When Cake Porn Disappoints



After the excitement of the the summer final of the Great British Bake off, a very English TV programme a bit like Masterchef but with the contestants having to produce amazing, gravity defying, mouthwatering confections, my enthusiasm for baking has been reignited.  This is potentially a disaster for my ongoing weightloss strategy but I keep telling myself that I am only going to bake the cakes, not actually eat them…

We already have an established baker in the family.  The first thing that Teenage Daughter asks when she returns home for the school holidays is not what plans there are for the coming weeks but whether there is any self raising flour and icing sugar in the house.  She then proceeds to sift, knead and ice on a daily basis until every shelf in the kitchen is groaning with baked goods and the whole family has to fight appalling temptation every time they go in there to get a glass of water.  She normally makes cupcakes, brownies and sometimes banana loaf  which are always beautifully decorated and professional looking, but occasionally the recipe books are dug out and some extraordinary new cake is attempted.  We have munched our way through rainbow cake which was delicious but resembled a badly knitted hat and a few sponge cakes which frankly were more like intermediate ski slopes.   So here´s a question.  Why do our more ambitious baking attempts never look like the pictures in the book?

It usually starts the same way, with Teenage Daughter pouring over a Nigella Lawson tome or something more traditional such as Delia.   A picture of what can only be a heavily photoshopped cake is chosen and the work begins. The huge array of ingredients are assembled, substitutions are made (when vital things such as essence of Himalayan violet just can´t be found on the shelf of a spanish supermarket), hands are scrupulously washed, the oven turned on and the dog is turfed out of the kitchen to stop him from licking any surface that might be used for rolling or kneading (or anything that is in the process of being rolled or kneaded).   I am normally called in to act as sous chef to perform the more boring and menial tasks such as greasing and lining the cake tin and finely chopping any ingredients which the baker doesn´t have the patience to attempt.  We both keep checking the recipe book to make sure we follow the instructions to the letter and after what seems to be the equivalent of assembling one of Professor Snape´s more demanding potions, the cake tin and its precious contents are slid into the oven.

At this point high fives are exchanged and optimism runs high.  We both peer through the rather murky oven window nervously to assess the progress of our creation and after about 30 minutes Teenage Daughter declares it time to test the cake to see if it is done.  The oven door is ceremoniously opened and the cake tin is extracted.  This is normally followed by stunned silence as the six inch high masterpiece we are expecting is nowhere to be seen.  In its place is a rather uneven two inch imposter which bears absolutely no relation to the photograph next to the recipe.  ¨Never mind¨ I always chirp, ¨I am sure it will taste delicious¨.  The wizened offering is then taken away to be lovingly decorated and then devoured by the rest of the family.  For a while we were convinced that our failures were due to the oven (too hot, too cold, too strong a fan), then due to the altitude (Madrid is at 700 metres).  My Mother even came up with the ingenious idea of using smaller cake tins so the rising mixture would have nowhere to go but up, but even that trick was doomed to failure.  The truth of the matter is that we are either rubbish bakers or the recipes were never going to turn out like the pictures.

After many such disappointments I feel that there should be a law passed which would force the writers of cake recipe books to attach a warning next to their totally unrealistic photographs.  ¨The cake in this photo may appear larger, taller and more even, than it will in real life¨.  That way a large proportion of the baking population will not be cast down when their lovingly prepared creations do not resemble the skyscraperlike cakes in their cookbooks. Teenage Daughter always takes such setbacks philosophically and returns to producing her tried and tested recipes.  But there are only so many scones and cupcakes one can make without the temptation to start leafing through the cook books again…



Photo sourced from the internet for illustration purposes only.