Thursday, January 10, 2013

Four Tiers of Trauma: or, why some books should be better

There is a bit in India Knight's very excellent novel My Life On a Plate in which the heroine, Clara Hutt, describes one of the ways in which glossy women's magazines charm (or used to charm) advertisers. Whichever cosmetics house has stumped up the cash for the ad on the back gets the credit for the cover girl's make-up, whether their lipgloss was used or not. The casualties of this, Clara points out, are the girls who buy the featured lipgloss and then wonder, sadly, why that shade doesn't look the same on them. I'm not much for lippie, but I am one for cake. And Derek and Lucy's wedding cake, the paley beautiful project which has already occupied an unhealthy amount of time, got done despite, not because of, the book which inspired it.

I didn't charge the happy couple for their cake, so I don't feel bad about the fact that the idea - four tiers with hand-moulded roses - was lifted straight from the pages of Mich Turner's Couture Wedding Cakes (Jacqui Small, £30). It was published in 2009, so perhaps I shouldn't be surprised that some things on Mich's equipment list just don't exist, but still it hurts. I can Google with the rest of them, not to mention attend cake-head hobby fairs.The inch-deep round polystyrene cake spacers Mich calls for are not produced; I had to find a polystyrene factory and have them specially cut. 2cm diameter circular plunger cutters can't be got, either. I needed more roses than she suggests to block between the tiers; she gives no instructions for creating the little posy that looks so sweet on top of the cake in the book. I felt like the girl with the wrong lipgloss, but with only hours in which to solve a load of sugarcrafting problems before the door shut, Crystal Maze-style, with me and a half-finished cake on one side and, on the other, a harried bride sending her mother in law out to a big Marks & Spencer to find some of those ready-iced wedding cake layers and a box of dowels, two weeks before Christmas. Between Mich's half-baked instructions and my half-remembered cake dec course, it got done and thanks to photographer Helen Mary, who took the picture above, the lasting record of it is glorious enough to behold with relative pride. 

I write about cookbooks for part of my living, and I really appreciate the ones that work. This is one of the many reasons why.

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