This trope doesn’t really need explaining at this point, because it’s in literally EVERYTHING now, but why is that? Why has such a random thing become the most iconic aspect of the literary-inspired webseries genre?
The first LIW to include a baking video was Welcome to Sanditon, but the first one to follow the format that would later become more characteristic – in which baking happens but the focus is on the characters (or occasionally the plot) – was The Autobiography of Jane Eyre. This completely fabricated baking episode contained important character development for Johanna and was also extremely entertaining. The recipe was in the description, but the recipe wasn’t followed in the actual video, and unlike Clara’s Welcome to Sanditon episodes, it wasn’t meant to teach anyone how to bake anything.
The next LIW baking episode was in Green Gables Fables and is (I think) unique on this list in that it was adapting an actual plot point from the source material. So, while it counts as an LIW baking episode, it’s not quite as much of one as some of the others.
Next, of course, was the baking episode of Nothing Much To Do. As with most of NMTD, it wasn’t really revolutionary at all, but it cemented the mechanism for how these sorts of videos are done. In it, Beatrice and Hero actually do bake while also bantering around quite a bit and preparing us for Hero’s birthday, an important plot point coming up next. It’s a completely unnecessary video. It doesn’t teach us anything new about the characters. It has nothing to do with the source material. And yet what would we have done without it? It’s one of Beatrice’s and Hero’s most delightful vlogs (and the last one before everything becomes horrible), and therefore completely necessary.
The next LIW baking episode is also the most famous one: George Squared’s “A Baking Video” from Call Me Katie. If you’ve seen it, there’s no need for me to explain how amazing and iconic this episode is, and it was the first time an LIW used a baking video as a framework for a bit of actual plot (that was either original or had nothing to do with baking in the source material).
After this best of all baking episodes, everyone in the community has regarded the baking episode as a mandatory part of every LIW. Almost all of them are very emotional. Some actually manage to create a baked good. Others are actually plot. A few do both.
After going through all of this, I have decided that there are two main types of LIW baking episodes:
1) The video where something actually gets baked and nothing much else happens, but it’s ridiculously adorable and/or angsty the entire time.
2) The video where baking may or may not get accomplished but the video is actually part of the plot.
The first type is more common, but the second type is becoming increasingly popular in a lot of series (including the two most recent baking episodes, in The Emma Agenda and Middlemarch: The Series). The George Squared video also fits into the second category.
So what is it about baking videos that this community loves so much? Is it that they help contribute to the realism of these fictional characters’ YouTube channels? Is it that it’s just immensely satisfying to watch people bake? I mean, I care hugely about realism, as you can probably tell from my reviews. I also love watching videos of people cooking/baking things that I am never going to actually make, so…
Honestly, I think it’s a bit of both. Whatever form they take, LIW baking videos bring us closer to the characters. They make us feel good. They’re sweet, quite literally. And isn’t baking an emotional experience for all of us?
‘Screw writing “strong” women. Write interesting women. Write well-rounded women. Write complicated women. Write a woman who kicks ass, write a woman who cowers in a corner. Write a woman who’s desperate for a husband. Write a woman who doesn’t need a man. Write women who cry, women who rant, women who are shy, women who don’t take no shit, women who need validation and women who don’t care what anybody thinks. THEY ARE ALL OKAY, and all those things could exist in THE SAME WOMAN. Women shouldn’t be valued because we are strong, or kick-ass, but because we are people. So don’t focus on writing characters who are strong. Write characters who are people.’ - madlori
Inspired by (x) (x) and (x). Original idea and first eight GIFs made by Tanzila. Last eight GIFs made by yours truly. These awesome people helped to decide which characters would go where: Erin, Rachel, Bethany, Rowen.