Australian-born, London-Based baker extraordinaire Dan Lepard has recently added a new notch to his rolling pin, as judge on Channel 9’s latest hit reality show The Great Australian Bake Off. The show sees Dan and fellow judge, Kerry Vincent, taste their way through a bevy of baked goods prepared by contestants who are kneading, rolling and whipping their way towards becoming Australia’s greatest home baker.
As a friend of the Festival, Dan was happy to give us the inside scoop on the goings on behind the scenes of The Great Australian Bake Off.
Q: Who eats the leftover goods after judging?
The crew, the contestants (who are really curious about tasting each other’s baking), and sometimes even Kerry and I. Especially as we get into the series, when the competition is really hotting up, there is some extraordinary baking and we do sometimes go back after the filming and eat a little bit more. Yep, we’re gluttons for baking!
Q: What has been your favourite / most memorable bake of the show so far?
There has been lots of memorable bakes. Maria had an amazing butter roll, and some extraordinary tarts. The classic tart tatin that Monique baked made up for all the terrible ones I’ve eaten over the years (I have no idea why people get them so, so wrong). There are quite a few challenges coming up in later episodes that just astound me when I watch them now, where I cannot believe they didn’t pass out with exhaustion at the end yet they still wowed us with talent and skill.
Q: In your opinion, what was the biggest baking disaster of the show?
Mark’s cake collapse in the first episode was a shocker. I watch it now and think, “you should have stopped the moment it felt fragile”. You learn with experience to assume your baking is fragile, and really that’s what it should be as no-one wants to eat a heavy-duty, indestructible bake. But equally, my heart squeezed for Mark as we’ve all had moments when it goes terribly wrong.
Q: What are your favourite baked goods spots in Melbourne/Victoria?
I keep telling everyone around the world, whenever I get the chance, that Melbourne excels at baking more than any other city on the globe. Paris is a faded star, New York very good, and Sydney is hot on our heels, but Melbourne is the city where baking shines. From the exclusive restaurants to the mum and dad bakeries in the suburbs, I get a sense that effort and care is put into baking and it shows in what they bake. When I’m there I do the rota of checking out Chirico, Movida (now the Tivoli), Philippas, Loafer, Dench, Candied, and still there are loads more to visit. I just like the ease with which you can go to a coffee bar or breakfast place and know pretty much that you’ll get great baking on offer.
Q: What is in your oven at the moment?
I'm trying to make the ultimate chocolate biscuit, as you do. And it’s getting pretty close, as there’s a new tweak I’ve added that should excite everyone. Breakthroughs like this are best when they keep the ingredients simple but lift the result ten-fold. Keep a watch out for the recipe.
Q: As a child, did you ever have a cake from the Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake Book?
Only in a roundabout way. A train cake from the Women’s Weekly that was eventually printed in the book when it came out in 1980. Mum would cut out lots of recipes from the Women’s Weekly, and I’m sure that the baking she did with those recipes got me started in life. And they kept our cake tins topped up.
Learn more about Dan and test some of his Langham Melbourne MasterClass recipes.
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