Celebrating Sweets with Original Winner of 'The Great British Baking Show' Edd Kimber

by Matthew Wexler

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday December 28, 2020

Edd Kimber, author of "One Tin Bakes"
Edd Kimber, author of "One Tin Bakes"  (Source:Simon Kimber)

Over the last decade, "The Great British Baking Show" has become synonymous with culinary confections, and more recently, a queer following obsessed not only with the perfect Chelsea bun but also the perfect buns of its gay contestants. Edd Kimber sits atop that croquembouche as the openly gay baker, food writer and TV personality who took top honors in the very first season a decade ago. Kimber's latest book, "One Tin Bakes," delivers 70 delectable recipes that can all be prepared in a simple 9 x 13-inch baking tin.

EDGE chatted with Kimber about his foray into baking, how the series helped launch his career and some of the highlights from his new book.

EDGE: Did your love for baking come from a family who liked to spend time in the kitchen?

Edd Kimber>: My family is old-fashioned. We were very traditional and didn't have the latest computer games or consoles. I was an awkward kid that didn't fit in. There were always lots of things around the house. Not really hobbies, just things we used to do.

I think it comes from deeper in my family. My grandfather used to own a general store, and during World War II, he used rations to make custard cream and sold them on the black market.

EDGE: Looking back, do you feel that you turned to the kitchen as a form of self-expression as you were coming to terms with your sexuality?

EK: I grew in Bradford, England, a cotton mill town, which I didn't necessarily enjoy. Spending time in the kitchen, on my own, was [a chance] to escape from day to day life. As a teenager, I clung to the idea that this could take me to different places and allow me to do something I enjoyed.

EDGE: What do you recall from your experience on "The Great British Baking Show"?

EK: At the time, there was no context or expectation. I flew under the radar and was told to keep it a secret, but nobody cared. Since the show came out, there's been a lot of rewriting of history as it's become more successful, but it wasn't immediately popular but grew to become one of the biggest shows of the decade.

Now there is so much pressure to see who is looking over your shoulder. I'm thankful that it wasn't that way. There was more positivity online, less trolling.

EDGE: Do you feel like the show has loosened up a bit and become more queer-centric?

EK:
There have been queer people in every season. The original hosts, Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, were already known public figures in the UK and innuendo was part of the show. They wanted to include it, but it wasn't part of the formal format. BBC sometimes thought it would be too much and we'd re-film without the joke. I do think the show has done a great job of showcasing different types of queer people from different backgrounds. I like the fact that there have been two gay winners. I like the fact that there is always someone on the show that you can relate to no matter who you are.

Peppermint chocolate slices  (Source: Edd Kimber, "One Tin Bakes")

EDGE: What were some of the early challenges you faced after winning as you began working on your first book, "The Boy Who Bakes"?

EK: There wasn't any prize money, and I left the show not expecting to be a huge success. I had a lot of questions. There was no after-care or advice about different offers. I had to figure out what I wanted to do moving forward. I didn't necessarily want to write or do TV. I wanted to make a career out of baking. There were early opportunities. Michelin chef Raymond Blanc offered me the chance to stage in his kitchen, and I quickly realized I didn't want to work in a restaurant. I did some guest TV spots, and then I met an editor at a food magazine, and it started something that's never stopped, and I've been contributing to most of the UK's food magazines ever since, including BBC Good Food, Delicious and Waitrose Kitchen.

I've consciously chosen the work I want to do; sometimes it's harder to make those decisions because you're flung into an attention level that's hard to maintain.

EDGE: Let's talk about your latest book. The inspiration for "One Tin Bakes" came before the pandemic, but it seems appropriate and easy for home cooks.

EK: I've come to learn over the past ten years to pitch my work to the home baker, but it blows me away that bakeries use my recipes, too. I want to inspire people at home, not burden them with ingredients that they can't find or recipes that are too difficult. I've learned not to overestimate the equipment that people have at home and wanted to think of something that would be popular. The cookbook market is tough and very saturated. This felt relevant to home bakers and not something I'd done before.

My publisher had seen a recipe on my website, a simple sheet cake, and it went wild when it launched. We sat down and wrote a pitch. Most people already have a classic brownie pan—it's an international shape, accessible and wouldn't put people off. Then I had to develop 70 recipes for one tin! It was a fun process and showed how much equipment you don't need. It also makes big servings.


EDGE: Most don't know you photographed and styled your books — a triple threat! What are your tips for good food photography?

EK: It was an interesting decision — I've been photographing my baking for some time and trying to do more. My publisher knew it was something I wanted to do; I said yes, please! I shot the book as I wrote it. The house was messy for a year. I didn't edit or design the book, but everything else is mine.

The best thing is can do is turn off your flash — it makes food look flat. Set your shot by the window for natural light. If you're new to food photography, shoot from above, and the more skill and knowledge you gain, you can experiment. Keep the food front and center without a lot of props and pretty things. I made a lot of graphic images in this book. When readers see the photos, it evokes, "I want to make this."

EDGE: We're going to request the unthinkable and ask you to pick three favorite recipes.

EK:
Entry-level — peppermint chocolate slices. I've made these so many times, and they're no-bake.
3 to Try

Out of the box — tahini babka buns

Showstopper — milk chocolate caramel cake

And my master tip: Most people don't use enough salt. Use what the recipe calls for. Baking is still food and salt balances the sweetness.

Matthew Wexler is EDGE's Senior Editor, Features & Branded Content. More of his writing can be found at www.wexlerwrites.com. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @wexlerwrites.

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