Designing a cake in the shape of V&A Dundee wasn’t without its problems but Mary-Jane Duncan more than rose to the challenge, discovers Caroline Lindsay.
When Kitschnbake opened in the Fife village of Newport-on-Tay nearly five years ago, owner Mary-Jane (MJ) Duncan’s hope was for a flexible space to welcome everyone: “An extension of your living room and for some, a home from home,” she says.
So when the new V&A Dundee was announced, she and the team were thrilled to learn that Kengo Kuma had designed it to be a “new living room for the city,” where everyone could feel welcome.
“Having been able to watch the project develop from directly across the water, we wanted to do something to show how proud we were of all the hard work to get it to this stage,” says MJ, who is also The Courier Menu’s food and drink ambassador.
That “something” was a magnificent cake in the shape of the V&A, which was delivered to the brand spanking new attraction on September 14 as it welcomed visiting community groups.
MJ is no stranger to making unusual and challenging cakes: “We have done VW campervans, a Stagecoach bus for the Flower and Food Festival, a Tunnocks teacake for the City of Culture launch and even a Tay Bridge cake but no other buildings, unless a Batman cityscape counts?” she says.
But making a cake of this size (eight layers of vanilla drizzle sponge) and this particular shape, wasn’t without its challenges and MJ explains how they tackled it.
“To make it slightly easier for ourselves, we decided to make two large cakes and stick it together with our delicious vanilla drizzle recipe,” she explains. But how on earth do you make a grey cake look good?
“All cakes, regardless of the amount of grey, have the potential to look like something special when homemade,” says MJ. “You can always tell the amount of work and effort that has gone into something designed especially for an event and not mass produced. We have always championed our home baking and this project won’t be any different – you may not even have to squint to spot the wonky bits!” she laughs.
MJ was helped by two members of the Kitschnbake team, Lily and Claire.
“The V&A Cake team are a talented and enthusiastic lot,” she smiles. “Lily is a talented artist with an excellent eye for detail and unending patience and Claire, being a civil engineer student, is brilliant at the more delicate, time-consuming details.
Timings for the cake proved challenging because of the everyday running of the busy café but the whole “Kitschncrew” pulled together. “They were so tolerant and supportive while we had endless conversations about concrete…” she recalls.
Throughout the project they reminded themselves that this was their interpretation of the new V&A.
“It wasn’t exact or to scale and we stuck to techniques that we know best,” MJ explains.
“Some edible flowers were placed at the last minute and we also had some flags made, featuring the Ocean Liner: Speed and Style alongside our new logo. I joked that if it went horribly wrong we could build it out of pink wafer biscuits and spray it grey!” she chuckles.
Before making and baking could even begin, the trio did some thorough research.
“We visited the building, took photos and propped them up in the kitchen to allow us to refer back,” MJ explains. “The staff joked that our kitchen cupboards resembled a crime scene board with photos of the V&A from every angle plastered all over them.
“When we needed to catch our breath we just stepped outside and looked over the River Tay to remind ourselves what we were trying to achieve.” We even took a boat ride so we could see the building up close from the water’s edge. There are some perks to project research!”
MJ delivered the cake to the V&A herself on the morning of the 14th. “Apologies to anyone following a black van driving at 10mph over the Tay Road Bridge early that Friday morning,” she laughs.
As for the V&A itself, MJ is excited about what it offers to Tayside and beyond.
“The north east of Scotland has an amazing concentration of local talent and producers and we are excited and proud to be a part of this wonderful growing local scene,” she enthuses.
“With the V&A collaborating with these talented folks, it will help Scotland and all its products to shine through worldwide.
“We are immensely proud to help form part of the fabric of Tay Country and we hope those visiting are able to discover a place to relax, indulge, and feel the warmth of a proper Scottish welcome.”