Cake can make any day a good day. And what would a birthday, wedding or Christmas be without one? But how did they become the ultimate treat and essential marker of such occasions? And where did the countless types come from?
These important questions are explored by Andrew Baker in Cake: A Slice of British Life (HarperCollins, 28 September), with mouth-watering results.
Each chapter involves Baker – who in 2019 published a foodie book on chocolate, From Bean to Bar – embarking on a quest for a “true slice” of a different type of cake, before consuming it in a place relevant to its origin story.
Much is covered, from Sex and the City’s role in the cupcake boom of the 2000s to Bake Off’s reinvention of the ‘Showstopper’ from Michelin speciality to amateur baker staple. It also pores through the scandal-filled history of the Battenberg’s saccharine squares and explores how a caterpillar named Colin became a beloved cultural icon.
There’s plenty of the author’s own story too. Despite his name – a very near case of nominative determinism – Baker doesn’t actually bake himself, but is certainly a “dedicated and discerning consumer”.
Baker’s love affair with cake stems from his childhood. His father Richard Baker was the BBC’s leading newsreader, making him something of a celeb. Product endorsements weren’t permitted, but “Dad opened a lot of fêtes”. With countless cake stalls.
An entertaining, Bill Bryson-esque romp that’s easy to devour.