This week saw much loved BBC Two big-hitter Great British Bake Off come to a sugar coated, multi tiered end which saw potential candidate for loveliest woman on the planet, Frances Quinn, take the much coveted GBBO engraved cake stand and title. Many of the shows followers will agree that it is the antithesis of British culture- a gentle and very funny hour of watching an assemblage of people who love nothing more than to dream up beautiful things are brought together to do so in a tent in the sun drenched fields of Somerset. Shockingly, this series in particular has prompted much controversy, sexism and venomous twitter rants directed towards the shows contestants.
Runner up History of Art and Philosophy student Ruby Tandoh immediately tweeted a link to a piece she scribed for The Guardian, which is without doubt the ultimate dismissal of the ignorant online trolls and venomous, pitiful journalists who have tried and failed to begrime and belittle her throughout her and her fellow bakers’ time on the show. Even the blundering imbecile and seemingly befuddled misogynist Raymond Blanc took aim at the show, backtracking after the mention of ‘female tears’ in his tweet which offended so many. I find it hard to stomach the negativity surrounding the show- how something so innocent and so beautiful can be muddied by slanderous comments about gender and sexual politics.
It is with thanks to The Great British Bake Off that we celebrate the awakening of a new generation of home bakers. Men,women and children up and down the country are embracing piping bags and bun cases just for the fun of it. Baking gives everybody a chance to be creative and spend a few hours making something of which they can be proud as their friends and family ‘ooh’ ‘aah’ and make the obligatory yummy noises. Hand in hand with this trend comes the ostentatious and flamboyant cupcake. It’s an Americanism, essentially, cupcakes are probably a bi-product of our nation’s love for Sex and The City and they probably crept in with baby & bridal showers.
In an attempt to have my feelings towards said cake ameliorated, I strolled down to Cupcakes by Charley in Leeds’ Victoria Arcade to see what the fuss was all about. It was as expected- rows of neat fairy cakes loaded with precisely piped frosting and topped with things like Oreos and sugar paste hearts. Lemon meringue cake complete with perfectly formed circle of white meringue balanced on top purchased, I was still unsure. I was expecting relatively dry and flavourless sponge, sickly and slightly dry buttercream and for it to be hard to eat. I was right about the last part- they are certainly difficult but flavour and texture-wise I had few complaints. This said, I can‘t help but look at the price of these cakes in general and think that perhaps the price reflects the trend and not the product. Averaging nation-wide at just over £2.50 each they’re not so innocent.
In bake sales allover Britain for as long as they have existed, people have made and sold the humble bun- a little sponge cake for one, probably in a floral bun case topped with icing and accessories from silver balls to chocolate buttons for no more than a few pennies. The village fete is where it all began for The Great British Bake Off, as was the simple sponge and icing for the cupcake, and the development of something simple into something more beautiful and complex doesn’t actually need to be castigated, even by me.