The streets of London are evolving. Once upon a time, they were paved with gold. Then came the more practical tarmac. Recently, dog turds, phlegm and spent gum have layered our thoroughfares. Now, The Great Cake Escape are on a mission to line our streets with…cake.
We caught up with the duo who, by an incredible coincidence of nominative determinism, go by the names Cherry Bakewell and Fondant Fancy.
So, fill us in with a little background. What’s the basic idea?
Cherry: We make and decorate cup cakes and leave them dotted around the streets with little messaged flags. We hope discovering our cakes makes people smile and stimulates curiosity.
Fondant: We simply want to add dash of vibrancy to this urban utopia of ours. We like creating scenes of contrast — so we adorn everyday locations, such as derelict buildings, pavements and weather beaten window ledges, with a vivid splash of sugar.
And where did the idea for The Great Cake Escape come from?
Cherry: It all started as a little project to celebrate my birthday last November and has developed since then. I’d carried out a guerrilla art project for Valentine’s Day last year, launching messaged balloons and leaving hundreds of homemade valentine’s cards dotted around the streets for people to find. I really enjoyed the process of leaving messaged items for people to discover and wanted to do something similar to commemorate my 25th birthday.
Fondant: At the time I’d just organised a decadent tea party for a friend’s hen weekend and was still drifting into pastel coloured daydreams of luscious cakes! We toyed around with all sorts of ideas until we decided upon Alice in Wonderland inspired cupcakes and our individual take on the ‘eat me’ labels.
Where can we expect to see cakes liberated to next?
Cherry: We want to take The Great Cake Escape all around the city so that our cakes become a familiar sight on London’s streets. Wherever we visit from now on we shall be leaving a trail of cakes behind us.
Fondant: The north has yet to be christened with cascades of cupcakes but I’m heading back to Leeds in a few weeks so I’ll be liberating a kitchen-full of sugary treats there. Cherry’s also going to be adorning the streets of Sheffield with cakes very soon.
Cherry: Brighton and Bristol are also on our list of targets. It keeps us out of trouble and has led us to some interesting people and opportunities so far.
When you leave a cake somewhere, do you hover around nearby to see if anyone takes it?
Cherry: Yeah, that’s half the fun. When we do ‘cake drops’ it’s fun to be able to place them surreptitiously and then hide around a corner, looking back to see if they’ve been taken or noticed. It’s fun to secretly observe people’s different reactions.
Fondant: We do indeed. It’s such fun to watch how people interact with their environment–do they stop and read the flag or follow the message and take the cake? We’ve developed some rather nifty stealth tactics! On busier cake drops, like Valentine’s weekend in Camden, we’d leave cakes next to people posing for photos then scurry away to watch them wonder where they appeared from.
I remember hovering on Brick Lane one Sunday. I’d unsuspectingly left a cake in front of a photographer, who was checking her images, in the hope of creating a little intrigue. Instead, the cake attracted a bigger, curious crowd so I took the opportunity to get up close and snap the scene myself. One guy even took a shot of me taking a shot of the cake. And the photographer… she was oblivious the entire time.
Click through to read about their secret sweetmeat secretions, their policy on biscuits and the final word on Battenberg.
Is it just little cup cakes, or do you ever liberate other cakes? Or perhaps even biscuits? Biscuits are more hardy and would stand up to a short spell of rain. We think you should try biscuits.
Cherry: Biscuits, eh? I’ve never heard such heresy!
Fondant: Well, it’s just little cupcakes at the moment but we’ve been nattering about using biscuits when we do festivals this summer.
Cherry: ‘Take the Biscuit’ could perhaps be our brother project? So if there are any tasty gingerbread men out there who fancy taking up the challenge, they’re more than welcome! We’re about little cakes for now–they’re so handy for transporting and dropping.
Fondant: I don’t think the biscuits would last very long in my kitchen–I’d have devoured them before we’ve got around to any icing. Although, imagine the fun you could have with party rings!
Have you ever been challenged by someone who sees you leave a cake somewhere?
Fondant: We were quizzed by a group of kids in Camden who thought we might have laced the cakes with drugs. I think they were just hoping! When it comes to dodging our nemeses, the over-zealous street cleaners, we’re pretty swift on our heels and vanish into the crowds. We’re rather elusive little ladies!
Cherry: Not challenged as such, a few people who’ve caught us in the act have been curious and asked us why we’re doing it. Generally people have a really positive response.
