Can you bake?
No. Very simply. Weirdly, I can cook, I cook all the time. I cook roasts and pasta and curries and all sorts of things – generally things that aren’t one composite thing, like a cake is. I’m more likely to cook a plate of food. What I haven’t done in my life is make something that is akin to a brick of food. I’ve never done that. The only times I’ve ever baked a cake before, it’s been for Bake Off, in the sense that about four years ago I was on Bake Off: An Extra Slice with Jo Brand, and for that show I had to try and bake a cake. And I made the sourest lemon drizzle cake anyone has ever made. I did that deliberately, because I think lemon drizzle caked never taste enough of lemon. It was really unbelievably sour, and didn’t rise, so it wasn’t really a proper cake. Then no more cake until I had a bit of a practice before I did this. But it was mainly my daughter helping me, and it involved a lot of her saying “This is how you fold eggs into butter.”
Aside from your daughter, who I suspect you haven’t been allowed to bring with you, what are your strengths and weaknesses in your baking?
Well, technically, it’s all weaknesses. I’m also a very, very unpractical person. I might be the most unpractical person in the world. I quite recently did the show Taskmaster, and about two shows in, Greg Davies, who hosts the show, said “I’ve noticed that your problem is you’ve got the tasks to do, which are quite difficult, and then you’ve also got ‘Being David Baddiel’.” And that does seem to be an issue. Virtually any practical task becomes chaos within seconds of me getting near it. It’s very hard for me to organise a counter, to know where my sieves are, to find where I’ve put the butter, to remember how long something has to be in the oven. It’s a nightmare. However, what I do have is a comic imagination, so I think I’ll be able to create quite comically imaginative cakes. Whether they are realised is a whole other matter.
What’s the worst thing you could be asked to make in the competition?
I was just saying to Anne-Marie. Who’s one of my fellow contestants, I really hope it’s not a souffle, because I hardly know what a souffle is, let alone how to cook one. I’ve seen it on menus, I don’t think I’ve ever ordered it, and I’m not entirely sure what one is. I think it involves eggs, and that’s about all I know. If they said I had to cook a souffle, I’d have to go to the dictionary before I looked at the recipe.
Was there much baking going on in your household during lockdown?
A bit, because my daughter bakes, my partner also bakes (slightly less often). My daughter is a vegan. So she has all sorts of interesting ways of working round not using cream and eggs, she can do that. And when we have birthdays in our house – we are a family of four – it’s tradition that someone makes a cake for that birthday. I think we had a couple during lockdown. But that’s not me, I’m not the person making the cake. I might be the person who says, “let’s decorate it with this funny thing”, but I’m not the person baking the cake. But the very small amount of baking I’ve done I can see is really therapeutic and zen. But it’s also quite tiring, especially if you’re doing a cake that takes two-and-a-half or three hours. You feel like you’ve done a workout.
Are you competitive? How badly do you want to win?
Very, very un-badly. Basically, out of the sphere of what I do – being a comedian/writer, and out of the sphere of football, I am incredibly uncompetitive. I couldn’t quite understand going into something like this and really, really wanting to win it. Although I suppose if I was really good at baking cakes, I would think that. I guess there are other things I’d be competitive about. I’ve been asked to do Celebrity Mastermind about a hundred times, but I’ve never done it. If I went in for that, I’d want to win it. I wouldn’t want to be shit at it. But with this… I’m not trying to be shit, let me be clear on this. I would never go into something trying to be rubbish. But what I do think is that me being as bad as I suspect I will be might be quite entertaining.
Why is SU2C important to you?
I’m doing it because I like the idea that you can have a show that’s really fun, and funny, and nice, and yet deal with a serious subject at the same time. Television has always found different ways of doing that, and I’ve taken part, many times, in Comic Relief, and been to Africa to film, and sometimes you can feel that it’s difficult, and the gear-changing between very serious and very funny is not that easy to do, but when I’ve seen Bake Off for Stand Up to cancer, there’s something very wholesome about Bake Off. It’s a very nice and kind programme, with a very warm air. As a result, I think it gels quite nicely when it does have to move to something more serious when doing the Stand Up to Cancer version. From my personal point of view, I’ve managed to get to the ripe old age of 56 without having serious illnesses, but I think it’s impossible to get to this age without friends and family, and many, many people I know either becoming very ill or dying of cancer. In the time we’re living in now, where other diseases appear to be more prominent, there is no question that cancer is the one that still touches most people.
You’ve been on Extra Slice, so is it fair to say you’re a fan of Bake Off?
Oh yeah, I’m a fan of Bake Off. I do think it’s a really sweet – no pun intended – programme. This isn’t a very original thought, but in a time when there’s a lot of cynicism around, it’s always had, through the differing incarnations, a sense that it’s a genuinely very nice programme, even when Paul Hollywood is nasty about the cakes. Some reality TV, as we know, is really about humiliation. Now I’m not aware of anyone suffering like that who’s been on Bake Off, and that’s partly because of the programme, which has got a much nicer, less competitive, less edgy atmosphere going on with it. Also, I like watching people much better than me make cakes. It’s mouth-watering.
You were also a guest judge on Great British Menu. That seemed to involve you eating a quite extraordinary amount of food.
Oh, it was unbelievable how much food it involved. I don’t think they made that clear. That’s a posh food programme, and people were creating a menu that was a tasting menu with seven or eight courses. And it’s not like Bake Off, you don’t eat a tiny bit, you eat the proper plate of it. So it’s like attending a medieval banquet. I enjoyed it, though. I went into that, thinking I’d be nice about everything, because I wanted to be nice to the chefs, and the food was really good. But the other judges started saying to me “No, no, no, if you think something isn’t nice, you have to say.” So I did, and then noticed on social media people saying “Oh David’s been really nasty.” And I wasn’t trying to be nasty, I was just informed that I had to be as honest as possible. There are a lot of food shows on the TV now, and I don’t want people to worry that I’m going to be on all of them. I do love food, though. My favourite writer, John Updike, the great American writer, suggested that as you get older, food starts to replace sex as your main pleasure centre, and I think that is true. As I grow older, that seems to be true for me. Not that sex has completely vanished into the background, but I can see that, as time goes on, it’s going to be easier to have a fantastic meal than the other thing.
In Head Kid, there’s an awful lot of ice cream and sweets and so on consumed. Do you think we’d all like to eat like that if we could get away with it?
I don’t want to give too much away, but there’s sweets involved in one of my cakes, and I’m slightly obsessed with sweets. I think it’s partly because I remain very much a child. In my heart, I have a basic belief about humanity, which is that everyone inside really feels between the ages of about eight and 12, and if you’re a comedian you’re allowed to keep channelling that until you’re ancient. So I’m still slightly obsessed with sweets. I still have rather the same palate that I had when I was young. Like, I don’t really drink, because I never got past that feeling of “uuurgh” when you first taste drink. I’m still very happy when I have sweets. In Head Kid and other children’s books of mine, I’ll always put in a bit about food because I think kids really, really like reading about food, and especially fantasy food. So when Ryan becomes the Head teacher, and introduces school meals that are mainly sweets, I think that’s something that kids will really like. But it comes from the child within myself.