Want To Live Your Great British Baking Show Fantasy? This London Experience Has You Covered

Calling all self-proclaimed Star Bakers — London has the ultimate baking experience for you. The Big London Bake, while distinctly not affiliated with "The Great British Bake-Off" (or "The Great British Baking Show" as it's called on Netflix), delivers the most delightful of experiences for fans of the show, fans of baking in general, and those looking to have a fun afternoon out. With two locations spread across London (in East London just north of the Colombia Road Flower Market, and in the south of London next to Wimbledon) as well as a Big Birmingham Bake in Birmingham, this baking competition attempts to recreate the hit show without crossing over into copyright territory — and it succeeds.

While they don't use the T.V. show terminology like star baker and avoid mentioning the judges' and hosts' names (like Paul Hollywood), everything else is on the mark. There are the iconic tents set up with baking stations throughout, aprons you can wear, and every baking ingredient you could ever imagine all at your fingertips. I got the chance to try this experience and it was the best part of my trip to London. Whether you're visiting from out of town or are a London native looking for something new to do, you need to try out The Big London Bake.

The details

If you're a super fan of "The Great British Bake-Off" like I am, then you might be wondering which type of baking challenge this experience presents you with. Is it the technical challenge? The showstopper? Well, it's kind of a combination of all of them. You will know what the bake is before going into the tent, as the company posts on social media what the bake of the month is. For instance, when I went to the experience in July, it was Swiss rolls. But you don't have to know a Swiss roll recipe off the top of your head like you would with the showstopper challenge in the show. The "class" instructor gives everybody written-out and laminated instructions, and you need to follow them (and the estimated times they give you for each step) in order to succeed and complete the challenge.

You typically have a two-hour time limit on the baking portion, so following the instructions is key. But it's not a technical challenge like in the show, either, because every group's final product should not look identical. You get to customize the flavors, colors, and decorations with your bake, which makes it that much more exciting.

The magic starts at the front door

Yes, I mean this quite literally. At The Big London Bake East, at least, which is where my group and I went, the front door is not what it appears to be. In fact, we got a bit lost trying to frantically find it, as it was raining and we were eager to get inside. There's a small sign outside with the Big London Bake's logo on it, and the company does give you detailed instructions for finding the door in your confirmation email. Once you step inside the initial door, though, you may feel like you're in the wrong place. It feels a bit like a cave inside, and you'll notice different prop baking tools set up on counters. Take all the photos you want, but it's the door that you need to find.

You can see in the photo above that the door is literally a refrigerator door, which really is so clever. What's special about this baking experience is the attention to detail, and the entrance is a part of that. Once you've stepped through the magical portal that is the fridge door, you'll enter the indoor bar area with plush seating, the bar on your right, some turf on your left, and the actual baking tents further left. But more on that in a moment.

Get there early to maximize your time

One of the major pluses of this experience is that it's more than baking — it's a whole hangout place. I recommend getting there early in order to take photos, soak up the vibes, and have a drink before you start. There are so many photo opportunities in this place, from the plush, velvet blue lounges to the aesthetically pleasing bar stools, the indoor-outdoor area with nice patio furniture, all the way to the giant logo wall with two prop cakes precariously framing it. It's wise to take photos beforehand (and during and after, of course) because you may get a bit sweaty while baking. Your sleeves are going to be rolled up, your hair is going to be pulled back if it's long, and we all know that photos before an event are when you're looking your best.

It truly feels like you're inside of the beloved show once you step in, and you'll want to take a moment to appreciate it before hurrying in and jumping into the baking. The company's website also suggests you get there early like we are suggesting, so it's an expected part of the experience. You can grab a cheeky dessert-themed drink before things get going (we recommend the Lemon Merengue cocktail).

Choose your team member wisely

On "The Great British Bake-Off," bakers compete individually, though in true British spirit, they sometimes help each other out with things like carrying trays to the freezer and little baking tips (it's certainly not an American baking competition show, that's for sure). But with the Big London Bake, you will get paired up into teams of two, unless you want to work by yourself and there's an open bench available for just one. Because of this, we recommend coming in a group of an even number of people so that you can pair yourself with someone you know.

But don't just choose your best mate who likes to slack off unless you really don't care about finishing the baking experience. You and your team member will need to make group decisions like dividing up baking tasks (for instance, one person stirs a mixture while another preps the next step), choosing your flavors, colors, and decorations (more on that in a minute), and generally working together to bring your bake to life.

Decoration and flavor concept are key

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, The Big London Bake instructor/your judge isn't able to taste-test your creations. Instead, they are judging purely on aesthetics and flavor concept — which is why those factors are absolutely key. While this is a fun competition (you're not winning the fame and accolades of the real Bake-Off), it is still a competition, and every group's final bakes will be judged. Instead of Star Baker, three groups are awarded with 1st place, 2nd place, and 3rd place out of about 12 total groups.

Luckily, you're not limited to what colors and flavors you can choose for your baking masterpiece. There are several colorful food dyes in the "pantry" to choose from, as well as a plethora of extracts you can incorporate into your bake. My baking partner and I chose to have our Swiss roll be a peppermint vanilla combination, with a peppermint cake base and vanilla frosting. You can get as funky with it as you'd like, with extract options ranging from standard orange to a more unexpected banana.

It's everything you hope it would be

If you're thinking that this all sounds a bit too good to be true, I can assure you it's not. My group had the best time doing this experience and I can't recommend it highly enough. The instructors are extremely helpful in letting you know if you've fallen a bit behind in the baking process and how to catch up, the atmosphere is beautiful and makes you feel like you've been transported to the real baking tent, and everyone is just there to have a wonderful time.

Prices vary based on what day of the week you're looking to go. For instance, a Thursday "class" might be around $47 (£44.50) a person, while a Saturday "class" would be closer to $56 (£52.90) a person. You absolutely get what you pay for, though, as you get to take your bake home with you at the end if you wish. I think this is the perfect gift to give, and it's also the best type of special occasion outing with your friends. You can't go wrong with an experience as sweet as this.