The Great Cake Escape

May 11, 2009 at 11:22 am (Interview, street art) (, , , , )

cake-escapeA pink and white cupcake sits on a grubby East London pavement with a little flag saying “Eat me”. People bustling past barely notice it – just a small flash of colour on the grey side street. But this cupcake has a purpose. It’s waiting for someone to sink their teeth into it’s fluffy sponginess; to make a mess of its icing and read its flag. But who would eat a cupcake they found on a street corner?

Lot of people would, as it turns out. “So many people re into cake it’s crazy,” says Cherry Bakewell. “I never really realised before but people are obsessed with cake.” This particular cupcake is the creation of Cherry and Fondant Fancy – aka The Great Cake Escape – where street art meets Betty Crocker. The pair are bent on brightening up the world one cake at a time. A modern day Alice in Wonderland via Shoreditch.

The Great Cake Escape started as a one-off birthday project but has turned into a guerilla street-art campaign. “I always really liked that kind of thing, when you leave something on the street and you never quite know who’s going to find it,” says Cherry. They were both into street art but “didn’t want to be vandals”. Inspired by tea parties, they made lots of cupcakes, dropped them around London and watched.

It was supposed to be one afternoon of fun, but a year and a half later they’re still doing it. “We usually produce around 200 cakes,” says Cherry. “To make any visual impact you need to have plenty. They go so quickly it’s amazing. We’ll drop some, then turn around to see if anyone has taken them and they’ll be gone.

“Recently someone found one of the cakes – we left it on his bicycle basket – and he cycled round London and took pictures of all the places he had taken it. In the end he left it somewhere, hoping that someone else would find it and take it on another adventure.”

Dropping cakes isn’t always easy. Some people simply don’t get it. Cherry and Fondant have been criticised for wasting food, and more bizarrely, trying to poison a dog. Then there are the street wardens to contend with. “At first we were scared that we would get caught for littering,” says Cherry. “But i’ve seen street cleaners that go and look at them, pick them up, read the message and laugh and then put them back down.”cake escape flour

They never really intended for people to eat them, although they’re perfectly edible. It’s more about evoking curiosity, rousing people out of their everyday routine by giving them something unexpected. Each cake has a little flag saying things like “I’m an abandoned sweet surprise waiting just for you. Have a little fun tonight, share me with someone new.”

The domestic arts – crafts, knitting, baking – are expereincing something of a comeback. Nostlalgia is in. First it was the vintage boom and clothes your grandmother wore, and now her hobbies are back too. The Great Cake Escape has adopted a ’50s housewife aesthetic, lipstick and Mary-Janes.

“It’s about being sick of everything being manufactured, all the shops look the same,” says Cherry. “People are more aware that if they go and buy something in Topshop they’re not really sure of where it was manufactured or the quality of things. It’s nice to be individual and enjoy being creative and actually making something.”

Because they are young women baking cakes, inevitably questions have been raised about their feminist stance. Their work has been lauded by feminist groups such as Riot Grrrl fanzines and events like Ladyfest. But Cherry insists that a feminsit statement wasn’t they’re intention, though they enjoy the association. At these events, the flags say things like “Riot don’t diet” and “Love your muffin top, eat more cake”.

“People thought, ‘Ok, what are you doing with this image, are you reclaiming it?” says Cherry. They were accused of behaving lik drag queens performing an idea that was damaging to feminism. “It was really strange for us because we didn’t go into it with any agenda. I guess people can think what they want to think.

“It’s pretty simple,” says Cherry. “There’s nothing deep. We just want to make people smile.”


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