Firstly congratulations on your recent win with the infamous masterpiece, Russian Splendour, on Kirsty’s Handmade Christmas Show on CH4. Can you share with us e from where you get your inspiration?
Thank you. I had never made a gingerbread house before Russian Splendour. The idea came when my daughter and I were watching GBBO winner Candice Brown make her Gingerbread Pub. I saw the skill involved and the trouble contestants were having in sticking the pieces together and said that if I was going to go to all that trouble, I’d make something really spectacular, like St Basil’s cathedral in Moscow. My daughter laughed and said, go on then. It was a couple of years later, when we’d moved to Market Drayton that I had the time to start thinking of how to go about it.
At Basil’s Cathedral is a really impressive building; an icon of eastern influence on Russian architecture. I thought it would make a very colourful and interesting build. So I bought a cardboard model, made it to see how it was built and found items in my kitchen cupboards that I could use as moulds. Baked Beans tins; spice jars; rum Baba moulds. I experimented with baking techniques to create semi cylindrical shapes.
How long have you been baking for?
I suppose I’ve been baking since I was 14. I’d not long arrived in English from the Soviet Union and found English cakes fun to make in my home economics class at school. But I didn’t start baking competitively until 2015.
Do you have a favourite spice for baking with?
My favourite spice is cardamom. It has an exotic flavour and works very well with gingerbread and citrus fruit recipes.
Can you give us any tips for Christmas baking?
Most of us are too busy, or we simple forget to make our christmas cakes and puddings ahead. So the best tip is make lots of home made mincemeat. Delia has the best recipe, I think.The mincemeat can then be used as a base for your last-minute Christmas cake and pudding (I make mine in microwave so it’s even quicker). You’ll have plenty left for mince pies and will keep in a sterile jar till next year! Anything that saves time is good at Christmas and a well flavoured, rich, well soaked mincemeat will make your cakes and puddings taste as though you’d made them weeks ahead.
How can parents make it easy for children when making a gingerbread house this Christmas?
They are really hard to build! If I’d started with a conventional house I’d probably not have gone on to make St Basil’s.
But they are lots of fun, so here goes:
Have patience and time.
A steady hand and lots of reinforcements to hold sides up while they dry.
If the parent is confident working with boiling sugar, I’d recommend gluing the parts of the house together with melted isomalt (a type of sugar that is more durable). BUT, keep the child well away from the cooker, occupied with pencils and paper planning out their decorating ideas. The house will take only minutes to dry and will be very strong. The fun but can then begin – the decorating!
What’s next for Babushka Bakes?
I would like to spend some time developing my decorated, bespoke dog biscuits. These have been very popular last summer and there is interest from the dog hotels in the area. I have sourced the ingredients to make my own Royal Icing for dogs, but need some R&D time to create a recipe for it that I’m happy with.