Popular blogger Jane Dunn has seen interest in her bakes grow exponentially since the pandemic hit. Here, she talks more about her debut cookbook.
Chocolate cheesecake crêpes. Pina colada cupcakes. White chocolate biscotti. Chocolate cherry babka. Bakewell blondies… Are you lulled into a confectioner’s heaven too?
This is the pattern of food writer Jane Dunn’s debut cookbook, named after her blog, Jane’s Patisserie. Sweet treat after sweet treat, each one promising comfort, deliciousness and nostalgia.
The 28-year-old has been blogging her bakes for around six-and-a-half years, creating recipes designed to suit all skill levels.
Jane’s Patisserie the cookbook presents her easy-breezy chocolate-adoring ethos in paper form, and “you can get it messy!” she says, which means no more coating your phone in flour as you scroll to the next step in the recipe.
Eliminating fear around baking is something that underpins Jane’s bakes. Each comes with customisable elements, so you can amp up flavour combinations, swap in ingredients you do have for ones you don’t, and avoid having to nip to the shops mid-mix for a missing item.
“I tried to cover all bases so people can just have fun with it, and not be scared,” explains Jane. “With cooking, you can sort of wing it mostly, but with baking, it is science. You have to get it right mostly.”
Passion for baking
Jane grew up in Hampshire, loving baking, a fascination passed on to her by her late grandmother.
“My mum always tells me I’m so like her,” Jane says, emphasising the fun that can come from turning flour, butter, eggs and sugar into something spectacular and shareable.
“I like seeing people’s faces – nothing is better than when you arrive at a friend’s house and you’ve brought cookies. If somebody’s having a bad day, a good day, or whatever, they’re gonna go: ‘Ohh!’ And then suddenly, everyone’s just in a different mood.”
Realising her initial plans to study graphic design or architecture at university weren’t to be, Jane leapt into an “intense” six-month cookery course in Devon, with a view to work on patisserie in restaurants. Cookery school helped her understand that she wanted “to do this with my life, completely and utterly”.
But the industry is a tough one, and while her peers went into the kitchens of superyachts, Rosette and Michelin-starred restaurants, she found she “wasn’t a massive fan” of the lifestyle and began blogging instead.
By April 2020, she’d hit around 200,000 followers, but as the first lockdown drove many of us towards banana bread and comfort baking, more and more people began to discover her blog.
“I don’t think I ever could have imagined it. It was surreal,” she says now, with three-quarters of a million Instagram followers to her name. “Everyone was just baking so much stuff. It was amazing to see it. I’d get comments from teachers saying, ‘We made this in class over Zoom!’ It was the cutest thing.”
Jane, who is inspired by legends Mary Berry, Nigella Lawson and Delia Smith, hopes our renewed appreciation for baking doesn’t wane. “I’d love to see it grow and people to fall more in love with it,” she adds.
Funnily enough, though, Jane admits she actually prefers savoury food!
“Maybe, probably, because I have so much sugar in my life every day, I actually adore savoury food,” she says with a laugh. “I love saltiness.
“But baking is best to share. Baking is better to bring to a party.”
What she does find problematic is when sugar is demonised, and when people make comments that connect food with guilt and judgment.
“I’ve suffered with an eating disorder in the past,” she notes, “so I find it quite difficult when people make those associations.”
Comments like “that’s diabetes on a plate” she says are unhelpful, potentially harmful and “can be insulting to people who do have diabetes, whether it’s type one or two”. It’s also unnecessary when “everything is about balance, at the end of the day. My recipes are designed to be for an occasion, not something you eat every second of the day.”
Within a balanced diet, enjoying the odd slice of cake is perfectly reasonable.
“Even if it’s full of sugar,” Jane says, “which I think makes it taste beautiful! Sugar exists, people enjoy it. And that’s what you should do with food, whether it’s low-calorie, high-calorie, savoury or sweet.”
It’s when someone has the opinion “of food as being scary” that things may have tipped, and professional support may be needed.
Jane’s bakes focus on bringing joy and, as you’d imagine, stumble into her kitchen and you’ll find an incredible stash of sweet treats.
Her friends and family reckon she has the best snack cupboard that’s ever existed, which is fortunate, because they, and her local coffee shop, help her keep cake waste to a minimum.
“Sometimes people think I just make it and throw it away. No, no, no!” she insists. “My friends and family love me because I always have cake available.”
So what’s next for Jane? “I just want to roll with it and see where my baking takes me,” she says. “I’m a normal person, just chilling, baking cake. But the rate it’s grown, I’m like, how far can this go? It’s just cake! But it’s so much fun.”
Jane’s salted- caramel-stuffed NYC cookies
- 125g unsalted butter
- 175g soft light brown sugar
- 1 egg (medium or large)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 300g plain flour
- 1½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 250g milk chocolate chips or chunks
- 8-16 soft caramel sweets
- Beat the butter and soft light brown sugar together until creamy. Add the egg and vanilla extract, and beat again.
- Add the plain flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and sea salt, and combine until a cookie dough is formed, then add the chocolate chips or chunks and mix until they are evenly distributed.
- Portion your dough out into eight balls (each should weigh about 110g). Once rolled into balls, flatten slightly and put one or two soft caramels in the middle, then wrap the cookie dough around the caramels and re-roll into balls.
- Put into the freezer for at least 30 minutes, or in the fridge for an hour or so. While the cookie dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 180C Fan/200C/400F/Gas Mark 6, and line two baking trays with parchment paper.
- Take your cookies out of the freezer or fridge and put on to the lined trays (I do four cookies per tray) and bake for 12-14 minutes. Once baked, leave the cookies to cool on the trays for at least 30 minutes as they will continue to bake while cooling.
- You can substitute the caramels for spreads, such as chocolate and hazelnut spread or biscuit spread. Simply freeze teaspoons of spread for at least 30 minutes, then wrap the cookie dough around the frozen spread in the same way.
- The milk chocolate can be switched to white or dark chocolate.
- Make the cookie dough chocolate by using 250g plain flour and adding 35g cocoa powder.
Jane’s Patisserie by Jane Dunn is published by Ebury Press, priced £20. Photography by Ellis Parrinder.