STORY: GBBO's Michael Chakraverty teams up with Cupcake Day

Podcaster, writer, and former (2019) Great British Bake Off contestant Michael Chakraverty is supporting Alzheimer’s Society’s Cupcake Day on Thursday 17th June.

Although 2020 saw a rise in baking, it also saw one of the worst years for people affected by dementia. Over a quarter of all Covid-19 deaths in the UK were people living with dementia, thousands have faced an increase in symptoms and mental health decline and it’s been a heartbreaking time for families, who have either been cut off from loved ones or facing a lack of respite from caring duties.

As an active Dementia Friends Champion, Michael, who has first-hand experience of having a family member living with dementia, knows just how much of a difference your donations can make.

An Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friends Champion runs Dementia Friends' information sessions, helping to tackle the stigma and lack of understanding about dementia that means many people with the condition experience loneliness and isolation. There are currently over three million Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friends in the UK.

Michael’s baking top tips:

  • Cure to curdling: A really easy way to prevent curdling is to ensure that all your ingredients are the same temperature - this means that they'll combine a lot more easily. I tend to leave all the ingredients on a countertop overnight before baking in the morning so that I can be sure they're at the right temperature. Make sure you add your eggs one by one, beating them to combine fully before adding the next - and if it curdles, just add a little bit of flour which will bring it back together. And if all else fails, just don't worry too much - it'll probably sort itself out in the oven!
  • Miracle meringues: To achieve the perfect meringue don't over-beat it! Start whisking lightly, or on a low speed, until bubbles form, before increasing the speed gradually. Once you've got to the 'soft peaks' stage (where the mixture is white and frothy, and when you remove the whisk it folds over onto itself but maintains its shape) you can add a dash of lemon juice or a pinch of cream of tartar to stabilise it, before whipping to stiff peaks (when you remove the whisk it stands to attention!). Always bake meringues low and slow!
  • Sugar secrets: Sugars can generally be substituted for one another - the main difference between light brown sugar and white sugars is that light brown sugar lends a caramel-like taste to the bake, and brown sugar can also make the bake's crust a deeper/darker colour. The one exception to this rule is icing sugar, which is in a league of its own - but if you happen to have a spice grinder handy, you can always whizz some white sugar down to a powder!
  • Baking or Bicarbonate: With Baking Powder and Bicarbonate of Soda, you can't substitute one for the other! Bicarbonate of soda (or in American recipes, baking soda), is an alkali - meaning that it needs to react with an acid within the recipe (lemon juice, vinegar, sour cream etc) - whereas baking powder contains both an alkali and an acid - which activates when mixed with other ingredients. If you are really struggling and don't have baking powder, I'd suggest adding a third of the amount of baking powder as bicarbonate of soda, and add a good pinch of cream of tartar. Then cross your fingers.
  • Decorative designs: For simple but effective decorating, buy a piping bag! It looks a lot more intimidating than it is - and piped buttercream looks SO much more professional! If you're really worried, a glace icing always looks good too (just mix icing sugar with a little water) with sprinkles on top!
  • Fruity fun: You can replace fresh fruit with frozen. Frozen fruit actually retains its shape better within bakes - though it does lower the temperature of the bake slightly so you may need to lengthen the baking time slightly. I always coat my frozen fruit with a bit of flour to prevent it sinking in the bake - the flour 'grabs' the mixture and holds the fruit in place!

Money raised will go towards Alzheimer’s Society’s vital support services, like its Dementia Connect support line. Our services have been used over 3.6 million times since March 2020 and have been a lifeline to thousands, but there are so many more who urgently need help.

Michael Chakraverty said: “It has been heartbreaking to hear about the devastating impact the pandemic has had on people affected by dementia. Being the worst hit in terms of deaths, cut off from loved ones and struggling without any social interaction for so long, it’s never been more important to fundraise for such an amazing charity.

"I always knew baking can bring people together but this past year especially, knowing your baking can make a difference to someone does make it that bit sweeter. I’m calling for as many people as possible to get in the kitchen then get out delivering your baked goods and start raising money on June 17th for this important cause.”

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