When lockdown hit earlier this year in Germany, army spouse and mum Michelle Cole was craving human contact, as well as cake, so she decided the best way to combine the two was to set up a Bake-off group. We find out how it came about and how it’s benefited the community…
“Being relatively new to the area, and being subjected to lockdown, meant additional stressors for my family,” says Michelle, who met her husband Aaron while working as a teacher at an MOD school in Gutersloh.
“Home schooling whilst caring for a toddler and being unable to do ‘normal’ everyday activities and meet people, meant less time being just me, and a lot of time cooped up in the house.
“I wanted to become a better baker, so I put a shout-out on the local community group, and it developed from there,” adds Michelle, who is mum to Lucy and twins Zac and Luca. “I initially expected a handful of people to join in, but one month we had 22 bakers! Word of mouth was huge in getting the group up and running and Lindsay at AFF was very helpful!”
How it works
Every month, using Facebook, Michelle takes a poll to see which type of bake people would like to have a go at and whether they would like to bake, taste or both.
Each Friday, after school, Michelle collects the bakes, then organises her route for dropping off. “Fortunately, everyone lives very close to one another, which helps logistically!” she says. “If anyone is not in, I ask that they leave a sealed tub on their doorstep, and I fill that with the goodies.”
Each taster gets a score sheet and, once they have judged the bakes, they message a picture of their scores. Then, on the last Sunday of the month, Michelle announces that month’s top three winners.
Kitty McCran, 15, is the youngest competitor and recently came third in the ‘fruit and veg’ category with her ‘Beet it Brownies’. She says: “I was a bit bored in lockdown, so asked if I could take part in the Bake-off. It’s definitely given me something to look forward to and I also love tasting other people’s bakes. A bonus was beating my mum!”
Michelle has had the Army Welfare Service, NAAFI and BFBS offer their support by donating medals and prizes, and they are collaborating to come up with different events, baking workshops and even a cookbook in the future.
Michelle explains how the Bake-off group has made a huge difference to the community.
She says: “The Messenger group allows people to chat and everyone is offering tips and tricks and general support for one another. There is always a lot of healthy competition too!
“I think it has brought different groups together who would not necessarily socialise otherwise. People are helping one another out and that is definitely a positive.”
Michelle is confident that Bakeoff is here to stay.
She concludes: “The format may change slightly as lockdown eases, and we may have to break for the weather occasionally, but so long as people want it, it will keep going.”
Michelle wins a signed print from The Remembrance Collection by artist Jacqueline Hurley of POSH Original Art. Jacqueline’s collection is her personal thank you and tribute to our armed forces, veterans and their families; and a commemoration of those who have fallen or been injured in past campaigns. She paints to evoke emotion, reflection and remembrance in her unique and expressive style. To view the collection, visit poshoriginalart.co.uk
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