We catch up with Ugne Bubnaityte, who wowed us with her modern, experimental bakes in The Great British Bake Off 2015. Ugne is a keen body builder, and is pushing the boundaries and defying the rules, in order to create healthier bakes you can eat on a more regular basis without feeling guilty...
When and why did you first become interested in baking?
I started baking from a young age. My Grandmother treated us with baked goods whenever we came around to visit her. My Mum is an amazing cook as too and she hosted many a dinner party. I guess baking/cooking just tends to grow on you when you have people to aspire to and who best than your own Family members.
Does your Lithuanian upbringing influence the recipes you create?
Its certainly does to an extent because that is where your roots are. However, since I came to England many moons ago now I have, to a large extent, been influenced by the great bakers of France and North America as well not forgetting traditional British.I would say I am very much inspired by the American way of baking seeing that a fair amount of my recipes have incorporated Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Salted Caramel (or a caramel of some description). These are all flavors which the American Bakers are renowned for.
You describe yourself as a ‘fitness fanatic’, so what are your favorite healthy desserts to make?
Our household is indeed very much fitness orientated and not usually something one would say in the same sentence as CAKE!! But yes, due to the fact that I try (as much as I feasible can) stay true to my fitness based lifestyle I tend to create recipes which not only satisfies the cravings but which are bit kinder on the waistline. A couple of these which are favorites of mine are my Protein Peanut Butter & Banana Muffins and my Protein Flapjacks (there are recipes for both of these on my website).
What are your tops tips for baking healthier recipes?
I feel that you should keep maximum flavor whilst keeping calories low and saturated fats in check. The easiest way to do that is to experiment with nut butters and alternatives to wheat flour (e.g. almond flour / peanut flour / quinoa flour), incorporate nuts and seeds, dried super fruits. Use alternative sweeteners e.g. agave syrup, stevia, or if you must, honey. If we are talking healthy baking then steer away from wheat flour, saturated fats.
What is your go-to recipe when you fancy eating something a little bit naughty?
I do a variation on the Opera cake, it is a Peanut Butter and Chocolate Caramel Opera cake aka Opera Cake UGNE’s way. It is pure heaven – do under no circumstances even begin to count the calories in a slice of this cake as it will make you ‘cry’. If I am a bit stuck for time, you can never beat a good Hot Chocolate Fondant with Raspberry Coulis – secret to a good fondant is to use a GOOD quality Chocolate.
What do you do if a recipe goes wrong?
I scream, cry and run out of the kitchen…not really! I try to learn out of every bake, that’s why I tend to experiment a lot with various textures, flavor combinations, new techniques. Yes, they can go wrong at times and I find that baking is much less forgiving than cooking once you have ‘messed up’. But when you ‘strike gold’ with a new recipe it gives a great feeling of achievement and the outcome can be phenomenal indeed if you do get it right. I am a true advocate that you learn out of your failures, more so than your triumphs. That is after all how you progress; by learning and developing yourself continuously!
Why do you think baking is so popular at the moment, despite people having less time than ever to bake?
Well we have just experience the 6th
series of GBBO and it has certainly made the British Public much more aware of baking. It inspires everybody to ‘have-a-go’ at it. Thus I feel GBBO has much to do with the ‘baking-craze’ we have seen, especially the past 2-3 years. In saying this, baking has always been a part of British Society, maybe just a bit more in current times. I personally find baking very ‘therapeutic’, thus with busy and stressful life in modern times this could be a factor too (that being baking being a relaxing way to spend those moments one have spare).
Why did you enter GBBO?
Since the first series I was a keen fan of GBBO and sometimes I used to go practice the bakes which the Bakers attempted after each episode. I used to spoil my friends with the Bakes which I came up with and I was constantly baking. Eventually, after much nagging, my friends got me to apply for series 6 and well…the rest is history.
How has life changed since the show?
I try as much as possible to live my life as it was prior to me entering ‘The Tent’, but it indeed does change your life. I am really intent/focused on growing a varied career within the Industry and as I was not in the final I am more than aware that I would need to work very hard for it even more so. So yes, things has changed; I am extremely busy at the moment with working towards establishing myself which realistically going to take me some time. Also I am trying to become better as a baker so baking has certainly not calmed down as one may have thought – it is business as usual at Ugne HQ.
What exciting projects do you have planned now the show is over?
Without giving too much away, I can confirm that I have been fortunate enough to have been approached and now finalized a deal to publish my very first book. It is very early days and it will take some time as you may appreciate. I have been approached by some well-known brands to ascertain the possibility of being brand ambassador.
Then there are the food shows and festivals that I will be involved in at some stage during the course of this year. I am certainly blessed with what has come my way thus far and I hope to build on this. As they say, in life good things will happen to those who work hard towards their dreams. It is my ambition to establish myself and hopefully through hard work (and the right mentors around me) I will achieve my ambitions.
You can find Ugne's delicious recipes on her website www.ugnebakes.com,
or you can keep in touch with her via Twitter
for day-to-day updates on what she is getting up to.
Photo credits: Love Productions, BBC.