Who the flip is Fiona Cairns? Good question and well done for asking it. I too was unaware of the good lady until last summer, when ITV aired a show on a Sunday afternoon called The Home of Fabulous Cakes. It was incredibly old fashioned, sensationally slow moving and truly brilliant, but I say that as someone with an incredibly high tolerance level for food TV. In fact I didn’t think I had a tolerance level that could be reached, but then I saw Bitchin Kitchen on the food network and proved myself wrong. If you haven’t seen it watch this and you’ll understand.
Anyway – back to Fiona, she is everything you’d expect from a lady hosting a Sunday afternoon baking show. She is rather posh and very proper. She lives in a cottage in the country. She is not afraid to use hairspray. The stockists of her cakes could be lifted from a Debrett’s guide to grocery shopping. Here is a quote from her website which should give you some idea “Our first order was for the Conran shop, the rest is history! A barn was converted into a bakery in Fiona and Kishore’s garden, where a small team of bakers and decorators met orders from Harrods, Selfridges and Fortnum and Mason.”. These days her stockists have filtered down a bit and you can find her cakes in Waitrose – I don’t imagine we’ll see her sink any lower than that though, so Morrison’s should just forget it. The one remaining and important fact about Fiona Cairns is that she made Kate and Wills wedding cake. I imagine it was this coup that got her a TV show.
And so following on from the royal theme Fiona has made some fairy cakes that are on sale in Waitrose to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the coronation of dear Betty Windsor. One cake has the union flag on it and the other has a teapot – all very British and also a nod to Fiona’s signature cake – a 3d teapot. They look very pretty in their box and are described as “Delicately light and fancy Fairy Cakes”. I took them out of the box and the union flag cake left a sticky brown smear behind – I dread to think what the queen would make of it if she had seen that. I however, being a lowly subject, remain undeterred by brown smears and get stuck in.
It is with great sadness that I have to report these are not cakes fit for royalty. The icing is far too thick and cumbersome and a look at the label tells me that the cake is 42% icing and 55% cake – a ratio that should never be allowed. The remaining 3% is made up of things like sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate, humectant, tragacanth, shellac and dried free range egg albumen, all ingredients you’d find in a typical home bakers store cupboard. The main issue I have with all those crazy ingredients is that they fail to make the cake taste nice. The best way I can think of to describe the flavour is like the smell of newly printed leaflets – a smell I adore, but a cake flavour I’m less keen on. The cakes taste like the opposite of what Fiona Cairns branding is selling, less home made in a cottage ready for Harrods, more mass produced in a factory ready for poundland.
Fiona I’m sure your cake for Kate and Wills wedding worked out a treat, I’m also sure you spared them polyglycerol esters of fatty acids, but I wish you’d spared me too.
Fiona Cairn’s Coronation Fairy Cakes £2.50 for 2