Cake Stories

What a phenomenon ‘The Great British Bake-Off’ became. I say ‘became’ because now that it is to decamp to a non-BBC channel I’m expecting it to die a death. Having reached its denouement, the result and resulting endless analysis is to be seen and heard everywhere; on the national news, in the press, on FB and in the pub. The success of the programme remains a mystery but perhaps it has to do with warm, cosy smells, gloomy autumn days and the grim world that lies outside our kitchens as the prospect of a Brexit winter looms.

At the start of retirement baking was an activity I embraced with enthusiasm, allocating a day to it and producing all varieties of delicious concoctions like scones, fruit cakes, apple cakes and pies. This regular activity had to be curtailed, however due to the fact that Husband and I were consuming the products of my labours with a predictable result. You have to wonder at the success of ‘Bake-Off’ in the face of the national obesity problem. Cake consumption equals fat. How does stick-thin Mary Berry manage to look like a tiny insect? Does she run marathons, swallow diet pills or induce herself to throw up once she’s reached the invisibility of backstage?

Whilst I no longer bake regularly I do, if an occasion demands produce a cake. During the years when my offspring were children I made their birthday cakes, beginning with simple designs like trains or rockets and progressing to more complicated constructions as they grew and their requests grew more demanding. I took up the gauntlet, making, amongst other cakes a treasure chest, a goldfish, a hamster, the three bears’ cottage in a forest, a riding stables [with Liquorice Allsorts jumps], a hippo [challenging], Minnie Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, Bart Simpson and bizarrely, ‘Beavis and Butthead’. I imagine this last suggestion was a cynical, adolescent comment on the childish nature of birthday cakes from one who was about to leave childhood but the task was accepted at face value and duly completed with creditable outcome.

In their later teens cakes reflected their pending adulthood. There was a car with an ‘L’ plate, a Mars bar and a football pitch as well as a ridiculous abstract creation made entirely from chocolate confectionary. Then they left, linked up with partners and I considered that the duty of birthday cake care had passed to others-

-that is, until the next generation arrived. Now the cake tins, the greaseproof paper, the mixer and bowls and the spatula are all once again employed; only this year there is the added anxiety of a new, unpredictable oven. Will this year’s cake rise to the occasion? Last year’s cake consisted of a railway track up a mountain with a station at the top.

I’m thinking that if the Bake-Off contestants can manage to produce their offerings in unfamiliar ovens in a tent in the middle of a field then I should be able to throw a birthday cake together in my new kitchen-shouldn’t I?

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