Cakes and Biscuits

Hurrah for the random Internet with which I am presently blessed.

Since I haven’t lost the connection, I am going to write about cakes and biscuits as I have been thinking about them recently. Some of the Things that I moved to this home from my last include a (by now inedible) special-edition cake acquired at Bobby Baker’s talk last year, and a similarly ancient, preserved-by-virtue-of-sugar biscuit that Sam made for Mark and I last Easter, involving two pig faces in a red icing heart. (Let us not analyse that image.) My retention of these cakes was partly inspired by the cake collection featured in Taking things seriously;

Of the thirty or so cupcakes I collected over the next six years, my favourites were the ones where the frosting played a crucial role in the overall presentation…After a few weeks the cupcakes would harden, crossing the line from confection to decor. – Mimi Lipson, Taking things seriously

As well as being faced with my own petrified sweet things during The Move it was impossible not to notice the prevalence of All Things Cake at Zinefest yesterday.

The Great Cake Escape stall at Zinefest.

The Great Cake Escape were there in full force, their presence amplified by many images of sweet cupcake type things in Zines. There was even a disturbing cartoon featuring a malevolent cupcake stabbing a fried egg to death.

Malevolent Cupcake.

I have been doing a spot of baking myself, though the subject here is biscuits, not cake. But icing and sprinkles feature heavily in the design of things.

My biscuits are forming the basis for a series of alternative Valentines’ Day cards to be featured in the forthcoming LOVE IS AWESOME exhibition and the intention – as with the LOVE IS AWESOME poster – is to subvert the expectations associated with a certain type of (sweet) imagery, and to convey a more complicated and conflicted message about LOVE than that perpetrated by giant, giftcard-mongers.

The Great Cake Escape are also doing some kind of Valentine themed cake-themed intervention, though I am not certain how ironic this is going to be.

And I do not know how best to display/celebrate/curate my by now incredibly stale museum of confection. What I do know is that at the moment I am interested in The Dark Side of baking; the mouldy, awkward, uncomfortable, artificial, difficult, feminist-complex, guilty, desirous revulsion of it all.

What an epic medium.

4 Responses to Cakes and Biscuits

  1. Kate says:

    Mimi Lipson’s cupcake was my favourite thing in ‘taking things seriously.’ I loved her account of it gently sweating. . . and then reconstituting itself. But I do have a thing about decaying food (I currently own a pleasingly sagging pomegranate) and think decaying confectionery is very powerful. Think of Miss Haversham’s wedding cake. . . speaking confectionery is fantastic too. EAT ME.

  2. Kirsty Hall says:

    For my first serious show, I iced an entire set of shelves in my basement. Unfortunately it didn’t occur to me to line the shelves with anything first and despite repeated scrubbing the shelves are still covered with black mould more than a decade later. Spraying the walls with sugar water was also a definite tactical error! It turns out that damp basements and sugar are a very, very bad combination. I should take some pictures of it for Messy Tuesday.

    And so it was that I learnt the very important lesson – always consider how you’re going to UNINSTALL something BEFORE you start installing it.

    I did find it rather disturbing that after several months in my damp basement, the icing sugar was clearly starting to go bad but the bought cupcakes that I’d added to the top shelf of icing were apparently completely unscathed. Goodness only knows how much preservative they contained!

  3. Philippa says:

    I don’t know about the the ‘mouldy’ side of baking (my weird aversion to going food-shopping means that anything I bake gets eaten way before mouldiness, when I have run out of cereal or pitta bread) but the ‘awkward, uncomfortable, artificial, difficult, feminist-complex, guilty, desirous revulsion of it all’ – definitely. I am thinking of making a cake with some rose petal spread I found in my corner shop, and maybe drinking it with rose-bud tea from Chinatown, but somehow that feels too Brocketty – and then of course I worry that it won’t be pinkly perfectly enough.

    Baking is also an epic medium in other ways. I love the idea that Sylvia Plath baked her way through writer’s block, and when I am struggling with revision, somehow it really helps to do something nourishing, creative, and productive yet slightly frivolous. And knowing that a cake (however sunk or mildly burnt around the edges) from the oven will be the reward at the end of a stint at my desk is wonderful indeed.

  4. Susan says:

    I used to make very very very gingery heart shaped cookies (biscuits) for Valentine’s day. They were very good, but also so gingery that they almost burned your mouth when you ate them. It seemed appropriate – heart shaped and lovely and yet lighting up your mouth.

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