As I was updating the 'about' section on my website, I had to explain how I got into the cake biz in the first place. Its something I have shied away from doing for a while because A). I don't like talking about myself in the third person (Which in the end I didn't, I just couldn't!) and B). its a really long story and I wasn't sure how to articulate it/couldn't be bothered!
Anyways its done now (thank god!) so if you want to know how I came to do this crazy job then please do give this link a read as it took me ages and I'm really quite proud of it!
But don't go! Being as I now have you attention, I have further reading for you! (Mwah hahaha! Tricked you!) Before I started Tuck Box I was really into food writing and submitted a story about cake that actually got published IRL! I had no plans to go into the cake world at this point so It just gives to whole thing an extra dimension!
I would love it if you gave it a read. However, as you can probably tell from the subject matter my mum wasn't too happy about spreading this story so keep it to yourself ok??!
My brother had it all. It seemed there was nothing my mother couldn't create with a spatula and a tube of smarties; a soppy eyed rabbit. It’s body ribbed like a knot of wool. A blond silken coat of chocolate butter cream with rivets like twisting threads of water, lovingly combed through with a fork.
A Thomas The Tank Engine, spinning wheels of licorice and a cobalt, paint pot blue rendering, achieved with a quantity of food colouring so great one bite would make you feel like you’d climbed to the top of Everest, gulped the thin tin tasting air and descended, giddy headed, to whip round the dinner table like a leaf caught in a gust, dizzy, sick, chasing a black eye.
Or the football cake. A checkered kaleidoscope of hexagons, as ornate as the mosaic’s of an exotic palace. That sort of thing requires more then a rolling pin and a lightly dusted surface. The spherical sponge alone, I mean where do you start? A balloon? We’re talking actual equations here. It was nothing short of mathematical.
But it was the fortress I really envied. To me, nothing said I love you more then sponge turrets and a moat of jelly. Dotted with cowboys and Indians teetered on chocolate finger precipices, on fairy cake boats pushed along by rice paper sails and running across drawbridges suspended by strawberry laces. A gripping edible narrative dotted with popcorn blossoms. It was a cake so ambitious, it surely required foundations. My mother was a builder of dreams!
That was of course until I came along- son number two. By now she had a career, a divorce under her belt and a lot less time. Something had to give- unfortunately it was her attention to detail- and I ended up with the caterpillar cake.
Don't get me wrong. I loved the caterpillar cake, every birthday I’d greet it like a dear old friend. It's flat sugar face seemed always ecstatic to see me, it's long turd like body disabled with joy. It was Instant, easy to dispense, each hump serving as a subtle portion guide. Everyone was a winner- unless of course you got the bum.
But let's not kid ourselves here, it was not a fortress was it? And though it was big for a caterpillar, It was not big for a cake. In fact, underneath it's matchstick legs, it's sparse smattering of jelly tots, it's chocolate shell, thinner then that of a choc ice, really it was nothing but a glorified Swiss roll.
I'm not sure at which point my loyalty to the caterpillar cake wavered, maybe it was noticing it's uncanny resemblance to every other child's birthday cake. I began to fear they were inbred. Either way such injustices would not be tolerated and I persuaded my mum to throw me a surprise birthday party, the centre piece being a cake just like the fortress she'd made my brother.
The day of my party I was distracted. I greeted my friends like they were a mere formality. I passed the parcel like I was a checkout girl eager for my shift to finish.
The cake was sitting in the kitchen, looking a little more home made then I’d anticipated. Obviously it had taken shape from a Fox’s biscuit tin, not an army of Vikings. And it was a lot smaller. Still- I was mesmerized, we were mesmerized, circling it like a may pole, our hands reaching towards it like we were trying to grab hold of her ribbons.
At last the main event came, candles alight, it looked under siege. I blew them out and it was ushered away, to be dismantled, brick by brick, turret by turret. Debris on paper plates. I was handed my portion. The trampoline was left to gasp in the corner.
Smoke from the candles hung like streamers. The cake..It tasted… bitter. More like a piece of coal then a piece of cake. The frosting stuck to the roof of my mouth like soot. I spat it out, looking round at my friends, who’d beaten me to it. A limp plate. A glistening blob. Watery eyes. The chocolate fingers left untouched as if they had fallen off a leper. It was nothing short of tragic. I think a few people may have even cried.
My mother it transpired, had used dark chocolate frosting. A taste our milky button tongues had never come across and consequently could only associate with that which is evil in this world. What’s worse was the fact that it was straight out the tub, she may as well have spelt ‘neglect’ out in chocolate buttons.
Looking back, it seems the real tragedy here was the fact I almost measured my self worth per serving. But at the time it was that my cake, 12 years overdue was resigned to the bin in as many bites. In her haste, it seemed my mum had failed to grasp what was really important to me. Not the jelly moat, the sugar flags or sponge turrets. What I wanted was a cake made by her own patient hand, not Marks And Spencer’s and certainly not that home wrecker Betty Crocker.