One of my earliest memories is of Christmas cake: spreading it around my plate so it looked like I had eaten more than I actually had, aged three or four. I can’t stand it to this day – the bits of peel, the glacé cherries and, worst of all, the layer of marzipan sneakily hiding under the icing. Yuck. Much nicer was the great English tradition of licking the bowl, which you don’t really lick, do you? Actually, I did stick my head in sometimes.
Did you have a favourite cake as a child?
I had one birthday cake that was pink with intricate, curly-wurly white piping spelling out my name. I was very impressed by that. I grew up in a very small village in Kent and the nearest town only had one baker’s. It was hardly Patisserie Valérie but that was OK: just the fact that it didn’t look like it had been decorated by a small child was enough.
What about your own cake-making history?
I made a cake for someone’s birthday once at college. Under duress, I have to add, because I didn’t want to: when you’re at college you just want to lie on the floor drunk all the time. It was a chocolate cake and I’d iced it and everything, and then somehow it fell off the plate. Of course I scraped it off the floor applying the three- second rule: nothing gets germs on it if you pick it up quickly enough. That’s why I don’t bake my daughters’ birthday cakes. I can make something taste nice but I can’t make it look nice – I’ve the artistic ability of a ten-year-old.
How much of a cake foodie are you?
I have the palate of a philistine. You know how it’s fashionable to put salt and chilli in chocolate these days? I think the people who do that should be executed. I know if you’re an educated, middle-class person, your palate finds that sort of thing a challenge; but it just annoys mine. My perfect meal is still that of the 1970s: a prawn cocktail starter, steak and Black Forest gateau to finish.
Did you enjoy baking for Comic Relief ?
My daughters love The Great British Bake Off so they emotionally blackmailed me into doing this. I practised once so as not to be seen to be an absolute fool when my cake came out of the oven half-a-millimetre high, but I didn’t practise to the extent of decorating it ferociously. I’m not competitive in arenas where I know I’m pretty useless so I very much enjoyed it. There was a lot of shenanigans going on: certain people trying to ruin certain other people’s cakes… I may have had a part in that.