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.”
It’s not everyday that when you go round to meet someone for the first time they are ready to serve you a wholesome and extremely appetizing brunch. William and Nicola Marsden’s business premises at Pencoose Barn are also home. Catering operations, alongside family life, centre on a long wooden table that runs down the centre of a large and busy kitchen.
On the morning I met them, their youngest child, Tommy, aged one and a half, was happily enjoying a wholesome, fresh-baked roll and, judging by the aroma, I think there may have been an added slight sea-salt crust and hint of rosemary. Nicola regrets that, “My children have to move aside when the serious catering takes over,” and with typical mother’s guilt she berates herself for this. Meanwhile he was busy play cutting a set of plastic fruit and vegetables, while I looked on in awe. An early apprenticeship I supposed?