If you’ve been inspired by Rahul and Kim-Joy in the Great British Bake Off and want to dip your toe into the floury world of cakes and biscuits, or you simply want to raise your baking game to treat friends and family, here's how technology can help.
Ditch recipe books for apps
Recipe books such as Mary Berry’s Complete Cookbook and Paul Hollywood’s How to Bake have taught thousands to make perfect cakes. But while there’s nothing quite like thumbing through the pages of a book, cooking apps bring thousands of recipes to your phone or tablet and cost nothing.
Best for recipe choice: Big Oven
From chocolate orange cake to sugar-free biscuits and easy croissants, with over half a million recipes, you’ll find inspiration for pretty much anything you want to bake here.
Best for customised recipes: Yummly
With mouth-watering photos, Yummly is packed with baking inspiration. It aggregates the best recipes from the web, so once you've found something you want to bake, you click through to the original website for instructions.
Best for beginners: Tasty
Tasty is a great app for novice bakers thanks to simple videos that make it easy to cook baked treats, and it has a good choice for families.
Follow an internet expert
The contestants on GBBO often make baking look easy, but if you are an absolute beginner, making your first cake can be daunting. You can take a baking class, but plenty of websites are available to help you learn in your own time from the comfort of your kitchen.
The queen of cuisine
Who better to teach you baking than one of Britain’s best-loved cooks? The Delia Online Cookery School is packed with recipes for novice bakers. Follow the lessons in her ‘First Term: Perfect Cakes’ section starting with a classic sponge cake, and you’ll learn how to cook loaf cakes, muffins and biscuits and mouth-watering Squidgy Chocolate Cake. Each recipe includes a video, narrated by Delia Smith, which is simple to follow.
The YouTube sensation
The video-sharing website is packed with cooking videos. We’re a fan of Gemma Stafford’s Bigger Bolder Baking which has a staggering 1.7 million followers. Irish-born Gemma, an ex-professional chef, has hundreds of recipes covering pretty much every type of baked treat from pretzels to jam and puff pastry to ice cream. Recipes are easy to follow and include a link to a written recipe.
The Bake Off graduate
The Great British Bake Off has made household names of dozens of home bakers. Richard Burr made it to the final in 2014 - check out the video below for his exclusive tips on how to make the perfect sponge.
Use a virtual kitchen helper
Voice-controlled technology is becoming more and more popular, whether it’s for asking your smartphone what the weather is like to controlling your TV or using smart speakers like Amazon Echo with Alexa and Google Home.
A smart speaker can help you save time by acting like a virtual kitchen assistant, answering your baking questions without you having to wash flour off your hands to open a book or type a question into your smartphone or tablet.
1. Create a shopping list: Put your pen down and forget about wasting time typing a list on your smartphone. With voice control it’s easy to create a shopping list for your baking – simply say “OK Google, add flour and sugar and eggs to my shopping list” or “Alexa, add yeast and jam to my shopping list” and the hard work is done. The list will be waiting for you in the Google Home or Alexa app when you go shopping.
2. Set a timer: In baking, timing is everything. Simply say “Alexa, set a timer for 10 minutes” and wait for the alert.
If you're cooking something particularly intricate you can set up multiple timers by saying “Alexa, set an oven timer for 10 minutes” and “Alexa, set a proving timer for 20 minutes” or if you’ve got a Google Home, device “OK Google, set a 10 minute timer for resting.”
You can ask how long is left, pause, cancel and resume the timers.
3. Weight conversions: Recipes online use metric and imperial, for a quick conversion say such as: “Hey Google how many millimetres are 12 fluid ounces?” or “Alexa, what are two cups in millilitres?”
Get hands-free baking instructions
As well as helping with small tasks, Google Home and Amazon Alexa let you browse recipes using your voice and give you step-by-step baking instructions to follow.
To get step by-step recipes on Google Home say: “Hey Google, find me a chocolate cake recipe” and it will search for one from its partner sites. If you've got an Amazon Echo, you can say “Alexa, find me a recipe for chocolate chip cookies” and it will search Recipedia.
Both will talk you through the ingredients you need and read out the steps in the cooking method.
You're not restricted to recipes on Google Home and Alexa partner sites though. Both Google Home Skills and Alexa Skills work like shortcuts to your favourite websites. A skill useful for bakers is BBC Good Food: say “Alexa, enable BBC Good Food Skill” to launch it and “Alexa, ask BBC Good Food to find me an easy cake recipe” to get step-by-step instructions.
If you prefer to learn to bake by watching someone else cook as you do, try the next-generation of smart speakers which feature a screen. The Google Home Hub lets you follow step-by-step instructions from Tasty, while the Amazon Alexa Show will get the ‘Cooking with Alexa’ skill later this year. Both devices let you use your voice to move through the steps so you don’t have to touch the screen.
Music to bake to
If you want a little musical accompaniment - perhaps ‘This Charming Flan’ or ‘Don’t Go Baking My Tart?’ - there are lots of gadgets to help.
With a voice-activated speaker like Amazon Echo or Google Home linked to a music streaming service or your own music collection, you can request a song, album or playlist to entertain you while you bake.
Cook up a baking playlist with Spotify
Link your Spotify Premium account to the Amazon Alexa or Google Home app and you can listen to your favourite playlists. There are also dozens of cooking and baking playlists to listen too.
Listen to your favourite stations
If you’d rather bake while listening to Woman’s Hour, Test Match Special or Five Live, that’s easy too. With Google Home say: “OK Google, play Classic FM” or “OK Google, play BBC Radio 4”, and on Amazon Echo: “Alexa, enable the BBC skill” and “Alexa, Play Radio 4.”
Go cable-free with a bluetooth speaker
Stream music from your phone without worrying about messing up your cables by using the waterproof Ultimate Ears Blast, which comes in bright colours and delivers a bold 360-degree sound. It also works with Alexa.
If you want something smaller, the colourful JBL Clip 2 is also waterproof and comes with a useful clip so you can hang it out of the way. Alternatively the Sony SRS-XB10 is a great value compact speaker and is water-resistant.
Save time on the boring jobs
Smart home can help you find recipes and even read them out to you, but what about gadgets that can actually help you bake?
Stand mixers are a staple of the Bake Off tent. The 10-speed KitchenAid Mixer takes the hard work out of whisking and beating batter and dough. Made from die-cast metal, it comes with a glass bowl and free ice-cream maker.
Baking requires precise measurements, and the Salter 5KG Glass Electronic Kitchen Scale can measure multiple ingredients – including liquids - in the same bowl. For smaller measurements, the Digital Measuring Spoon lets you precisely measure things like flour, sugar, salt and butter and has a digital LCD display.
Finally.... if you want to cheat
If you’ve tried baking and found it’s not for you, but you want that just-baked bread taste, opt for a bread maker.
The Morphy Richards Fastbake Cooltouch Breadmaker has 12 programmes to help you make cakes, dough and jam, and produces loaves in three different sizes.
The Panasonic Hard Crust Breadmaker ZP200 creates crusty loaves without any kneading, and 18 auto programmes make it easy to make cakes, pizza dough and more.
So with brilliant tech to help, why not get ready for Great British Bake Off 2019?