As you may have seen this week, Great British Bake Off has returned for its 8th series. It’s no surprise that we are partial to Bake Off here in the Food Team, any excuse to watch lots of delicious treats being made! Even though we replicate recipes from the past, we are always keeping an eye out for new sources of inspiration; there was even a Victorian week in last year’s series! That’s our excuse anyway…
The theme for this week’s opening episode was cake. We love a good cake at Beamish Museum – we rustle up these sponge delights at any opportunity. To show you a glimpse into the plethora of cakes around our site, I went on a little cake tour (I love my job) and took a few snaps of what I found… and I had to sample them on course.
The first place I wandered into was Herron’s Bakery in our 1900s Town, as you might guess there were a good few cakes to choose from. The one that took my fancy today was our homemade Tea Loaves, which uses tea-soaked fruit and lots of other goodies, great with lashings of butter!
I also took a quick photo of our giant tub of baking powder – a product that completely transformed the way that cakes were made. After the discovery and manufacture of the raising agent in 1843, the effect on baking was huge. Previously cakes were usually leavened with yeast, creating a more bread-like texture, whereas baking powder meant a light and spongy consistency that we now associate with cake.
There are some delicious cakes to be tried in our Tea Rooms, also in The Town. My favourite is the Victoria Sponge that I sampled while writing this post! Other yummy cakes on offer can include lemon and poppy seed, chocolate or blueberry, I am salivating already!
The place of cakes in everyday life was made possible by the availability of sugar following mass globalisation which resulted in a huge price drop; by the end of the 17th century sugar was relatively cheap. This meant that the poorer people, usually confined to bread and jam as their main sweet treat, were now able to enjoy cakes as part of their celebrations at Christmas, Easter and so on, the start of a beautiful relationship!
If you are really lucky, there could be a cake baking in either Miss Smith’s on Ravensworth Terrace or down on Francis Street in The Pit Village, just follow your nose! There is no better sight than a cake cooling on a kitchen table in one of our period houses, see if you can try a sneaky sample!