Forget the Bake Off tent, the best cakes, pies and pastries this summer are coming out of the Bakehouse barn in North Yorkshire.

AWARD-winning local baker Sophie Smith, who used to run TeaHee! in Easingwold, has set up a baking business, Bakehouse in the Barn, in a glorified garden shed next to her barn conversion home in Hovingham.

To whet your appetite, follow her Instagram feed and feast your eyes on daily delights such as stunning birthday cakes decorated with macarons and mini meringues – or piled high with fresh summer berries, edible flowers and leaves.

Then there's her best-selling sticky toffee pudding cake layered with salted caramel ganache and covered in popcorn. Vanilla slices and Portuguese custard tarts are other favourites – all for sale at the monthly market at Ampleforth on the last Saturday of the month and to order.

But now Sophie is sharing the secrets of her trade by running baking days at the barn with long-time chum and fellow baking expert Anita Tasker, who once ran Pattacakes at Welburn and Dunnington.

The pair will be offering intimate workshops for one or two people at a time – on a bespoke basis. That means if you are an absolute beginner and want to learn to make a Victoria sponge, Sophie and Anita can tailor the course for you. More experienced and ready to tackle an entremet? No problem, they can run an expert pâtisserie class. Anita specialises in bread-making too, so people can master the intricacies of sourdough and ciabatta knowing they are in safe hands.

The women will be running courses on Mondays and Thursdays, from 10am to 3.30pm. Children are welcome too, but have to be aged over 16.

Sophie said: "The idea of the day is that it is totally bespoke. We put the dates up when we will be teaching and people can ask to learn how to make anything from a basic cake to how to make bread or perfect puff pastry."

Anita said: "On a cookery course it's important to get the level right, and you can't do that in a bigger class."

My friend Helen and I arrived for our baking day, ready to tackle a trio of treats: a Portuguese custard tart, Sable Breton (a French-style strawberry 'tart') and a raspberry and chocolate bundt cake, suitable for vegans.

After a cup of tea in Sophie's rustic kitchen made by her husband Steve, a builder (who also made the baking barn) we got to work.

There was a lot to do, but Sophie and Anita were supremely organised and worked brilliantly as a team, sharing lots of baking tips as well as entertaining us with stories from their careers (Anita was once a stewardess for Freddie Laker, while Sophie worked for Thomas the Baker, Andrew Pern at the Star Inn at Harome and Castle Howard).

All the ingredients had been measured out for us and the equipment was close at hand. We began by making the custards and creams for our goodies: firstly a diplomat cream, which is similar to crème pâtissière but thicker and sturdier on account of the addition of gelatine. This cream was used in the Sable Breton, which turned out to be a posh strawberry shortbread! We made the sable, or biscuit base, then piped some raspberry jam on top, followed by thick snakes of the diplomat cream. Then the fun began: we decorated each tart with an array of fresh strawberries, raspberries, and florals and greens foraged from the garden: pretty viola leaves in white and lilac and tiny sprigs of lemon thyme in bloom.

At lunch (which we ate in the garden in the sunshine) we enjoyed homemade elderflower cordial and a mix of wholesome salads and dips, including Sophie's baba ganoush and roasted beetroot and hazelnuts. We had excellent sourdough from the Bluebird Bakery and cured meats from local supplier The Fabulous Fish & Meat Company.

Lunch, tuition, recipe sheets, refreshments and goodies to take home are all included in the course fee of £150 for a one-on-one lesson, or £115 per person if you come as a pair. Shorter workshops are available on request too, priced at £75pp.

This seems good value for what was a very special day, in which we learned lots from two talented and good fun women. It was immensely enjoyable too.

Everything we made tasted as good as it looked. The first thing to try was the custard tart, still warm from the oven. The filling was thick and creamy with a subtle taste of vanilla, and I could taste the cinnamon that we sprinkled over the puff pastry before baking.

The vegan chocolate cake surprisingly delicious and moist too given the fact it was egg-less. But the star of the show was the Sable Breton. The biscuit base was a mix between a cake and a shortbread, and the thick cream, jam and berries gave the perfect taste of summer.

Best of all, we returned to York with enough treats to run our own cake stall. Friends, family and colleagues were delighted with our results and amazed that we had made them with ourselves.

We think even Paul Hollywood would have been impressed!

Drool over Sophie's creations on Instagram (bakehouseinthebarn) and Facebook (@BakeHouseBarn), where you can find out more about the workshops. Or telephone Sophie on 07854 970259

For a recipe for the vegan Raspberry Chocolate Cake, read the article online at

Raspberry Chocolate Cake (vegan)

Sophie says: I love this recipe. It is so easy, you don’t even need an electric whisk. I was quite resistant to making vegan cakes when people started asking me to make them because I wrongly assumed that margarine would feature heavily (and I’ve spent the last five years actively campaigning against palm oil so marg is a definite no-no in my book). This recipe is totally delicious and just happens to be dairy and egg free. Vegantastic!

In the class, we’ll be making this recipe in dinky individual bundt cases. The recipe is the same whatever vessel you decide to bake it in (the recipe below is for a sandwich cake). Just remember that smaller cakes will require much less cooking time – as little as 15 minutes for a small bundt or muffin.


300g plain flour

50g cocoa powder

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Pinch salt

300g caster sugar

375g almond milk unsweetened

125ml sunflower or light rapeseed oil

400g raspberry jam


80g almond milk unsweetened

170g dark chocolate (vegan)

120g icing sugar, sifted

2tbsp glucose syrup, or agave

Fresh raspberries, to decorate


Line and grease two 8” cake tins (or whatever tins/vessels you are using). Preheat oven to 180°C.

Sift the flour, bicarb and baking powder into a bowl. Add salt and sugar.

Pour the oil and almond milk into a medium saucepan. Whisk over a medium heat until emulsified. Add the raspberry jam and stir until dissolved.

Pour the warm jam mixture over the dry ingredients and mix well.

Split the batter between the two prepared tins and bake for approximately 35 minutes, until the tops of the cakes are springy and a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre.

Once the cakes are ready, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool in their tins on a wire rack.

Whilst you are waiting for the cakes to bake, prepare the ganache…

Melt the chocolate in a plastic (not glass) bowl in busts of 30 seconds in the microwave, stirring between each burst to ensure the chocolate does not burn

Warm the almond milk in a saucepan, it should be just below boiling point as you add the melted chocolate, stir to combine before adding the icing sugar and glucose. If the mixture looks dull or lumpy at this point, pour it into a jug and use a stick blender to bring it together.

Once the cakes are cool, remove them from their tins and sandwich together with ganache. Use more ganache to cover the top of the cake.

Decorate with fresh raspberries.