Andrew Thomas looks at the rise in popularity of baking during the coronavirus lockdown

The coronavirus lockdown has meant more people than usual have been at home and many have had more spare time on their hands.

For some that has meant more gardening or reading, while others have taken it upon themselves to get fitter through exercise workouts broadcast on television.

There is strong evidence, however, that another activity that has become even more popular than normal is baking.

Booths has supermarkets throughout the area, including at Kendal, Windermere, Ulverston, and Kirkby Lonsdale. Andrew Allison, Manager at Booths at Kendal, said: “Booths has sold its half-yearly volume of flour in the last ten weeks alone.”

Demand was outstripping supply, with flour, caster sugar and icing sugar being snapped up by customers.

“Yeast has also been an issue as people have been looking to make their own bread,” said Mr Allison.

He said a standard bag of flour weighed one kilo. Some of Booths’ larger stores had been selling ten kilo bags and they had also been very popular.

“In some cases, products like flour are not touching the shelves. In essence as it is being rolled off the wagons, customers are waiting for it.”

He added: “I think that more people have been at home during the lockdown and have had more time to do things like baking. Parents have also involved younger children as well as a way of keeping them entertained.”

Meanwhile Kelly Howe, External Communications Manager of Windermere-based Lakeland, said: “Our customers have always enjoyed cooking and baking from scratch, and as we’re all now spending much more time in our homes, more customers are looking for advice and ideas than ever before.

“The section of our Lakeland blog which hosts hints and tips such as how to make bread has seen page views increase by 511 per cent year on year.

“Recipe categories such as cake making have seen visits increase by 46 per cent year on year, and our slow cooker recipe pages are also up 300 per cent year on year as our blog has helped customers learn how to use their slow cookers to bake as well as cook.

“While baking at home is a great way to make the most of both fresh and store cupboard ingredients, it’s also an ideal way to relax and spend time together whilst we’re all at home more.”

Keen baker Margot Smith, who lives at Urswick, said she was fairly sure more people had been baking during the lockdown. “My own daughter is a working mum but has been doing a lot of baking with my granddaughter and I hear a lot of the same thing from other families,” said Margot, who was taught to bake as a young child by her mother when she was growing up in Heidelberg in Germany.

Margot, 62, is president of Urswick Women’s Institute. Members of WI branches often enter cakes and scones in competitions held in food and drink marquees at Lakeland agricultural shows, although Margot was quick to point out: “Not everyone in the WI bakes or makes jam – it is not a necessity!”

Personally, she had been baking more than usual lately for a fundraising event held in aid of St Mary’s Hospice at Ulverston. “About 15 members of the branch created boxes of traditional afternoon teas and distributed around 200 of them to more vulnerable and mature residents in Urswick, Ulverston and surrounding villages who cannot go out, so that they could be enjoyed on VE Day,” said Margot.

The boxes included homemade cakes and sandwiches and members had to make the food, pack the boxes, create labels and in many cases distribute them. People gave donations and more than £2,000 was raised for the hospice.

Margot is also a member of a lockdown group in Urswick, which supplies older and more vulnerable residents with a meal and home-made cakes every Saturday. “The group sends out about 80 meals each Saturday,” she said.

Margot said she enjoyed the creative side of baking. Particular favourites included traditional German cakes, such as marble cake, baked cheese cake and apple crumble cake. She also liked Black Forest Gateau, although as this was a little more complicated than some cakes it was not one for those who had not baked before to try straight away.

Is baking difficult? “Not at all!” responded Margot. “Like everything else it can be learned. Unlike cooking it is a bit more important to be precise and to follow a recipe. My advice is to start simple and work your way up.”

It was also an inexpensive hobby. “If you look at traditional recipes from all countries, they are very economic. People were trying to provide their family with a treat but they did not always have the funds for a special cake on a regular basis so they went for inexpensive options.”

Did she think the rise in popularity of baking would last? “It remains to be seen. Baking has started to come back into fashion with all the show on television. Hopefully a few people have found joy in baking as a relaxing thing to do.”

If you want to try your hand at baking here is one of Margot Smith’s favourite recipes


For the cake mixture:

125 g butter or margarine

125 g sugar

a little vanilla essence if available

1 pinch of salt

zest of half a lemon or a little lemon essence

3 medium eggs

200 g plain flour

2 level tsp baking powder

For the topping:

3 - 4 dessert apples, 25g butter, icing sugar

To make the mixture:

Cream butter until light and creamy, add sugar, vanilla essence, salt and lemon zest,cream a little longer and beat in eggs one at a time. Separately mix flour and baking powder, sieve and fold under. Place in a greased round baking tin or spring form about 28 cm diameter. 

To make the topping:

Peel apples, quarter, carve with a fork or knife and arrange on the cake mixture. Brush with melted butter. Bake in a preheated oven at 180C, Fan 160C. Sprinkle with icing sugar once the cake has cooled.