Going into season 7 of “The Great British Bake-off” in 2016, “hobby” baker and teacher Benjamina Ebuehi still wasn’t sure that a professional career path in baking was possible. Growing up in a Nigerian family in London, United Kingdom, Ebuehi remembers watching her mom cook all the time, but baking was pretty much non-existent. “Nigerian cuisine isn’t big on baking in terms of desserts and sweet things, it is not our focus, so we really never had that at home. So it was only at school that I kind of got all the desserts from school lunches and I had a sweet tooth and wanted to be able to make those things for myself. My mom got me a couple of kids’ cookbooks and I started working my way through those. The love for it [baking] kind of grew as I got older,” says Ebuehi.
Ebuehi became the family baker for birthdays and holidays, so when the opportunity came around to apply for the competition, she did so hoping it would be the start of pursuing her lifelong passion. On the show, judges praised her bakes for being “elegant and tasty,” and viewers poured in their support, both ignited excited for Ebuehi that she had a good chance of going all the way. Her surprising elimination was crushing for all, but what followed next for Ebuehi made it all worth it.
In Baking, Anything is Possible
Taking a leap of faith, Ebuehi followed her dream and has since watched doors open. Today, the baking instructor, food stylist and blogger who works with the award-winning social enterprise Luminary Bakery just added another title, cookbook author.
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Her debut cookbook, “The New Way to Cake: Simple Recipes with Exceptional Flavor,” released this month, shares 60 recipes that will make a simple cake the star of the meal with unique and surprising ingredient combinations. “Cakes are kind of my first love I would say within baking. It is what I learned to do well first. I really wanted to give home bakers some new flavor combinations and new ideas of what you can do with cakes,” says Ebuehi.
That she did. Divided into six chapters, take your time going through each one or you’ll miss recipes like the Golden Turmeric Cake that she says is inspired by the Lebanese Stout cake. Or her take on the Australian sponge cake, Lime, Coconut & Mango Lamingtons, which she recommends serving with cream whipped with a splash of white rum. Because “A New Way to Cake” is all about stretching one’s creativity when it comes to baking with flavors, you won’t find the ordinary chocolate or vanilla cake recipe here.
Some of Ebuehi’s personal favorite ingredients include cardamom and pistachio which are incorporated into a few of the recipes. You’ll also find chamomile, plantains, Earl Grey, ricotta, thyme, grapefruit and another big personal favorite, tahini. “I love tahini. I am really into Middle Eastern foods at the moment and the ingredients. I have been using a lot of tahini in my bakes, which is really fun to experiment with.” If you’re wondering what flavor profile tahini adds to a cake, turn to page 28 for her Hazelnut & Tahini Caramel Cake or the Chocolate Fudge & Tahini Cake on page 75.
Ebuehi’s work as an ambassador for Luminary Bakery is another way of sharing her love for baking with others. The organization provides a safe and professional environment to disadvantaged women by equipping them with transferable skills into employment and even entrepreneurship. In an interview with Forbes earlier this year, Ebuehi shared, “Baking is therapeutic. [They feel like,] I’ve created this with my own hands and it’s something I’ve done from scratch, from beginning to end. That whole process is powerful- it empowers them to know they can create and survive.”
With a busy schedule that also includes sharing additional recipes on her blog, Carrot & Crumb, Ebuehi and her sister Bonita created The Sister Table, a food and lifestyle brand that hosts dinner experiences to foster sisterhood and entrepreneurship among diverse women. Their events have been featured on TimeOut, Vice and Munchies. They are also the winners of a 2018 Young British Foodie Award.
Now fans have more than one way to engage with Ebuehi and her latest baking adventures, including following her on Twitter and Instagram. As 2020 looks to be just busy as this year, Ebeuhi is also looking into the future for a second cookbook that will expand her baking expertise to include pastries and other desserts, while keeping the main focus on sharing her creativity through food.
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