Where’s the most bonkers place you’ve ever left a cake?
Fondant: Ooh, we’ve placed cakes in so many unexpected and intriguing locations as we want people to unexpectedly stumble upon our little delights. If you have a look at our MySpace page you’ll see many of the unusual places to which our dainty cakes have escaped!
Cherry: We’ve started to take our cakes on nights out too, having been invited to distribute them at club nights and events, so that presents some interesting potential locations. We’re making lots of cakes for the next London Rollergirls bout which will be a fun adventure for our cakes–it’ll be ‘The Skate Cake Escape’!
You can’t have your cake and eat it. Discuss.
Fondant: Indeed you can and if you’re not careful I’ll eat yours too!
Cherry: Well our cakes are perfectly edible and safe to eat fresh but I’m always surprised to hear from people who have eaten our cakes after finding them on the streets! I mean, who knows how long it was sat there or what happened to it in the mean time? It’s stretching the ‘five second rule’ a little too far, if you ask me!
Settle an old argument. Battenberg cake: evil, or a pink and yellow dream?
Cherry: Marzipan, neon e-number rich sponge, geometry…what’s not to love? My grandma always treated me to a nice slice or two when I went round for tea so it’s got sentimental value (along with that other controversial foodstuff, Spam).
Fondant: Battenberg is a slice of saccharine sunshine. As is the more demure, but equally enchanting, angel cake.
We know it’s mad, but some people still insist on buying cake from cafes, rather than seeking out your street-cakes. Do you have any cake shops or cafes in London you’d like to recommend?
Cherry: Cake indoors? Controversial indeed! I’ve yet to treat myself and go along but I really like the idea of Afternoon Tease at Volupte. Cakes, cream tea and burlesque–that’s the perfect indulgent Saturday afternoon in my book!
Fondant: Some people, eh? When I’m bopping around the vintage shops I’m partial to the chocolate and walnut brownies from Spitalfields Market as they are divine. I’m an overly regular indulger of those, I must admit.
What do you think of Adam Neate — who does a similar thing with art?
Cherry: It’s a fantastic concept. I’ve long been a fan of street art, found art, guerrilla art–whatever you choose to call it! We’ve been really inspired in what we do by artists like Adam Neate, Miranda July, graffiti artists, guerrilla knitters and guerrilla gardeners. With a background in socially engaged and community art, I’m passionate about increasing participation and access to the arts and culture. The streets are the most public, shared of spaces and so where better to create and express your ideas? There’s so much corporate advertising and uninspiring official public art on the streets that needs to be combated with more original and creative interventions. I like the ephemeral nature of found art and street art, the sense of satisfaction that it brings when you come across it down a back alley or side street. That element of discovery and surprise is really important.
Fondant: I’m a bit of a graffiti geek so I’m always exploring the streets for new art but I’ve yet to spot any of Adam Neate’s pieces patiently waiting to be taken home and treasured. I do love the thrill of discovering new, imaginative street art and there are some images and messages you just can’t ignore- they can hit you at a personal level or pose questions. We’re surrounded by galleries and street art but may not take advantage of these creative displays. So to remove the commercial element from his work and offer individual pieces of art to the public is inspiring and a wonderful gift.
(Obvious question) Do you have a favourite type of cake?
Fondant: (Obvious answer) I swoon at a hint of cocoa, so for me it’s layers of smooth chocolate cake, dripping with lucious chocolate fondant or fudge. Scoop me up… I’m melting at the thought!
Cherry: I can’t pick just one! As long as it’s homemade and served with a cup of tea, it’s all good in my book.
Are there any cake-based policies you’d like the new Mayor of London to introduce?
Cherry: Obligatory free cake on public transport. A giant statue of me and Fondant sculpted from icing on Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth. The Thames to flow with melted chocolate like in Willy Wonka…ooo, I like this game! All cars to be replaced by ones made of yummy good things like in that ace Skoda advert. That’d reduce traffic pollution, eh?
Fondant: I’d be more practical (and perhaps gluttonous) in my policies. On purchasing a cake or other suitably sweet dessert, you’re required by law to offer a mouthful to anyone sharing your company. You are also obliged to finish your entire serving–I’ve seen people leave crumbs, even mouthfuls!
Find out more about the Great Cake Escape on MySpace, or contact them at takethecake – at – hotmail.co.uk