I love baking. But that doesn’t mean I’m very good at it. Or even do very much of it. I bake (like most of us, I suppose) for a birthday, cake sale, or when some overly-ambitious recipe in the newspaper makes me drop my croissant and drool. Because you can’t beat a proper homemade cake: light, fluffy and smothered in buttercream… Or can you? Flicking through Mich Turner’s Cake School is enough to blow your cake-baking brain. There’s a gold-leaf gilded-Christmas cake, sugar paste butterflies that look as though they’ve just momentarily landed on some triple-tiered creation and quite simply the cutest hobby horse cookies on sticks. It’s all very pretty. And PROFESSIONAL. Are you actually meant to make this stuff, I wonder?
Mich seems to think so. Mich Turner, MBE that is, (which might as well stand for Master Baker Extraordinaire). She’s baked for Her Majesty, Ex-Bond Pierce Brosnan, Madonna and even Posh and Becks. Vogue and Tatler regularly feature her designs. Designs being the operative word here. Because this isn’t just about cake anymore (like the Burberry trench isn’t just a coat, or a Louboutin a shoe). This is baking. On a whole new level.
The book features three lessons altogether: Making And Baking Cakes, Putting It All Together and Decorating. So, being a novice I start at the top (or shall we say the bottom?) and soon discover where I’ve been going wrong. Mich shows you what to do, what not to do. What makes it sink. What makes it chewy. She talks through the creaming method, the all-in-one method – (there’s no mention here of the more familiar: oh shit, I need to bake but haven’t-got-a-clue method). I think back to my previous baking attempts: a catalogue of burnt edges, soggy bums, sunken middles and booby peaks. Hmmm… could do better.
With the basics read and out of the way, I progress to Chapter Two. Pages of buttercream, frosting, ganache with panache; every filling you can think of from salted caramel to lemon curd. Quite frankly, there’s enough to keep you busy here until the cows come home, (which come home they must because you’re going to need quite a lot more butter). Chapter Thre goes onto the art of piping, moulding and painting, with gorgeous rococo swirls, pearls and lace patterns, hand-sculpted roses and even a giant teddy bear.
So here’s my attempt: the coconut cake. One of the simpler recipes in the book (because fear not, there are those too). I vowed to do it properly. No rushing. No cheating. I dutifully lined my tin (professionally – just like Mich), used the correct sized tin (admittedly a first), and carefully read the recipe and all the tips.
Hurrah! Quite simply a triumph. So if (in a moment of madness) you’ve volunteered to bake a friend’s wedding cake, want to WOW (and I mean W.O.W) your friends, or are just fed up of the perpetual sinking sponge – this is the book for you. Mich doesn’t give baking much personality and is (to put it bluntly) a bit of a matron, but she’s perfect if you need to get it right. I might not be ready for dowelling rods and turntables, but I’ve sure been inspired to get busy with the glitter. And happily, there’s not a booby-shaped cake in sight.
Published by Jacqui Small, Mich Turner’s Cake School is available to buy online here.