The author, Fiona Cairns, began producing cakes on her kitchen table 25 years ago. Her husband, Kishore, now managing director of the company, knew that there was a market for these beautifully decorated and delicious handmade cakes. In 2001 they moved out of the kitchen and into a state-of-the-art bakery in Leicestershire.
Fiona is a graphic designer as well as a pastry chef and it shows, not only in the cake decoration, and in this book, but also in her web site, www.fionacairns.com, which must be one of the most gorgeous ever uploaded. I spent ages clicking from page to page just drinking in the superb photography of some of the most amazing cakes you will ever see.
I first came across Fiona’s work when Waitrose asked me to write a short article about some Christmas cupcakes. These were simple but stylish and introduced me to the wider range of Fiona’s exquisitely decorated cakes, not only for Yuletide but for any occasion, or no occasion at all.
After you have admired a cake for a while, chances are you’ll want to eat it. There are 30 recipes in Bake and Decorate for cakes that are delicious and moreish. There are small ones, large ones, layered cakes, fruit cakes and even a recipe for the very retro but always classy Battenberg, a delightful cake which has graced tea tables since 1884. It was created to celebrate the marriage of Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, also called Victoria, who was to become Lord Mountbatten’s mum. Yellow and pink squares of cake surrounded by marzipan form a four-square chequer board.
Another marzipan cake, and perhaps my favourite recipe from this book, is that for a simple Cherry and Marzipan Cake. The almond paste melts into the sponge giving a moist and rich confection.
Chocolate lovers are well served here with Dark Chocolate Mousse Cake, Gilded Chocolate Tiffin (so simple but so stylish), 23-Carat Gold Cake (no, that’s not a spelling mistake, we are talking real gold here), Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut Cake, as well as several others. Somehow a chocolate cake speaks of a celebration, whether decorated or plain.
But it’s cake decorating for which Fiona Cairns is perhaps most famous. Her cakes are stunning and original and this book helps one to at least approximate some of her marvellous creations. The novice (and that includes me) might like to start with the simple Easter tree decorations. These are made from biscuits/cookies (recipe provided) and sugar paste. Such an easy technique which would work equally well for Christmas cookies. Talking of which Fiona has an amazing technique for producing edible stained-glass Christmas tree decorations. She should patent that idea!
The Ice Cream Cones take the prize for sheer innovation and you just need to be able to swirl buttercream in the style of a soft ice-cream cornet for a striking result. The book is worth buying even if this is the only recipe you ever try. The finished result will present your guests with what look like real ice cream cones. Well, they are just that but with a sponge baked inside and icing resembling the expected ice cream. Another one of those “I wish I had thought of that first” moments.
Bake and Decorate is a stunner of a book and a good buy for those who just want some great cake recipes, as well as for those who want to turn those cakes into masterworks. It’s stuffed full of innovation, humour and inspiration. Photographer Laura Hynd has done a first-class job of showing Fiona’s cakes to best advantage, be they extravagantly decorated or simply garnished. Brilliant.
Bake and Decorate – Tea time luxury
Author: Fiona Cairns
Published by: Quadrille
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018