A recent survey released by Dr. Oetker, the nation’s favourite baking brand, proves that baking can lift the spirits. Two thirds (67%) of Britain’s amateur bakers agree it improves their mood and 61% say sharing their baked goods with others makes them happy. To me, baking is so much more than simply making treats. I’ve seen first-hand the healing power of mixing flour, sugar and eggs, and have long been an advocate for the hobby, encouraging others to connect with each other while getting creative in the kitchen.
My story begins in 2011. This was the year I started noticing things weren’t quite right with my mother, Joyce. She became forgetful and would do and say odd things. One day we were in the car, stopped at a set of traffic lights and she told me she had forgotten what to do. Eventually something clicked and off she drove, but her condition rapidly grew worse. She was closed off and terrified to share her concerns. As she fell into a deep depression, she became unwilling to accept the diagnosis – she had dementia. She started taking medication but not only was her mental state deteriorating, her knowledge of what was happening to her began to disappear too.
Although mum was never fully aware of her surroundings we still enjoyed the precious time we had together. That all changed soon after my third child was born in 2013. Her condition had degraded further and most of our time together was spent at my house. Mum needed constant reassurance and would frequently ask the same questions over and over again. Naturally, my patience was tested especially as I was looking after my baby and two young children. Out of the blue, I decided to bake a cake with Mum, just as we used to do when I was young. Little did I know this was a turning point. As soon as we started to bake her symptoms would ease, her anxiety disappeared and for a moment I had the old mum back. So we made it a regular thing.
It was amazing to see my mum sieving, rolling and spooning cake mixture when she couldn’t even fasten a button– baking is kind of like riding a bike, you never forget. For three straight months we baked together, exchanging laughter and stories about the years gone by. We spoke of my Nana and how she was a great baker. I would take pictures to hold on to those precious moments spent baking together, and started sharing them on Instagram. Suddenly, I was connecting with others going through similar experiences. It was humbling to know my mum and I were impacting the lives of others.
After months of baking, the dementia finally won and Mum was admitted to a specialist ward, staying there for three months until she was discharged and placed in full time care. She was 71. Not only had I lost a mum, but a best friend. I channeled my grief into baking, finding it both relaxing and therapeutic. I would long for those quiet hours of baking in the silence at home. Continuing to post my bakes on Instagram I gained confidence in my style and was able to write openly about how I was feeling. Two years on I published my own book, Soulful Baker and dedicated it to my lovely mum, without whom I wouldn’t be the baker, wife and mother I am today.
The Dr.Oetker Bake Friends report has found that whether baking with friends or family, there’s no denying it is a hobby that can create memories deep rooted in emotion. I firmly believe that baking is a force for good – it is fun, joyful and rewarding. Not only does it bring people together, but just like my mother, it can bring them back to you too.
Take the Dr.Oetker ‘Bake Friends’ quiz to find out what sort of baker you are by logging onto www.webake.co.uk the social network for bakers, where you can find recipes, tips and inspiration.