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2013 GBBO winner, Frances Quinn, shares her top tips for baking

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We’re getting pretty excited by all things cake over here at Stylist and we’re thinking you will be too, once The Great British Bake Off kicks off tonight.

So to give you a head start in the baking stakes, we have gathered together some top tips from 2013 winner, Frances Quinn, who will no doubt inspire you to start experimenting in the kitchen.

You’ll be using flowers and tree bark before you know it.

Frances Quinn

Frances on…

How to create the winning Madeira cake:

“Obviously it’s normally almonds, so I’d maybe be inclined to use a different type of nut. Perhaps pistachio and then use orange instead, with a bit of orange blossom or rose water; more of a Middle Eastern style Madeira."

“On Bake Off, they often want you to stick to something quite traditional. But then again, they want you to think outside of the baking box. I’d be tempted to start carving it up in some ways!”

The equipment she can’t live without:

“My digital scales are amazing. So much so that I sometimes take them with me if I’m baking away from home. It’s almost like having a Mac in the kitchen and it also helps save on the washing up as when I do flapjacks, I just put it on the pan."

I always have loads of paint brushes in my kitchen that I use to apply different types of syrups, or a bit of chocolate work. It’s a bit of an art studio in my kitchen! I use latte stirrers to apply things, not just wooden spoons.”

How to get started with baking:

“I think, if you’ve not baked before, don’t go out of your comfort zone too much – so even just scones and flapjacks. And then you can bring in the changes gradually. Maybe add orange and lemon, keeping it quite simple but adding your own flavours."

“Even shortbread – which is quite a traditional and easy to bake – instead of using traditional caster sugar, you could use light brown sugar to get a different flavour and look."

Mistakes and the positives:

“I always say: ‘Mistakes will happen. But you can learn from them and you can even eat your mistakes!’ That’s what I always think with Eton Mess and Tiffin, they often come out of disasters in the kitchen.”

How to avoid baking disasters:

“It can just be the conditions. So meringues, for example, they’re never easy to make if it’s a humid or wet day. And I remember the bun sugar task on Bake Off, when there was a lot of water in the air…” We’re thinking she means: ‘Just don’t even bother...’

Meringues

The biggest learning curve and overall top tip:

“I did take on a bit of a sporting psychology, because on Bake Off you go through a real rollercoaster of emotions. So, you would have some weeks where you would have a really bad signature, or your technical wasn’t that great and you’d be sort of be going: ‘That’s it. My days are up.’ But you could bring it back in the showstopper, so it was really about trying to stay focused."

“When mistakes happen, it’s not allowing your confidence to dip too much and to just try and stay upbeat. Everyone kept saying: ‘Fran, you looked really calm in there.’ I was like: ‘No, if you could see inside!’"

“I think after having gone through Bake Off, it will take a lot to faze you – the pressure that you’re under on that show is unreal!”

Quinntessential Baking by Frances Quinn (£25, Bloomsbury) is out on 27 August.

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