Updated: May 17
Born in New Mexico but living in the UK for twenty-five years now, Susie Whitfield teaches both America and British baking through the informal, fun baking classes, experience days and parties that make up her recently launched business - The Cotswolds Baking Workshop. We got to ask Susie about her Afternoon Tea Masterclass, the popularity of virtual baking workshops and winning 'Gordon Ramsay's Culinary Genius USA '.
So Susie, before starting The Cotswolds Baking Workshop, you gained some amazing experience teaching freelance baking in London and Berkshire, as well as winning Gordon Ramsay’s Culinary Genius USA. Tell us a little about your memories of those times.
When I was teaching freelance, I really enjoyed finally being in a position to do what I really love to do - teach baking! Lockdown and the move to the edge of the Cotswolds provided the motivation I needed to launch The Cotswolds Baking Workshop.
Being on Culinary Genius USA was fun - it was actually filmed in the London studio with American expats taking part. Gordon Ramsay only appeared by a pre-recorded video link!
Although you’ve lived here for 25 years now, you were actually born and grew up in New Mexico and you teach a mixture of British and American baking. What do you love about the Cotswolds that made you settle here and can you tell if there any major differences between baking here and in America?
I really like the beautiful scenery in the Cotswolds and the opportunities to explore and discover new places. We settled here due to a mix of the location and lifestyle.
American and British baking are very different. American recipes tend to be sweeter, often more elaborate, and tend to be a fusion of different cultural influences. Measurements are also much less precise with Americans using ‘cups’ and ‘sticks’ of butter, I get much better results from weighing everything- even eggs!
So tell us a little about your wonderful Baking Workshops. Can anyone take part?
The classes I am currently offering include Delectable Custard and Jam Doughnuts, Parisian-style Macarons, American Bagels and Brownies, and Afternoon Tea Baking. No prior baking knowledge is needed to take part, but children need to be at least nine years old and accompanied by an adult. Up until 21 June, I am restricting classes to one family/bubble unit and have a special offer on of £100 per class for up to four participants for doughnuts and Macarons and £150 per class for Afternoon Tea.
You held virtual baking classes during the lockdown. Were these popular and do you think you will continue to offer these if there is a demand for it after lockdown rules lift or do you prefer face to face classes?
The virtual classes were very popular and worked really well as participants enjoyed the convenience of baking in their own kitchens and immediately being able to share what they baked with their families. If there is a demand, I will definitely continue to offer them. Virtual and face to face classes both have their advantages and I really enjoy teaching both.
You also offer Experience Days such as your English Afternoon Tea Masterclass. What is involved in one of your experience days?
These experiences start with baking a full afternoon tea from scratch, including scones and fancies, before sitting down with a pot of tea to enjoy ‘afternoon tea’ at the end. I cover topics such as the history and tradition of afternoon tea in Britain and participants get to take away their extra goodies to enjoy later.
You also offer private, corporate and children’s baking parties – could tell us a bit about them?
These offerings can be tailored specifically to the person or group. I have recently taught a British Baking series online to American expats who wanted to learn how to bake the classics such as scones, shortbread, and Victoria Sponge cakes.
Corporate classes are a fun team-building activity where participants often see another side to their colleagues and inspire a bit of fun competition and camaraderie.
Children’s baking parties, especially macaron baking parties, are great fun because the children get to be really creative and are always proud of what they have baked.
Tell us a little about yourself Susie, what do you like to do when you’re not working?
I am very into my fitness and enjoy walking and hiking. I also do online fitness and yoga classes and we bought a Peloton bike during lockdown which I have really enjoyed.
My partner is a documentary photographer and we enjoy travelling and ‘photo safaris.’ We are planning a road trip in the autumn through the Western United States.
Do you have any exciting plans for the future that you’d like to share with us?
I am really looking forward to teaching face to face classes again and I am always expanding my class offering. I am looking to develop many new classes to add to the schedule such as more international baking and a savoury afternoon tea class.
I am also looking forward to the end of restrictions when I can network with more local Cotswold producers in person.