A big Hollywood star came to town recently. Paul Hollywood, that is.
Mr Hollywood (as I’m sure he likes to be known) appeared along with other stars of the Great British Bake Off and a variety of foody celebrities at the recent Big Cake Show on the outskirts of Exeter. I managed to wangle a last-minute afternoon off work and made my way out to the Westpoint Arena to join the massing throngs. Except, when I got there, I found that they had closed the doors to non-ticket holders about half an hour before I arrived. Which was a bit of a shame and just goes to show how much the folk in the South West love their cake. And Mary Berry.
Moving swiftly on from that incident, not least because it makes me look a little foolish (why didn’t I buy an advance ticket?), I would like to talk about some cakes that I did actually get to eat. It is a well-established tradition known to anyone who works in an office that, on your birthday, you are required by some unwritten law to buy your colleagues a selection of cakes. The cakes are unveiled, the email goes out, people meander over and engage in terrible small talk until they can escape with a cake. It’s no fun for anyone, but at least they get cake.
And this year they got some really good cake.
Normally the annual birthday cake run means a trip to the supermarket to grab packets of cookies and boxes of doughnuts. But this year is the year that I have embraced local food producers and it would seem churlish if I had ignored all of the great local shops selling cakes and continued to give even more money to the supermarkets. Yes, it took me a few minutes longer to get there than it would the supermarket and, yes, it cost me a few pounds more but the cakes were worth it. A few minutes and a couple of pounds is not too large a cost once a year.
This year I went to Darts Farm and bought a couple of Mrs Gill’s cakes: tangy lemon drizzle cake and sticky ginger cake. Both were delicious and were very well received at work. “Ooh, posh cake” was a fairly representative reaction, but don’t forget that I probably paid only slightly more than I would for a selection of supermarket cakes. The perceived value was significantly higher than the actual difference in cost.
The ginger cake was sticky, not dry, and the lemon cake was incredibly moist and full of lemon. That’s exactly how they should be, of course, but it’s surprising how often these types of cakes turn out to be a bit disappointing.
Alongside the cakes there was also a selection of Devon biscuits, from Continental Crumbs. Continental Crumbs is run by Birgit, bringing some German baking expertise to Devon since 2006. These were also very good, with a great crisp crunch to the biscuit and a lovely flavour.
Not to be outdone, I came home after work to find that Mrs RB had baked me a fantastic genoese sponge birthday cake topped with cream and raspberries. And best of all, my work colleagues didn’t get a look-in with that one. That one Mrs RB and I demolished ourselves and very nice it was too.
What I’ve discovered this birthday is that it only takes a small change to divert your hard earned money away from the supermarkets and into the hands of local suppliers. And when you do, there’s a better than average chance that your colleagues will thank you for it. A few office brownie points can’t hurt after all.