“Mr Christ­mas” and other cake-mak­ers de­ploy a whole lot of love and brandy to bring us sweet es­capism.

New Zealand Listener - - CONTENTS - Fiona Rae

The year of 2018 has been many things, but we, apro­pos of noth­ing, are declar­ing it the year of cake. Af­ter all, that’s bet­ter than the year of Trump, Brexit, global warm­ing, refugees or #metoo.

We have en­joyed a lot of on­screen 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, hand­painted 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 at

Ex­treme Cake Mak­ers,Christ­mas Eve.

The Royal Va­ri­etyPer­for­mance, Christ­mas Eve.

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