January 2021

Royal wedding cake maker protégé Katie lifts baking industry ‘Oscar’

By Melanie Hall

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Katie Garrett, protégé of royal wedding cake maker Fiona Cairns, graduated from University College Birmingham with a first class Bakery and Patisserie Technology BSc (Hons) degree last July. 

But this didn’t surprise the judges of this year’s British Baker Rising Star award. 

Before crowning Katie at last night’s virtual Baking Industry Awards (BIA), dubbed the industry’s Oscars, judges heaped praise on the 22-year-old for her “enthusiasm and drive” and said they were excited to see what she did next.

Awards host, TV and radio star Alexander Armstrong, described to viewers how Katie - a former University College Birmingham apprentice - could often be found perfecting recipes long into the night at the craft bakery where she worked as head of confectionery while studying.

"I also want to inspire other young people to develop their passion and creativity in baking"

Katie Garrett Bakery and Patisserie Technology BSc (Hons)

While still a student, she also appeared on hit Channel 4 show Extreme Cake Makers after assisting at Cake International, working tirelessly to produce a six-foot seahorse cake ‘sculpture’ in aid of the Marine Conservation Society. 

She also made her mark at the Alliance for Bakery Students and Trainees (ABST) awards, winning gold for her scrumptious shortbread, silver for a vegan healthy eating bar innovation and Best in Show for her show-stopping fondant fancies. 

After graduating, she quickly clinched a new product development role with Leicestershire-based Fiona Cairns, who made the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding cake and their children’s christening cakes, developing everything from clean label vegan cakes to G&T flavoured fondant fancies.  

Katie completed her Level 2 Bakery course and Level 3 Apprenticeship at University College Birmingham, before progressing onto the foundation degree and topping up to a full BSc honours, also teaching the University’s Young Bakers Academy for 14-15 year olds. 

Winning the Rising Star award, an honour given to the person judges believe will contribute to shaping the future of the baking industry, is literally the icing on the cake for Katie, who was named runner-up at last year’s awards, the trophy being lifted by fellow University College Birmingham student Megan Roberts.  

On winning the award, Katie said: “This means a great deal, not just for me, but for the people who helped me along the way. I also want to inspire other young people to develop their passion and creativity in baking.” 

Samantha Dowle, Assistant Dean of the University’s Birmingham College of Food (Bakery and Patisserie), said: “Katie has always pushed herself to the next level and committed her time to part-time work, helping with competitions and entering them herself too, winning a collection of awards.   

“As a runner-up last year, I am pleased she has now achieved the Rising Star award as she has always shone brightly.”

Two out of three 

This year, two out of the three finalists were from the University.  

William Leet graduated from the University’s Bakery and Patisserie Technology degree course in 2018. His baking journey began when he left the army and enrolled on a beginners’ bakery course before completing two years at Leicester College and moving up to University College Birmingham.  

Winner of the ABST Presidents’ Cup two years in a row, the 33-year-old completed an internship at Tromp Bakery Equipment as part of his degree, where he worked on the development of puff pastry, waffle and pizza dough.  

Today, he works as a bakery development technologist at David Wood Foods in Dudley.

Samantha added: “I am immensely proud of both Katie and Will, who have both proved that commitment and challenging oneself can lead to amazing things.”

The 2020 BIA awards winners were chosen following months of judging which, due to the pandemic, involved dozens of video calls, product tastings and interviews to ensure the winners were worthy of their accolades. 

The awards covered 13 categories including Baker of the Year, Bakery Exporter of the Year and Bakery Innovation. 

British Baker editor Amy North said: “Each year, the judging gets harder – even more so during a pandemic with bakeries and manufacturers of all sizes going above and beyond to keep the nation fed. Everyone who entered was worthy of recognition, and our judges had a really hard task in choosing the winners.” 

Find out more about our range of courses and cutting-edge chef and bakery facilities at the College of Food here.

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