You cake my breath away
I never used to be a cake person. Despite, I must clarify, a stellar education in cakes. My godmother is a domestic goddess, fit to rival Nigella, and her mother was a heavenly cross between Mary Berry and Leonardo da Vinci, in terms of baking credentials, who would wheel out the most incredible birthday cakes year after year. Imagine: a teletubbies world, a real barbie with a skirt made out of CAKE, and for my fourth birthday, an actual fairytale castle, beautifully constructed with mind-blowing attention to detail. They really were the stuff of dreams and brought me endless joy.
Yet after an idyllic childhood of spectacular birthday cakes, my interest dwindled come my teenage years - who knows perhaps I thought I was too cool for cake? There was a particularly catastrophic gluten-free red velvet, before gluten-free was a thing, (I know, very avant-garde of me to create an intolerance before they existed!), which was the colour and texture of cement. After this, I didn’t so much as nibble at my (extortionately-priced, tiered, Hummingbird) 18th birthday cake. What a monster - sorry parents! There was no hidden weight loss agenda: I just wasn’t interested at all. There were plenty of other things I’d much rather eat. Fast forward to my next milestone birthday and all of that steely anti-cake exterior, slowly, and then all at once, crumbled.
The fateful moment occurred during drinks at my flat for my 21st. Still a non-cake eater, I was trying to ply anyone I could with this cake. Put it this way, my dad had gone big on the order, wildly overestimating the number of friends I had made at university and I was saddled with a cake for 35 people a mere few days before the end of term. I was popping up all over the place trying to shove a slice of cake into peoples’ hands, like one of those guys in Barcelona, London [insert tourist destination here] who are selling those little men who stick to a wall when you throw them. Total sales record globally: 12.
Anyway, it’s just as well that not too many took me up on my offer, because once I had tried it myself, the free-for-all was over. “Quick! Hide the cake!” I murmur to bemused flatmates, who are more sensible than me, and can’t understand why I was so keen to get rid of it in the first place. Flamboyant generosity turned into extreme miserliness. I winced when someone cut a big slice almost as though the knife was slicing through my own heart. I even took the cake home with me on the train and when my mother threw away the last slice (according to her it was “rock hard” and “stale” – sabotage I tell you), I didn’t speak to her for days. The cake in question was a beautiful cake by Creamed Edinburgh (@creamed_edinburgh) and the flavour that converted me to this new way of life was rose, pistachio and vanilla: or as I would now call it, the holy trinity. I have outrageously announced to all around me that someone may as well put in a standing order for my birthday as I will be expecting it every year for the rest of my life: frankly, any other cake would be an insult.
Now, I am a fully-fledged member of the cake club. Not of making cakes; unfortunately, this is not a tale of inspiring new talent and no star baker seems to have risen from me just yet. I concern myself with the eating of cake, enjoyment of cake, and sometimes even the sharing of cake. One of the reasons I love cake, is it is peak sentimentality. Everyone has a flavour that their grandma used to make. Mine made lemon drizzle, and the lemon scent in a cake will always be evocative of memories staying at my grandparents’ house and going to the seaside.
In my opinion, cake brings out the best in people. It’s unifying – bringing the office together with a sweet treat, counting how many people are at the table to get the portions EXACTLY right. There is the intense concentration of the person tasked with cutting the cake who tries to divide it perfectly - if this is not equality then what is??? The reminder to save a slice for the person who is not present – for it would be a travesty if they went without. Cake can be divisive too, of that there’s no doubt. The cream cheese vs butter icing debate is one that can turn frosty – see what I did there! – but I’d personally still rather argue about cake toppings than Brexit. Whether its Nigella’s indulgent chocolate Guinness cake or a healthy vegan carrot loaf, cake is joyful, and it brings people together.
Many of my best conversations and moments have been with my friends over cake. This very website was conceived and crafted in Lovecrumbs café (proud stockists of Creamed fare) where I have spent much longer with Maddy (other half of Idle Chit Chat) drinking tea and eating cake than I have in the university library working on my actual degree.
Recently, my mother made me some ginger cake to take back to university. I had a little square of it on the journey up to Scotland, and as part of my packed lunch for subsequent days. Maddy said it was behaviour reminiscent of an evacuee in World War II - she had a point – hers was meant to be an insult but I took it as a philosophical statement on the significance of cake. Cake IS timeless. Making someone a cake when they’re down, or equally having a cake for celebration, is a rite that has passed through the ages. That little wrapped parcel of care that you make and place carefully in someone’s packed lunch when you send them away means the same thing whether it is 1919 or 2019. Put simply, cake is love.
Follow the best café in Edinburgh on Instagram here - @hellolovecrumbs and the best bakers (maybe in the world) here - @creamed_edinburgh. Obviously not sponsored, but we can dream!
- Mia Sharp