[rock buns, recipe in Vintage Cakes]
I think the market for cake may have peaked. Like overbeaten egg whites and cream, it seems to have slumped recently. I have noticed collapsed cake businesses in sadly empty premises in several provincial towns, reflecting the reality that it's very hard to make cake pay.
Nevertheless, I have to admit I'm not sorry that the cupcake craze is now waning as I'm not fond of the word or the confection, the way the cake has become a caricature of itself, and the fact that all too often it is looked at and exclaimed over rather than eaten. Give me a fairy cake instead (or 'fairy bun' as I have always said) or, even better, anything that puts taste and texture before style and appearance.
It's ironic after such a cake-peak that it's becoming more difficut to get nice, fresh cake when eating out. Too many places (museums, galleries, cafes, hotels) source a wide range of cakes in order to join in the cake fun. But these turn out to be made by large industrial-style producers who are more concerned about price, profit margins, longevity and looks than ingredients, quality and authenticity. Their cakes look tired, bland and dull, and taste the same. Even the big names and caterers who made such an impression a short while ago would do well to do some random sampling in their concessions as there are some shockingly miserable and stale baked goods on sale at shockingly high prices. There are some exceptions (most recently the London Review Bookshop), but I don't think it will be too long before we are back to Kit-Kats and plastic-wrapped biscuits with our cups of tea - they are are simply safer, longer lasting, easier to store, and cheaper.
However, not all cake is sunk just yet; if we want decent treats, we can always go back to baking at home and producing good, simple, unshowy cakes made with fine ingredients. It seems I'm not the only one to reach this conclusion - by pure coincidence, just as I was rubbing the butter into the flour to make rock buns, this came onto Radio 4 and confirmed all I was thinking. (I also liked the Raymond Chandler reporting style and the classic quote about tarantulas and angel cake.)