Funny how we can be too busy to bake but never too busy to eat. Never mind, let Gavin Page from To Bizzy 2 Bake (TB2B from now on) do it for you! Firstly, I must offer yet another apology and say that I shot many of the photos of TB2B on G’s D300. I don’t understand how to use her professional camera, which is clearly evidenced in the ensuing photos. She’s given me just enough knowledge to expertly wield my little Panasonic Lumix bridge camera.
Alas, I left the picture-taking up to G at the Birmingham Vintage Fair a couple weeks ago. It was there that I met Gavin and his cakes. Then his cakes met my belly and all was well with the world. This is the first “F” is for Food review that is totally devoid of cupcakes. But let’s face it if it’s good, cake is cake is cake: be it in miniature or layered mounds. With that said, on to the review.
The core offering of TB2B is cakes with homemade looks and tastes. In essence, they are the cakes that you would make if you had the time…and talent to do so. These cakes aren’t posturing, they are actually made in Gavin’s home. In my book, they’ve got all the care and attention that your mom or aunt would put into things they bake (provided they actually know how to bake). But these are no lopsided cakes sporting slightly burned edges. The cakes–whether one layer or three– are expertly crafted but free of pretence. We eat with our eyes before we ever put anything in our mouths. The mouth needs to salivate at the sight of food in order for the brain to say go on, pick it up and feeeeeeeeeed meeeeeee. Red velvet, carrot, chocolate Guinness, and Battenberg cakes tempted many a visitor at the Birmingham Vintage Fair. It’s a pity that Gavin doesn’t have any photos of his work on his website.
The slice of red velvet cake you see above? Gone minutes after I snapped this photo. It was not eaten by me, unfortunately. All I was left with was a generous dollop of cream cheese frosting, which is the traditional frosting for American red velvet cake. I wish I could have tasted the cake in its completeness because I have had a hard time finding a baker who can deliver the subtle cocoa flavour of the beet-coloured cake without making the whole thing overwhelmingly sweet yet bland. Perhaps the popularity of Gavin’s red velvet is a testament to getting that balance right? I will have to find out in the future. The red velvet was one of the more popular offerings of the day, coming in third behind the chocolate Guinness and Battenberg cakes. The latter two cakes did meet their demise with my mouth. After several back to back clients at the fair, I was starving so G bought two slices of cake to share. The chocolate Guinness cake is not to be missed! Dense, but not heavy, dark cake with a balanced flavour of Guinness laced throughout. The cream cheese frosting on top is a perfect accompaniment. The Battenberg was one of the more moist and sumptuous cakes I’ve tasted in a while…and easily G’s favourite of the day.
I took away pieces of Canadian carrot cake, Victoria sponge, chocolate brownie and chocolate and ginger fridge cake. G is a much bigger fan of carrot cake than I am. I have perfected my own carrot cake recipe to suit her taste buds. I was happy to see that Gavin uses crushed pineapple in his carrot cake which adds extra moisture and an additional flavour dimension. This is similar to my recipe, but we are obviously not in competition. Carrot cake is G’s favourite kind of cake, so she’s pretty tough. She thought it was very good indeed. Keep in mind that she is not allowed to say that any carrot cake is better than mine ;).
I found the Victoria sponge to be springy but moist, and containing a good balance of the frosting and jelly mix. I am greedy, so I always like a bit more frosting and jelly thrown in. The average person would be completely satisfied with what they see in the photo above. This is definitely one of those cakes that you could easily pass off as coming from your own kitchen. It bears the markings of being homemade, and is unfussily delicious. The chocolate and ginger fridge cake is comprised of the obvious ingredients plus digestive biscuits. Referred to as Tiffin on TB2B’s website, the cake was not overwhelmed with ginger, which is a very good thing in my book. I tend to like ginger in savoury dishes, less so in puddings. However, I found the ginger worked subtly to enhance the dark chocolate flavour of the fridge cake. The packaging is also very friendly to take on trips or put in a lunch bag as a treat. Last up is the chocolate brownie, which I found to resemble more of a chocolate cake in its texture. Where I am from, brownies are much more dense and fudge-like. They also don’t contain pieces of cherry like those of Gavin’s. I enjoyed the brownie, but not the fruit that was mixed in. It’s probably that my taste buds were not expecting that unexpected ingredient.
At the Birmingham Vintage Fair, Gavin was charging an average of £2 for a slice of cake. The generally fair pricing depended on the type of cake. As I understand it, he usually doesn’t do fairs, but rather sells his cakes whole. Prices range from £12 for a 32cm x 23cm fridge cake to £25 for a chocolate fruit cake. I think this is good value because the cakes are made to order, contain quality ingredients and lots of care. You can’t say that about an off-the-shelf cake from Tesco’s.
There are definite stars in Gavin range of cakes. The standout items for me would be the chocolate Guinness cake, Battenberg, Victoria sponge and the chocolate ginger fridge cake (Tiffin). Gavin–a dad and chief bottle washer–used to write all about his baking hobby on his former blog, The Boy Who Bakes. A redundancy notice a few years ago prompted him to turn his hobby into a home-based business. Now all of us get to reap the benefits of his career change. You can find Gavin’s cakes in independent food establishments around Birmingham and surrounding areas, including Six/Eight Kafe, Urban Coffee Co and Coffee Room Bar and Bistro. In fact, I dined at the latter and instantly recognized the chocolate Guinness cake as that of Gavin. You can follow Gavin on Twitter (@tobizzy2bake)