Merry Christmas CPIT bakes style

Merry Christmas CPIT bakes style

From swanky Brown's Hotel in London to Strawberry Fare in Christchurch and back to the institute that trained her, CPIT baking tutor Claire Galbraith-Hewett is used to delivering the goods, including the baked ones.

The CPIT Food and Hospitality graduate, who started out as a kitchen hand at the institute more than 20 years ago, has learned the baking business from the ground up, bringing back a wealth of experience to the fold.

She trained as a chef at CPIT and did general catering, basic cookery and restaurant certificates, before going on to her Certificate of Baking and Patisserie course, which she completed in 1994. This included basic cake decorating, food handling, first aid and work experience.

"I always knew I wanted to be a baker, and although I didn't necessarily want to be a chef, it was a way of getting into what I wanted to do."

photo of cook 

This year, CPIT ran three baking groups within the New Zealand Certificate in Baking course, not just one. Galbraith-Hewett attributes the increase in enrolments to the Christchurch rebuild, which had encouraged the return and growth of restaurants and cafes, along with the popularity of cooking–based reality Television programmes.

Her many and varied jobs have provided the ingredients for her success as a baker. After completing her initial training at CPIT, she worked as a pastry chef at both the Wellington and the former Christchurch Park Royal hotels. She married and went to the United Kingdom, where she was employed as a high-tea specialists at Ritz-rival the Brown's Hotel in London, regularly serving celebrities such as Madonna.
After her return to Christchurch, Galbraith-Hewett worked for Strawberry Fare for 12 years, the last two in the restaurant's baking school prior to taking on the tutoring role at CPIT.

"It's all that knowledge of different jobs that gave me the skills to fuel my passion for baking," the married mother of two says.

Her happiest and proudest moments have been when her eight and 10 year old children were able to stand on a chair and make biscuits by hand.

"It's the same sort of sense of achievement when my students click with a task."

Here's her favourite Christmas cake recipe that she has used at CPIT and bakes with her daughters at home.

Photo of Christmas cake 


250g Butter
1C Soft brown sugar
1 x 325g Crushed pineapple in juice
2kg Mixed dried fruit (any kind – dates, sultanas, raisins, currents, cherries, cranberries, prunes).
6 whole eggs
1tsp Cinnamon
1tsp Mixed Spice
1/4tsp Nutmeg
3C Plain Flour
1tsp Vanilla Essence

Pre-heat oven to 150C.
Place butter, brown sugar, dried fruit and crushed pineapple with juice into a large saucepan, and gently bring to a simmer, stirring continuously.  Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl to cool down completely (approximately 1 hour).
Sieve flour with spices and mix through cooled fruit, whisk eggs until combined and stir through mixture until smooth.
Line a large cake tin (30cm square) with 2 layers of silicon baking paper on sides and bottom.  Pour cake mixture into tin, and spread flat, until smooth on top.

Bake at 150C for 1 hour, and turn down to 100C and continue baking for approx. 2-3 hours, or until cooked.  If colouring too much on top, place a sheet of silicon paper directly onto top of cake and continue baking.
Leave to cool down over night in tin. 
Feed (brush) your cake regularly with whiskey or brandy until you are ready to ice.
Ice with 1 layer of Marzipan, and finish with a layer of white fondant icing.
Decorate or leave plain.
Eat and Enjoy.

Merry Christmas!