The Great British Bake Off: Maggie's Dorset Apple Cake recipe
- Credit: RichardBudd.co.uk
When Steve Harris met Maggie Richardson, The Great British Bake Off's first Dorset contestant, in the kitchen of her Poole home he asked her to share a favourite recipe. So here is her extra special Dorset Apple Cake, and the story behind her GBBO journey
Maggie Richardson is perhaps the most positive person I’ve ever met. Half an hour chatting with her is the conversational equivalent, fittingly, of a big slice of Victoria sponge. Many, many things she describes are ‘fantastic’. Her time working as a midwife in Canford Heath. The day she spent this summer showing two fellow Bake Off alumnae around Poole. Even the form she filled in to take part in the competition. ‘Just to complete it is a huge insight into your own baking,’ she tells me over a pot of fresh coffee in her small but stylish lounge, just 400 yards from Poole Harbour. ‘What you like doing, what you don’t like doing, what you’re good at, what you’re not good at. And for me it was the start of a year of fantastic excitement.’
For those not as drizzled in Bake Off lore as I am, Maggie’s participation in Channel 4’s prime time show The Great British Bake Off was historic. After 11 series of inexplicably overlooking bakers from our county, when this year’s line-up was revealed in September, 70-year-old Maggie was not only the oldest contestant to take park but also the first ever from Dorset.
Since her participation in Bake Off, Maggie’s also got into social media, regularly posting pictures of her latest bakes as Maggie the Seaside Baker on Twitter @Seaside_Baker and Instagram @maggietheseasidebaker. As we chat her iPad is continually flashing up notifications. She even mustered a TikTok dance to the Bake Off theme with fellow contestants - vegan baker Freya Cox and Liverpudlian Lizzie Acker – when she visited them in Liverpool.
When the team at Love Productions, who make Bake Off, called to say they loved Maggie’s application there followed a months-long process of elimination rounds and baking quizzes, culminating in a live audition in London which she says she almost blew. ‘We had to do a technical challenge. It was a Swiss roll.’ For the uninitiated, the ‘technical’ is a round where bakers are expected to produce something they may never have made before using a limited set of instructions. It is possibly the cruellest bit of an otherwise warm and cuddly show ‘I nearly lost it.’ she admits. ‘I went in, saw the very brief instructions and cried. Then this lovely cameraman said to me ‘Don’t worry Maggie, just talk to me, you don’t have to bake anything.’ So, after five minutes I thought, well I’d better do something. Then I produced this amazing Swiss roll. And that’s what got me in.’
Maggie repaid that support from the behind-the-scenes crew when filming commenced for the 2021 series, in May and June, at Down Hall Hotel near Chelmsford. In non-Covid times, it’s a more leisurely filming regime where contestants can go home, but this year contestants and crew were in a lockdown together for as long as they were competing. ‘Nobody comes in, nobody goes out, those were the rules,’ she says. ‘There are maybe 200 people involved in the whole production and we were all in a bubble. So they set up a practice tent where we could perfect our showstoppers and signatures beforehand.
‘I told the security staff that if they came to me at four or five o’clock, I’d give them what I’d made that day. I told them that they were not allowed to take any photographs or publish it online, but they could eat it. And they just loved that.’ I consider the piece of Maggie’s freshly baked Dorset apple cake, perched on the end of my fork - lucky people, no wonder they pitched up!
Maggie acquitted herself well on the show, up to a point. She won the technical challenge in the first week with her malt loaf, and in the weeks that followed wore her seaside origins on her sleeve - baking biscuit beach huts with frolicking gingerbread people, and a gravity-defying ice cream cornet cake. But finesse, she admits, was never her strongest suit. And the spectre of the dreaded technical challenge rose up once more in week four.
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Charged with making six individual and identical sticky toffee puddings for the technical challenge, Maggie came a cropper. I’ve watched Bake Off fairly religiously for the last seven or eight years, and there are a few iconic moments that stay with you - Northern Irish baker Iain screwing up his Baked Alaska so spectacularly that he dumped it in a bin, for instance. Or prison governor Paul’s outstanding lion-shaped bread sculpture. Maggie leaving the flour out of her puddings is up there too. ‘I knew something was wrong,’ she says. ‘I just didn’t see the line on the recipe saying ‘add flour’. It was on the top of the second page of instructions. I just thought it said ‘Page 2’ or ‘Continued’. When I took the puddings out of the oven, I thought - shall I throw these out or shall I present them?’
Of course, she presented them. Paul Hollywood’s expression was priceless, especially when Maggie suggested she had gone for a gluten-free option! But being Maggie, she still found a positive spin. ‘It got me on Celebrity Gogglebox on the Friday,’ she smiles. ‘And when I went to the pub they said ‘You’ve done so well on Bake Off we’ve got a present for you.’ It was beautifully wrapped in ribbons and bows. Inside was a bag of flour!’
Did she mind going out when she did? ‘Of course, I was disappointed. You practise all these things to perfection at home. But I probably chatted too much in the tent and got distracted. There are other contestants who are capable of ignoring the cacophony of noise and the maelstrom of people during filming. But I found it so much easier to have fun with Matt (Lucas) and Noel (Fielding) than to bake a cake.’
The whole experience has changed Maggie’s attitude to baking. ‘I was always a necessity baker but now I’ve learned to love patisserie, prior to Bake Off I never thought I would be able to do it.’ She’s so keen to continue improving that she’s just completed the patisserie course at the White Pepper Cookery School in Lytchett Minster.
What are her plans for the festive season? ‘I normally have the family over for Christmas Eve, we go to my local church in Lilliput for the Crib Service. On Christmas Day I go to my niece’s and I take the pudding, the ham and the cake.’
Maggie’s Dorset Apple Cake
I asked Maggie if she would share her recipe with Dorset magazine readers, so here it is...
200g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
100g unsalted butter
100 caster sugar
3 eating apples cored and sliced thinly
2 large eggs beaten with 60mls full fat milk
For the topping
3 eating apples cored and cut into small wedges
large knob of butter
some light brown sugar
icing sugar for dusting the top
double cream whipped or clotted cream
Method: Preheat the oven to 170°C fan/190°C/gas mark 5. Line a deep 20cms square tin with baking parchment. Mix the flour, baking powder, cinnamon. Add the butter and rub in by hand or use a food processor. Don’t over work if using a food processor - just pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar, sliced apples and the egg and milk mixture and mix well. Pour evenly into the prepared tin and bake for 45 mins - test with a skewer - it should come out clean.
For the decoration, melt the butter in a frying pan, add the apple wedges, fry until they are soft, sprinkle with light brown sugar and caramelise for a few minutes.
When the cake is cooked arrange the apples slices on top. Best eaten warm, dust with icing sugar and serve with whipped double cream or clotted cream.