Those pencilled-in eyebrows, the stern demeanour, the outlandish outfits! Fanny had long since passed away and passed into parody by the time that I found her; or rather, she found me. Hanging around kitchens in pearls and impractical clothing meant I was bound to draw a comparison at some point! I have absolutely no idea of when I first heard of Fanny Cradock and can only assume she was just absorbed into my consciousness as a national treasure. As the first celebrity chef in the television age, Fanny was a trailblazer. She comes across as a formidable woman - I think she had to be to become the most recognisable home cook in the country. It's because of Fanny that I have had the opportunities that I have had, like baking carrot cake with Lorraine Kelly on breakfast television! I admire Fanny's style and her wit greatly but would not have like to share a kitchen with her!
Johnnie might've been pleased though... Fanny was known for her elaborate and flamboyant demonstrations - how would you describe your own presentation style at events like the Cake & Bake Show lovely lady?
My own demonstrations walk a fine line between instruction and entertainment! I think that they have to. Any teacher who ever taught me anything also managed to make me laugh at least once. I genuinely love making cakes and meet so many keen bakers who freak out at the thought of using fondant icing or picking up a piping bag. What I try to do in my demos is to break down the basic skills that you need to decorate a cake, showing that it is far from rocket science, and encouraging you to go home and use the new skills to decorate your own cakes. Once you nail a few basic techniques, you can create anything! Unfortunately, if you are in a room with me for 30 minutes, my filthy sense of humour will escape at some point... They don't call me the Burlesque Baker for nothing!
Fanny would maybe blush. Fanny wore ballgowns for her demos in the 50's, proudly never spilt a drop on them and was forever associated with them. Her style updated with the decades (she even embraced shoulder pads in the 80's) although she was always 'Fanny'. How do you choose what to wear for your own demos?
I love that Fanny was able to express her individuality on stage and screen! As a fan of the 1940's and 1950's fashion, there are several photographs of Fanny in which I would kill for her outfit. The popular image of Fanny tends to be the garish late 70's version but she really was striking in the 50's - the changes in fashion were far from kind to anyone! I love my retro fashion so have a few dresses to choose from for shows - I treat myself to a little online spree with Glamour Bunny or 20th Century Foxy when I have a show coming up! My style is often a hybrid of 1940's and 1950's styles; I'm 'retro-eclectic'! Funnily enough when I set my hair into curls, I am probably doing a very similar pre-show beauty routine to Fanny herself. I like to wear bright colours like red and blue and very often have a hat to match. I am always in heels and have a tartan pair ready for Edinburgh! I rarely wear an apron whilst demoing these days as I have found that, like Fanny, I can avoid spills though I often end up with cornflour on my boobs with no idea how it got there!
Johnnie would be blushing for sure, but his monocle would be focused. Fanny loved to demo recipes with the wow factor, potentially disastrous soufflés with huge, over decorated (can they be?) cakes all displayed on ice swan sculptures - it was all theatre to her and her audiences loved it. How do you think it has changed since, and how do you choose what to demo yourself?
My main consideration is always time. A demo is normally around 30-45 minutes, and time needs to be factored in for prep and clear-up, answering any questions from the audience and producing something convincing to look at! I'd love to demonstrate some of the really intricate techniques that I love but the time just won't allow - so much of cake decorating is simply time consuming rather than actually complicated. I keep my demos to the fundamental techniques that you need to know and give as much extra info as my time will allow. Yes, things do sometimes go wrong but that's part of the live theatre aspect of demonstrating! Once I was given a really dodgy stand mixer to use and my royal icing wouldn't stiffen up *insert joke here* so my piping looked a real mess! We all had a giggle and a huge slice of cake. Unlike Fanny, I can promise that I never yell at my assistants or show my diva side - only my family and friends get to see my diva side!
Fanny thought she was kind to her assistants too mind you... Fanny tended to think that cakes should be iced in blue (green was the colour of choice for potatoes) and decorated with a variety of animals, chocolate swans, brightly coloured glacé cherries and her very favourite Angelica (so may uses). What are your own 'signature styles' and pieces that people associate with you?
Blue cakes and green potatoes? Sounds like the Neverland food fight in Hook to me! I hope that my signature style is glamorous and just that little bit vintage-inspired. My demos are often entitled Burlesque Baking, in part so that I can decide exactly what design I want to demonstrate at the last minute but mostly because that's the style I'm most associated with. When Burlesque Baking came out, I took a copy in to Gaby Roslin on her BBC London radio show and she introduced me as 'The Burlesque Baker' which was entirely perfect and has kind of stuck! Burlesque Baking describes my style perfectly - it's classic Hollywood glamour turned up to 11 with a cheeky edge - that's both the style of the cakes and the cake designer too!
You cheeky glamorous cakey person you, Fanny would've loved you I'm sure. Finally what are you looking forward to most about the Cake & Bake Shows? What can we expect from you and what exciting things are coming up next?
The Cake & Bake shows are incredible! I'm looking forward to meeting loads of new baking friends and catching up with some old ones. For the best part of October, we chefs will be something of a travelling company of performers and I am so looking forward to seeing everyone back in the green room after all the fun we had in Harrogate earlier this year. Cake & Bake has a real family atmosphere, everyone has a love of baking - whether it be breads and tasty treats or showstopping cakes - a desire to learn and a passion to share. I count myself incredibly lucky to be amongst a handful who get the opportunity to share what I have learned over my many years as a Cake Designer. I'll be sharing as many tips and tricks as I possibly can, focusing on essential techniques with maximum impact. In my demos, I work with sugar paste (fondant) icing and royal icing, mixing classic techniques with newly available tools of the trade. As for what exciting things are round the corner, I am excited to tell you that I will be going to the Goodwood Revival in September with Kenwood and baking up some deliciously decorated cakes in their kitchen theatre. A vintage festival feels like the perfect place to remember Fanny and to bring a little bit of her flamboyance to the stage!
I simply can't wait! Watch out for a very special Fanny inspired feature with Charlotte in the future... Fingers crossed, boobs free from flour, aprons cast aside... Meantime I've got a pair of tickets to giveaway for *ANY* of the Cake & Bake Shows in October/November. Choose one of London 2nd - 4th October, Edinburgh 30th October - 1st November or Manchester 12th - 15th November. All you need to do is leave a comment below telling me which show you'd like to attend and fill in the Rafflecopter thingy-me-jig which will randomly select the winner! You can also select additional entries... Good luck!
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