Selasi Gbormittah won us all over in the 7th season of The Great British Bake Off, with his stunning bakes and easy-going charm. We caught up with him recently to get his ultimate coffee cake recipe and we chatted about everything from his favourite brew, to Kobe Bryant.
How did you get started in baking?
My story isn’t the typical grandma in the kitchen tale! I was always into cooking when I was growing up, but I never really baked. Then I went to university and discovered my friend was into baking, so I began baking with her. I started out with simple cupcakes and then gradually began experimenting all the time with different cakes and desserts. I’ve always been into fundraising and charity, so I wanted to bake to sell the cakes and contribute that way.
Since those early days, have you received any formal training?
In 2018 (post Bake Off) I was approached by a baking school in Switzerland and I went to live and study there on an 8-month baking scholarship. I saw it as an opportunity to improve my skills and learn a lot more. My famous quote across the internet is, “I don’t understand it, I just bake it.” and at the time of Bake Off I didn’t understand the science behind baking at all. So, it was a chance to up the ante a bit.
What’s your favourite thing to bake?
One of my favourite things to bake is a chocolate fondant. It’s like a molten lava cake with chocolate oozing out of it. It’s amazing.
Do you have a favourite coffee shop?
I live in London, and my favourite coffee shops by far are:
- Dominique Amsel bakery in Victoria
- Lily Vanilli Bakery in Hackney - they do amazing sourdough bread
- Pophams Bakery in Hackney
- E5 Bakehouse in Hackney
You can often find me riding around East London on my bike in search of the next cake.
How do you like your coffee?
Black Americano - I’m a purist. I used to like it milky, but I’ve gone off the milky stuff as it makes me feel sick. As you get older your palette changes, so you start liking more bitter things, like dark chocolate. I don’t like sugar in my tea or coffee.
Do you brew your own coffee at home?
I used to use a V60, but then I graduated to the Delonghi bean-to-cup coffee machine which grinds the beans fresh and I can enjoy Americano, Espresso, Macchiato, Cortado, Iced Coffee, Long Black. You just touch it on the screen and it will do everything. Magic.
If you could only use one herb or spice for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Paprika and thyme. I love spicy food too and I can’t do without chillies.
Where is your ultimate foodie destination in the world and why?
Spain. I love Spanish food - Barcelona specifically. Everything there is amazing once you get off the tourist trap beaten track. The tapas and pintxos are amazing. Also, Lisbon – there’s a lot of seafood and the grilled sardines and fish fritters are delicious.
What is your food guilty pleasure?
I would say plantain. You can grill and roast plantain on the barbecue, boil them with a spinach sauce or you can fry them (which I personally prefer). We have a special dish in Ghana called Kelewele, the plantain is chopped up into cubes and seasoned with cayenne pepper, ginger, garlic, salt and pepper and sometimes chilies. It’s fried and served with roasted peanuts and it’s literally heaven! I have a huge love for plantain and if I could eat it every day, I would.
Who is your food or baking idol?
Raymond Blanc is amazing at everything he does and is completely self-taught.
Is there a book that has changed your life?
The Mamba Mentality by Kobe Bryant. It’s very inspirational in terms of his mindset and work ethic to deal with day-to-day life, as well as his basketball career. In this world we all struggle with maintaining such a great work ethic, so him being able to share his wisdom and help others is really special. I also look up to Jay-Z a lot.
If this interview has got you in the mood for a spot of baking, why not whip up Selasi’s Chocolate & Coffee Cream Cake?