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Baking up a special cake

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In his weekly Ward's World column,John Ward talks about a special cake...

Entering into a New Year at times can be slow with possibly the weather not helping as I can’t remember a start to another year with blazing sunshine or the sales of sun tan oil or anti-camel bite lotion rocketing.

Looking back over the past year certainly was different yet again in many instances when compared to past or rather non-virus years but as my granddad might have said on many an occasion: “If things don’t change, they’ll stay as they are.”

One thing or sort of event does stand out on a personal level (I don’t count the fact I have outlived my ‘old faithful’ hair dryer that packed up although I thought it had a few decades of life left in it bearing in mind my non excessive use) was daughter my Min who was presented with a challenge of sorts.

Jo's bell cake (54008932)
Jo's bell cake (54008932)

Before your mind starts to gallop, Min is not on her birth certificate but it’s her nickname as its derived from that well known (to us anyway) character ‘Minnie Bannister’ as being one of the outstanding people from the radio days of ‘The Goon Show’ – we stopped short of calling her ‘Neddie Seagoon’ although another choice was ‘Eccles’.

Quite how it came about is still shrouded in whatever it was at the time but worked out very reasonable at one pound and seven pence a yard, forty eight inches wide but allowing an extra inch for the seams depending on which side of the cloth you happened to be standing by, but it had a nice pattern. So that’s part of our family history now explained, as I now scribble away to bring you the following.

Among Min’s talents is baking, or rather cakes of a novel or unusual design, that started off in a small way but seems to have gathered momentum in recent times as she now responds to assorted requests for the possibly unusual or ‘off the beaten track’ cake designs.

However, last year she had an inquiry for a ‘bell cake’, which had to be gluten free as the person it was being made for, as a surprise present, had a gluten allergy.

So the cake design was sorted within the gluten free limitations but then she asked if I had any ideas about the bell, non baked, part of it as so far the theory was looking okay but the bell design itself was still ‘in the air’ basically.

Being curious, I asked why a bell and it seems it’s rather symbolic as the person it was being made for, Jo, had just had the ‘all clear’ as she had undergone assorted agonising treatments for breast cancer over a considerable time, plus the coronavirus certainly didn’t help during that time, so this was a gesture from one of her friends as having ‘made it’ through it.

I gather in the hospital she attended it’s a sort of ritual or something spiritually to aim for, that when you have got to this stage you go to a bell there and ring it to signify the ‘all clear’.

So in some respects this was a family thing as Min was baking and decorating the cake and I was going to make the bell part but we live some distance apart so I was working to the proposed size via emails. Min obtaining a brass bell was the starting point as it helped to have a sense of scale and so once that was here, it was then a case of making a wooden frame to mount it on – being the size it was, a string or cord under it attached to the clapper was not feasible due to it making it rather high. So I just got some odd pieces of wood, a semi blunt pencil, did a few jottings, cut it and messed about then varnished it so it looked presentable as I emailed a photo of it to Min.

A ‘thumbs up’ was returned and so I put the finishing touches to it: I got round the bell ringing by putting an arm, or handle, on the ‘beam’ holding the bell so all that is required is to just flick the arm, the bell rings with the final part being a small label in silver with dark letters with ‘Jo’s Bell’ on it.

Min duly collected it then mounted it on the cake and it was unveiled at a party to celebrate Jo’s ‘all clear’ and it seems there was not a dry eye there as she rang that bell with the applause quite deafening.

The cake was cut, the bell is now with Jo where each day she ‘rings that thar bell’ to say yes, she is now okay but it’s a reminder that this terrible disease can strike anybody, but without the care and attention from the staff and the hospital who made it all possible, that cake would never have happened.

I must admit that Min never ceases to amaze with some of her exploits, without fanfare of trumpets or seeking public adulation, with perhaps her most memorable effort taking part in a sponsored skydive event.

So when Min says she is ‘going like the clappers’ she does indeed do so.

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