It hasn’t even started yet and already Great British Bake Off fever has returned to the UK with just about everyone getting ready to go crazy again for meringues, macaroons and marble cake. But while the twelve new stars of the BBC One show will no doubt win legions of fans – providing there’s no more Baked Alaska in the bin – the Royal Family have shown off plenty of baking skills on public engagements in recent years. So, going by their performances while out and about, who would win the Great Royal Bake Off?
Most likely to be star baker is the Duchess of Cambridge who, in the four years since her marriage, has shown a pretty formidable set of skills in the kitchen while on public engagements. On her first overseas tour, to Canada in July 2011, Kate threw herself into all kinds of baking when she visited the Institut de Tourisme et d’Hotellerie in Quebec. The Duchess donned a white chef’s jacket for a cookery masterclass which saw her working with chocolate and wielding a piping bag – perfect for a star baker. Later the same year, Kate accompanied William on a Christmas visit to Centrepoint where the newlyweds helped make cookies and mince pies. And in March 2013, on a visit to the Great Tower Scout Camp in Cumbria with the Scout Association, Kate trekked out into the snow where she rustled up some bread over the campfire – working the dough then cooking it over the flames on a stick.
The favourite for victory in the technical challenge must be the Duchess of Cornwall. While visiting Scotland in July 2013, the Duchess tackled the tricky world of biscuit making while on a visit to the Shortbread House of Edinburgh. Camilla oversaw the mixing process before taking the lead in cutting the biscuits and producing an impressive set of evenly matched morsels. And in 2012, the Duchess of Cornwall showed off her canape making skills when she came up with the idea of the Cook for the Queen challenge as part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations. Children were invited to come up with a menu based on food in their local area which could be turned into canapes – the winners went to Buckingham Palace to serve up their creations at a reception for The Queen and the Duchess. Biscuits and canapes? That’s a recipe for success in any royal bake off.
Perilously close to leaving the tent would be the Duke of Cambridge who has never been afraid to show off his cooking skills while on royal duty but, apart from his 2011 Christmas cookie attempts with Kate, William usually steers away from the fondant fancies and florentines. He has been seen cooking paella for his school friends, turning steaks on a barbecue hosted by the Prime Minister of New Zealand in 2010 and mastering a fry up which he cooked for homeless people at an event marking the 40th anniversary of Centrepoint in 2009. His most technical cooking was on the Quebec visit but he couldn’t come close to emulating his wife’s efforts.
Also hovering near the danger zone is the Prince of Wales who is a passionate advocate of sustainable food but who hasn’t embraced cookery on public engagements with the same success as his wife and daughter-in-law. Despite setting up Duchy Originals – which sells hundreds of products, including biscuits, around the world – Charles is usually seen testing and trying food rather than cooking it. The closest he’s got in recent years is a little light cake making with the Duchess of Cornwall on a visit to St George’s Primary School in London to support the Chefs Adopt a School programme which encourages children to learn more about where their food comes from.
But the one to watch in this competition is surely Prince Harry. After all, not many of us can boast that we have used melting snow to reconstitute dried food but that’s just what the prince and his colleagues did on their South Pole trek for Walking with the Wounded in December 2013. But Harry has actually demonstrated far more complex cooking on his travels. Earlier in 2013, the prince visited a school in Lesotho that works with his charity, Sentebale, where he joined in the work in the kitchen. And after making everyone laugh by donning a rather fetching lilac pinny decorated with pictures of Paddington Bear, Harry then made doughnuts. Yep, doughnuts. Anyone who’s ever seen the Great British Bake Off will know the look of fear and trepidation that the mention of a challenge involving doughnuts can produce but Harry breezed through it. In this contest, that showstopper might just be enough to steal the cook’s crown.
Photo credits – The Scout Association and Beth Edberg at Cranachan & Crowdie.