Cape Town – It was semi-final week on The Great South African Bake Off – petit fours, milk tart and Danish pastries were no easy feat for the final four.
After three intense challenges 24-year-old Alice Toich was eliminated from the competition.
The painter and creative consultant's pretty looking cakes got her into the top four but ultimately it was her lack of experience according to judge Shirley Guy that saw her get knocked out of the competition.
We had a quick chat with Alice about her baking inspiration, the SA Bake Off experience and who she’s coping with the sudden fame.
Where does your baking inspiration stem from?
Mostly the internet and through travel. My trips to Turkey and France had a huge influence on my baking. I also find inspiration in other people my age doing experimental, fun and really impressive things in their kitchens all over the world from farm-style kitchens in the US to high-end pastry shops in France. I find accounts on Instagram that truly inspire me every day.
I also don't like to solely rely on what's online though. I love hunting through second-hand book stores for forgotten gems and after checking out the art books always make my way to finding some sort of old batter-stained recipe book that is breaking at the seams. The other day in a Woodstock shop I found a South African Woman's Auxiliary Services Victory Cookery Book from 1944! I'm in love with it because it has the strangest recipes in it including "beef tea", "albumen water" and "Mrs. Hill's Economical Cake".
What was your toughest challenge?
The technical bakes in general were the toughest challenges for me. I am so thrown-off when given half a recipe with practically no method. I often didn't listen to my inner baking voice because of the time pressures and I think learning to trust yourself more in the kitchen comes with experience and age (and a lot of messing up).
I think with time and patience I can learn the nuances of any kind of bake but trying many recipes for the first time in that pressure on camera totally threw me off. For example, before watching the show I never enjoyed eating creme caramel so I never learnt to make it. Now I know the basics are so important to learn and I am eager to get better at them. I won't judge any cooking show again. I think a lot of people at home watching also forget that we are all amateur bakers with no experience in professional training, although sometimes I feel Teddy and Shawn were professionals in their own rights.
How much did you practice before and during the competition?
Every single day! We only had two weeks before the show aired to formulate over 30 original recipes. I don't think even a professional pastry chef would cope with that. So I basically livid in my kitchen like a mad baking scientist in my apron and stokies, icing-in-hair and batter-on-face.
During the competition I would go visit my family in Joburg and take over their kitchens. It truly was a crash course in baking, but a self-motivated one which showed me that one can learn anything on YouTube with a bit of will power. Practice also made me come to peace with the fact that not every bake I make is going to turn out the way I want it to. It encouraged me to fail a lot.
Is there any bake that you have sworn off baking after the competition?
I want to say creme caramel because I really messed it up and have never enjoyed eating it. But it is my twin moms' favourite dessert and after they watched that episode they both called me saying it was about time they sat me down and taught it to me! It's funny because I had no idea how easy it was to make, once I knew not to thicken the custard on the stove and a couple other handy hints. Every bake, like many things in life, is worth trying at least once (off camera).
What has been your best moment on the show?
My best moment by far was when Tjaart plucked one of my Rooibos honey macarons off my picnic macaron tower in meringue week and exclaimed, "Now that! Is as near to perfection as I've ever seen!" I was so proud of how they turned out and tasted. It was a bake I would be happy to serve a bride on her wedding day and to think I did it under that time pressure in the tent just gives me goosebumps. But to be honest a lot of my favourite moments on the show weren't even the ones the audience will ever get to see at home. Andrew and Michaela doing a Nicki Minaj rendition of Anaconda in the tent to calm our nerves when the judges were skinnering or Gavin's hilarious one liners in retort to Lauren that had us in hysterical laughter.
How have you been handling the sudden fame?
I have been approached by the most unlikely of people in the most unlikely of places and it always brightens my day because it's all been very positive and supportive! A very intimidating (read: buff and tall) guy ran up to me on a dance floor and picked me up shouting, "You are my favourite pastry queen!" I am trying to keep the momentum of the show and how it pushed me to try new things by creating my first ever baking zine called "BAEK" and hope the people who connecting with my baking style on the show will continue to follow my journey into the wonderful world of sugar and separated eggs.
Tune in for more baking drama Tuesdays at 20:00 on BBC Lifestyle (DStv 174).(Photos: BBC)
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