13 Apr 2024

Alice Taylor's adventures in cakeland

From Saturday Morning, 9:40 am on 13 April 2024

Photo: Supplied by Allen & Unwin NZ

Alice Taylor may not have won MasterChef in 2022, but she won the hearts of fans, and the judges' attention. 

Competing in the show inspired the 24-year-old to pivot from a planned career in politics to fully embrace her love of baking. 

She's now working as a pastry chef at Auckland's Paris Butter and has just released a cookbook - Alice in Cakeland.

Packed with tips and tricks, it has easy, affordable and adaptable recipes for cakes, desserts, biscuits, breads, brioche, crepes, donuts just to name a few.

And rest assured the book does include the recipe for her famous MasterChef ginger cakes.

"It's an incredibly delicious cake. I don't really bake it anymore after MasterChef ... [I] kind of lost the enjoyment because there was so much anxiety around making that cake perfect at the time," Taylor told Saturday Morning.

"But of course they're in there and it's a great recipe."

Taylor said the book gives readers the building blocks of baking in order to boost confidence in the kitchen and also what they can substitute for different ingredients.

"I really want people to understand, especially from reading this book that, a recipe is a recipe, and you can change that depending on what you have in the pantry or what your palate prefers.

"There's a lot of nervousness around baking in general, can you change a certain ingredient, can't you, what can you swap out.

"But ... there's actually a lot that you can change."

While baking was a chemistry and there were basic rules, she said her book guides people to what can be adjusted.

For example, most of Taylor's cake recipes use a liquid fat and a liquid sugar. That means liquid fat can be melted butter, but it can also be oil.

'Obsessed' with cookbooks from age five

Taylor said she grew up surrounded by incredible food.

"My dad's an amazing cook and then my mum's an amazing baker, so were my grandparents."

"I loved to read, and I remember being really young and always reading cookbooks. From age five, they were the books I was really obsessed with.

She would not read many books for children, only cookbooks, she said.

Working as a chef may also seem quite a different path from her master's degree in politics, where she specialised in Taiwanese foreign policy.

"My degree and my career as a chef and a food writer very much help each other," said Taylor.