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Thanks to the return of the Great British Bake Off, it's a malt loaf kind of weekend

Let’s support retro cakes by eating them

Published: September 25, 2021
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I’ve been thinking about doing some old-school baking.

In fact, scratch that, I just want to eat all the retro cakes.

Blame the Great British Bake Off, which returned to Channel 4 this week with a twelfth series.

In episode one, after all the contestants had made rather grotesque-looking mini rolls, they moved onto the technical challenge - malt loaf. Presenter, Prue Leith, said that nobody under 35 would have heard of it.

That’s nonsense, I thought, because I definitely know what it is, before realising that I’m over 35 by more than a decade.

Prue was right. The younger GBBO contestants didn’t seem to have a clue, apart from one, Lizzie, who was phobic about malt loaf - and ostriches, even more surreally. Then they cut to yet another break, and an advert for Soreen.

Anyway, I’m very sad that Generation Z and Generation Alpha probably won’t ever spread this classic loaf with a thick layer of butter, before experiencing its gummy pleasures.

It’s an especially Proustian cake for me. In common with many children of the Seventies, my mum used to give me and my sister a spoonful of malt extract each in the winter, before we went to primary school.

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She’d heard that it was high in Vitamin A, and we felt that we’d scored big on that spurious health advice. She had to hide the jar.

To those under the age of 35, malt loaf probably seems quite ascetic, when S’mores tray-bakes, unicorn-sprinkle cupcakes and stuffed cookies are all the rage.

It doesn’t have any icing on it. You can’t even Instagram it, because it’s just brown.

On GBBO, the contestants put a thatch of crystallised ginger and orange zest on the top, but it still looked like a boring block of wood.

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Indeed, like the similarly plain-looking Dundee cake, Selkirk bannock, Madeira cake, rock cakes and parkin, malt loaf seems to have been going as quietly extinct as an Amazonian tree frog.

I say bring it back. And by that, I mean, please bring one to me now.

Column: We're rounding off UK Coffee Week with a double espresso or two
Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.

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