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Bill Drummond's Top Five...Cakes

The artist, writer, eyebrow-raiser and baker reveals a life in cakes - and the circles they mix in

Written by . Published on October 27th 2011.

Bill Drummond's Top Five...Cakes

MY earliest memory of cakes was there were not enough of them.

When we visited other houses there always seemed to be cakes. But never at our house. Sometimes my father bought a Lyons Sponge Cake, and he would bring it home and we would have it for tea, but I thought these were disgusting. They were nothing like the cakes baked by other boys’ mums.

My mother had the Good Housekeeping
Cookery Book. I would often look through
this book, drooling over the photographs
of all the meals that we did not have

When I challenged my mother about the lack of proper cakes in our house, she said that there were more important things for her to be doing than making cakes. But she did say she would bake me a cake for my birthday. She did and it was a lemon cake. A huge and glorious lemon sponge cake with five candles on it.

As of my fifth birthday, lemon sponge became my favourite cake. I would have one every birthday. Each year the same cake with one more candle on it, until I left home in my late teens.

When I got to the age of 13, I began to realise that other families had Christmas cakes. And these were cakes that were not bought in shops.

My mother told me there were far more important things in life than making Christmas cakes and anyway that is not what Christmas was about.

My mother had the Good Housekeeping Cookery Book. I would often look through this book, drooling over the photographs of all the meals that we did not have.

While slowly turning its pages the week before Christmas, 1967, I found I kept returning to the photograph of the Christmas cake. I read the recipe for it and, although it included ingredients that I had never heard of, I thought it did not sound that difficult a thing to make.

I liked making things and I guessed baking a Christmas cake would be no more difficult than building a bogey (go-cart). A deal was struck with my mother, I would bake this Christmas cake if she bought the ingredients.

There was no denying it, the cake was a great success, even though my father said Christmas cakes were over rated.

From then on there was no stopping me. The baking of cakes has been a constant in my life ever since. Girls have been courted with freshly baked cakes. My children have been dragooned into learning how to bake them. Although I have ventured and explored the distant shores of cake baking, I always return to the basic sponge cake. Be that a Victoria sponge, a chocolate or coffee. As for the lemon sponge that my mother made for my birthdays as a lad, I have never attempted it. Not that it would be difficult to do, but somehow it just would not feel right to be baking the cake that my mother went so out of her usual way to bake for me.

Chicory TipChicory TipWhen I was 21, I worked in a mental hospital as a nursing assistant for a few months. It was while there doing all sorts of terrible things to the patients, I learnt the secret of baking the perfect coffee cake. And that secret is to use Camp Coffee. And from what I was told, Camp Coffee was not made from coffee at all but chicory essence.

But when it comes to constructing the Liverpool Cake Circle, which I will be doing on Friday and Saturday, the 4th and 5th of November, I will be sticking to baking Victoria sponges and chocolate cakes. I will be using tried and tested recipes that I have used hundreds, if not thousands, of times in the past.

So to get to the point of this article for Liverpool Confidential and choose my five cakes, it would be the lemon birthday cake that my mother made for me, the Christmas cake that I make every year, the coffee cakes that I used to make at the mental asylum back in 1974 and the Victoria and chocolate sponges that I bake whenever I have a spare 30 minutes or I am in the process of constructing a Cake Circle.

And remember: always use butter.

*Bill Drummond will be constructing a Cake Circle at Static Gallery, 23 Roscoe Lane, Liverpool 1, next Friday to Sunday (November 4-6, 2012) as part of its Terminal Convention programme of events. 

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9 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousOctober 27th 2011.

I liked that

AnonymousOctober 27th 2011.

yes, I liked it on facebook

Star dudeOctober 28th 2011.

At least there are no cupcakes involved in this enterprise.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Jesse DaviesJuly 2nd 2013.

well said - cupcakes are in the top 5 most overrated food types!

London RoadOctober 28th 2011.

No, but it's not the first time cakes have been used to plot an arty course in Liverpool.

I do well remember people's poet Tony Chestnut-Brown-Crompton trailing cupcakes (proper Sayers fancies, not these godawful girl cakes from America) up the length of Bold Street from Central Station in the very early 1990s. This was to lead people to his rather peculiar music venue, the Squwadge, which is now the betting shop, and a big stall in the corner gave these "Cakies" away.

I imagine the corpses of several interested rats are still in there somewhere, along with the amp that I never saw again.

NadiaOctober 28th 2011.

In old country blind babooshka would make grashneviki every weekend. Is special Russian cake, no, but lard cannot be found on shelves in winter.

But no upset every week as Sergei, beloved betrothed of I, Nadia, bring home oil for to use in babooshka's recipe, rendered from basking shark at fish canning plant where whole family work.

But no eggs, she scream at him. Is no chickens, he reply, but no worry. Sergei gather eggs from crows long sitting in nest in tree outside window. She is hag with no eyes, he laugh, so she no realise! Yes, I scold, but ears sharp as hunting dog.

All family happy then and we have much grashneviki which tastes like million roubles and is used for good luck to break over head of wedding couple.

However on joyful nuptial day of I and Sergei, special grashneviki, for unknown reason, is like road brick and Sergei receive fatal blow from happy surprise when is dropped unexpectedly from church tower by who knows who.

So maybe is not so good memory as these cakes you speak of, I cannot now ever know.

Prof ChucklebuttyOctober 29th 2011.

"Drummond's Cake Circle" has already entered into the European vocabulary. Since the German Chancellor put on a few pounds in weight, Drummond's Cake Circle has become European rhyming sland for Angela Merkel.

Prof ChucklebuttyOctober 29th 2011.

sland is Derman for slang

AnonymousNovember 4th 2011.

Nadia, do you have webcam?

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