, it can be difficult to work out what we actually want to do! What career options are there in the world of baking?
I’m trying to get in to food styling now, which I didn’t know existed before properly being in the food world. Food styling is basically making food look pretty for cookbooks, magazines and anywhere you see food advertised. You could also do prop styling for different food shoots. So if there’s a shoot for a cookbook, you’ll have the recipe and make it, set it up, make it look pretty, and work with food photographers. Oh yeah, food photography is another option! If you like baking and have an interest in photography they work really well together. Or if you like English or are good at English, and you also love food then working in publishing is also a good combination!
Food editing, writing food books, food writing, food blogging, food styling – there are so many options in the world of food! But if you don’t know where to start, start with a blog. Whether that’s sharing recipes or reviewing restaurants or bakeries or that kind of thing, just to get that momentum going is really good.
Great advice and so many options! Now, we heard you are a twin! What was it like growing up? Did you ever struggle with comparison?
We were in the same classes but we aren’t identical so that really helped because teachers wouldn’t know we were twins unless we told them that we are twins. We had the same friendship group so we were always together but we are total opposites! To avoid comparison, I think it’s important to identify what you are good at, what you enjoy, what you like, and focus on that as opposed to what you’re not good at, what doesn’t come naturally to you that comes naturally to someone else.
Such good advice! Who are your biggest baking inspirations?
I follow quite a few food photographers. There’s a really well-known food photographer called Linda Lomelino, her Instagram is beautiful. Another food photographer called Renée Kemps is also amazing. They have quite different styles but both are really good. For actual bakers, I do love a bit of Lorraine Pascale! Simple, nothing over the top, but great cakes – yeah I love Lorraine!
We asked our readers what puts them off baking, and two of the top things they said were the mess it makes and not having the right equipment. What advice would you give them?
I’m naturally a messy baker. But there are loads of 1 bowl recipes, like brownies and carrot cake – for those you don’t need an electric whisk or any fancy equipment you just need a bowl, a grater, and other than that you just use what you’ve got! I don’t think you need to rush out and buy expensive equipment. If you’ve got basics like 1 cake tin, 1 pan for flapjacks, brownies and tray bakes, any mixing bowl, it doesn’t have to be fancy, a whisk and a wooden spoon! Oh and a set of scales! Very important! Don’t guess guys, weigh it! But again you can get cheap scales.
Finally, what advice would you give to anyone interested in entering the world of baking?
My number 1 tip is practice, practice, practice. Even when you think you’ve got it perfect, practice a few more times. Give it to as many people as possible not just your mum, your sister or brother, take some to school let your friends have some or your teachers if you want to get feedback of what you’ve done! Take pictures of your cakes too because it’s a good way to see progress if you compare after 6 months or so. And try something you’ve never done before! Just follow the recipe and give it a go.
And the first new thing we’ll be trying is your Mother’s Day Showstopper recipe below! We can’t wait to see how it turns out and we’ll be sure to share our pictures on social media using #GirlGotCake