I always change recipes. Very rarely do I follow one to the letter. As long as you know enough about the chemistry of baking, changing ingredients or quantities is part of the fun. Over the last few weeks I have been doing a lot of thinking about new recipes, mainly for the Clandestine Cake Club and my blog.
A conversation I had with a couple of the ladies at one of the clubs prompted me to ask the question, when is a recipe truly your own? I would have thought that most recipes start as something else, perhaps from a book, magazine or someone you know. For example, over the last few meetings there have been a number of people who have made layer cakes based on the classic Victoria Sponge but added fruit, flavoured cream, colour or frosting. They have redesigned a traditional recipe and made it their own. However, they didn't actually create the base recipe from scratch. Does this matter? After all, it's widely recognised as the most reliable method?
Does anyone start a recipe from scratch? Have you ever sat and thought, 'how much raising agent will I need for 200g of plain flour?' If you have, do you feel this is the only way a recipe can ever be 'yours'? The official publishing rules say that a recipe is yours if you created it without using another as a starting point. For it to be an amendment of someone else's, there have to be at least three changes; e.g. flavour, addition of fruit etc. This still isn't classed as original though, you will have to cite which recipe inspired it. Let me flip this one. If someone amended your recipe, would that be ok with you? Or would you want them to credit you with the original idea?
If you've read my blog before, you will know that I do create my own recipes as well as trying other people's. The easiest way of doing this is to look at ratios and adopt a bit of trial and error! The Americans have a rich tradition of bake offs and other competitions where cakes must be original. Their methods probably make this a little easier, as cup measurements mean baking is done by volume rather than weight.
My curiosity takes me to those who write the cookery books. Where do they start? Nigella often openly admits where she gets her recipes from, but it is rarely seen elsewhere. Are they all kitchen chemists?
Lots of questions... I'd be really interested to hear your thoughts - please leave your comments below...