A student from Ellon has been named a champion home baker after impressing Carina Contini in a nationwide contest.
A “food-obsessed” student from Ellon who impressed one of Scotland’s leading chefs with her bakery skills says it’s all down to science.
Following a nationwide search, food blogger Sophie Greig, who is studying chemical engineering, was crowned Scotland’s top home baker by the Scottish Café and Restaurant at the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh.
The former Ellon Academy pupil’s classic Caramel Apple Paris Brest recipe impressed Scottish Cafe owner, Carina Contini, who was joined by the venue’s specialist pastry chefs to select the overall star baker after the “Contini Bake Off”.
Amateur bakers from John o’ Groats to Jedburgh were encouraged to slip on their aprons and show off their culinary creations for a chance to be featured on The Scottish Cafe’s iconic afternoon tea menu.
From classic cream cakes to indulgent gateaus and classic cupcakes, The Scottish Cafe received an overwhelming variety of mouth-watering entries from the country’s most talented home cooks, including mums, dads, grandparents and children of all ages.
Judges were on the lookout for technical ability, creative flair, originality and use of local ingredients, but ultimately a delicious and eye-catching addition to The Scottish Cafe’s signature afternoon tea menu.
“Thrilled and shocked”
Understandably delighted, but also a little surprised, to have won, Sophie, who shares her creations on Instagram page Sophie’s Slice, said: “I entered the competition with my bake because it’s a favourite of my family. I’m thrilled and shocked to have won.
“I had already made it and have an Instagram page where I post pictures of food, so I thought I should enter as I was already thinking about posting it anyway and ended up winning.
“I was very surprised when I found out I had won as I had kind of forgotten about it because I didn’t expect anything to happen.”
Sophie, 21, has baked almost her entire life, learning, as many of us do, from her grandmother.
She continued: “I have always been baking since I was very little, I used to bake a lot with my granny. It’s my favourite thing to do, it’s my main hobby.
“I never normally make the same recipe more than a couple of times as I really like to make new things and I would say that pastry is my favourite kind of thing to make and it was what I won with.
“The winning creation was a choux pastry ring filled with a spiced apple compote and a salted caramel cream diplomat with some flaked almonds on top.
Creation on the menu
And it was surreal moment for Sophie, who says she’s a “food obsessed amateur cook and baker”, when she was invited to enjoy afternoon tea at the Scottish Café – featuring her very own creation.
“Obviously they have such a lovely café and are professionals and I just baked a little cake, so them liking it was really amazing,” she added.
“I got to go and try the afternoon tea which included their version of my bake on it the other week which was really nice. They made a little miniature version to put on their afternoon tea menu. It was lovely to try out my own creation in an actual restaurant.”
The third year chemical engineering student would love to enjoy a career in baking, but her mind is firmly focused on her university work at the present time.
Sophie continued: “As I am at Uni right now I don’t have that much time to bake, but it would be amazing if that was to be my career. But I don’t know right now, it’s a hobby while I do my studies.
“My friends and family say it takes the science side of my brain as people do say that baking is more of a science.”
Students tend to get some bad press over their eating habits while at college or university and Sophie says she is just a normal student at heart with her baking something to take her mind of the studying.
“When I am busy at university I must admit I don’t cook great food, but it is my relaxation away from my studies which I really enjoy,” she said.
The talents of the Aberdeenshire student were recognised as the second winner of the competition.
Carina Contini said: “We’re absolutely delighted that Sophie has become the winner of this year’s Contini Bake Off competition.
“With the home baking trend continuing to grip the nation, we wanted to encourage talented amateur cooks of all ages to put their culinary skills in the limelight. Sophie really did rise to the challenge and dazzled us with her creative flair.
“As the home of one of Edinburgh’s finest afternoon teas at the Scottish National Gallery, The Scottish Cafe is the perfect setting to celebrate this iconic British dining tradition, as well as people’s passion for beautifully presented and mouth-wateringly delicious food.
“We look forward to launching our third annual search for Scotland’s best home baker in 2021.”