The Extreme Cake Makers take on Christmasby Fiona Rae
"Mr Christmas" and others deploy a whole lot of love and brandy to bring us sweet escapism in Extreme Cake Makers.
We have enjoyed a lot of on-screen cake-making in 2018, not least our own version of The Great British Bake Off, the series that somehow became part of the fabric of British life, spurring an interest in home baking and a revival of the Women’s Institute.
Whether The Great Kiwi Bake Off will have the same effect is unclear – is there even such a thing as a New Zealand Women’s Institute?* – but the show, with its improbable Kiwi bakers and showstoppers that can be destroyed by five extra minutes in the oven, is the best kind of escapism.
Which probably explains the popularity of Extreme Cake Makers (TVNZ 1, Christmas Eve, 7.00pm), the UK show that rated so well last summer that Seven Sharp’s nervous new hosts felt they had to start with a silly cake-making skit. Hilary Barry lamented the loss of the series, commenting that viewers “may get it back if we don’t rate”.
Cake, like fire, is present at most human celebrations and this particular episode of Extreme Cake Makers is a Christmas special featuring an epic gingerbread house, a 60cm-tall reindeer cake and six Christmas cakes delicately painted to look like presents.
The extreme cake-makers love Christmas, of course: former tattoo artist Ben describes himself as “Mr Christmas”.
His challenge is to make a reindeer cake for a reindeer lodge’s staff Christmas party. Yes, a reindeer lodge in the UK. Santa must use it for a stopover.
“I’ve never seen a reindeer before today,” says Ben, “and now I’ve got to make a reindeer cake for people who spend their entire lives around reindeer. That’s pressure.”
In Cornwall, cake-bakers Phil and Christine have a commission from a luxury stationery company that involves making small, square Christmas cakes that look like beautiful little boxes.
One features gold leaf and scenes from the nativity, hand-painted by Phil.
On the inside is last year’s Christmas cake, marinated for a year “with a whole lot of brandy and a whole lot of love”, says Phil.
The sugar rush continues in Lancashire, where Molly is making a massive gingerbread house for a local sweet shop. It’s almost a shame to eat it. Almost.
*You bet. Read all about it here.
This article was first published in the December 22, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.
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