Homemade with ‘lashings’ of love.
Wendy Mitchell’s cup cakes are munificent and tantalising at the same time. You can’t help smiling at her big, bold and bright buns for possessing childlike purity and adult naughtiness in equal measure. These are ‘Carry-on’ fancies, resplendent with British eccentricity, stuffed full of butter and humour where wholesome ingredients go hand-in-hand with double-whipped entendres. Some have nipple-resembling fat berries enticingly perched on butter-cream peaks; some support sugar sparkles and jelly beans; others have white-iced messages piped on chocolate tops: “Eat me”, “Hold me” or “I’m yours”.
Summed up by her own words her cakes are like, “When Enid Blyton meets the Beano.” A cross between ‘The Famous Five’ rushing home to find a lovely big chocolate cake on the kitchen table to be eagerly consumed with ‘lashings’ of old-fashioned relish and the Beano’s ‘Three Bears’ weekly pictured stealing grub from Hank’s store. “My cakes resemble those massive comic creations in full flight: thick layers and fat strawberries, dripping icing blobs and oozing cream.”
“It’s that fun that I associate with baking,” she says, “and that lovely, irresistible smell from the oven; cooking eggs beaten with sugar and the scent of vanilla.” There’s certainly something incredibly homely in the sweet aroma of baking. Wendy’s children return from school “with their little noses twitching and take the scent trail straight to the kitchen so I always splodge a bit of what I’m baking into bun wrappers for them to taste.”
Wendy ditched her career as a homeopath two years ago. “My mother was dying and my husband was struggling with the intense demands of his own work. Making cakes was a way of stopping me from imploding. I’d boldly offered to makes cakes for a local café and with my first order I just had to knuckle down and get on with it.” She explains, “My mother was a great one for baking cakes and I remember that warmth and heavenly smell she generated like a generous expression of her love.”
Wendy’s philosophy is that people need to eat proper homemade cake made with proper ingredients. “Its food which makes people smile,” she says. Even her van coming through the main street of Fowey, where traffic and pedestrians are normally in hostile opposition; “I see people reading the side of the van mouthing ‘big buns?’ as I pass, staring at my little swinging cup cake in the window and they break out and smile!”
Her cakes, ‘buns’ and biscuits are a twist on the classic tea-time fare. She makes, for example, a Madeira type ‘Saffron with fresh orange and almond’, ‘Lemon and Poppy Seed’, ‘Carrot with orange and muscovado syrup ‘Blackberry and almond meringue’ and a deeply tempting: ‘Dark Diva Chocolate’ However my favourite Wendy-big-buns-cake has a baby pink, sweet, cream- cheese topping and a light, moist sponge: ‘Beetroot with toasted hazelnut’. It knocks the well established carrot classic right off the cake pedestal in my opinion. “Jane, at Pinky Murphy’s in Fowey, once had said to make her something different. So I made her a ‘pink cake’.” Wendy adds,” she might have meant just ‘different’ from the usual order but got ‘different quirky’.” It sums up Wendy’s original and big-hearted style. Beetroot cake or another “bonkers” sounding, ‘Courgette with a fresh lemon or lime curd’ barely raises an eyebrow now with her established clientele.
Wendy has tapped into, whether by her own cleverness or merely serendipitously, our nostalgic yearning for gentler, less complicated memories of a previous age. We all have fond childhood memories charmed by our mother’s baking, and if we don’t, we feel we ought to have had them and then, in turn, to hand that tradition on. By her own admission, her cakes – where she sells them – have become extremely popular. “I once walked into Pinky’s bearing a fresh order and had it announced, ‘hurrah, the cake lady’s here!’ followed by a huge collective cheer. What’s not to love about home baking? To be able to bring joy to people with something this simple feels good and it is so nice to be appreciated for what I do. I probably also have an inherent need to make people feel better. I call it ‘wellbeing through cake’ and it is a lot less complicated than homeopathy with a more instant result!”
Wendy’s phone is constantly ringing as ‘Big Buns’ has taken over her daily life. There are regular orders coming in from Fowey, Lostwithiel and Truro and one-off cakes for birthdays and special occasions. She bakes gluten-free cakes and is passionate about organic ingredients. Her generous desire to delight people with cake stems from, by her own admission, a childlike desire for a perfect life and, of course, to feeling like her mum while she bakes.
Big Buns Cake Company, Fowey, PL23 1HJ
Tel. 01726 833696 email: firstname.lastname@example.org