If the old clichés are to be believed, the fashion industry is populated by people who exist solely on champagne, cigarettes and the sort of spiritual nourishment only proximity to classic Chanel and couture gowns can provide. But the latest lockdown food craze suggests the style set has acquired something of a sweet tooth. The Instagram crowd is enjoying a spring fling with ’80s cakes: unabashedly retro bakes decorated with concentric rows of whipped pastel frosting, old-fashioned curlicue text and glacé cherries, and all in a palette worthy of Marie Antoinette.

An ornate April’s Baker birthday cake for Susie Cave, the designer behind The Vampire’s Wife. 

If the rustic sourdough loaves that were trending in the first lockdown were the style equivalent of a sensible sandal, then these fun, fantasy cakes are an edible answer to the clouds of pastel tulle Molly Goddard routinely sends down her runway. “People are looking for a slice of opulence in their lives,” is how Danielle Payne, the self-taught baker behind Noonchi, explains the exploding popularity of kitschy cakes. “We can’t see our loved ones or party with our friends, or celebrate things the way we used to, but we can order a decadent sweet treat to be delivered to our door.”

An eye-catching design from April’s Baker. 

Famous fans who’ve done just that include Susie and Nick Cave, the British designer behind The Vampire’s Wife and her revered musician husband. April’s Baker whipped up vintage-inspired birthday cakes for the couple and their son, Earl. “I took inspiration from The Vampire’s Wife’s beautiful, intricate designs when creating their cakes,” says Roxy Mankoo, who trained at London’s Le Cordon Bleu cookery school and now runs April’s Baker with her sister, Corinne. “A lot of the piping on our cakes reflects embroidery, patterns and prints, as well as statement colours, whether they are pastels or bold shades.”

H&M also turned to April’s Baker for retro confections to celebrate the launch of its equally delectable Simone Rocha collaboration, and Roxy has even whipped up a suitably kawaii birthday cake for the Japanese icon Hello Kitty in the past. “That was really exciting to work on,” she says. “Especially as it reminded us of happy memories from when we were young.”

It’s not the first time fashion brands have been swept up in the sugar rush. Sarah Hardy, the food stylist behind Hebe Konditori, studied sculpture before she swapped a mallet and chisel for a wooden spoon and a piping bag. When her frilly cakes in pretty macaron shades landed her in the pages of British Vogue as a baker to know for cool brides-to-be, the likes of Burberry and Rixo soon came knocking.

The Mankoo sisters echo Payne’s thoughts on what’s fuelling the current demand for their nostalgic creations. “[With] the difficulties that we have all faced this past year, the need to see and feel inspired by creativity and beauty is greater than ever before,” says Roxy. “So, cakes aren’t just cakes – they need to be detailed, charming, whipped-up creations that make up for the absence of all the other exciting factors that would usually make a celebration. I’ve even had people message me saying that looking at pictures of our cakes has had anxiety-reducing effects – simply looking at smooth icing and rows of piping can be very satisfying… even therapeutic.”

The “Buffy”, self-taught baker Danielle Payne’s bespoke coffin-shaped cake. 

Leeds-based Payne, who gets inspiration from her collection of vintage Wilton cookbooks and the “incredible” South Korean bakers she follows on Instagram (see @cherry.oo.cherry, @chaeeeri, and @juujuucake, for a taste), conjures pale yellow buttercream towers piped with baby-pink icing and topped with Beauty & the Beast candelabras; crescent-moon shaped chocolate cakes anointed with row upon row of pink and cream swirls; and even bespoke coffin cakes (the brilliantly named “Buffy”). But it’s her small bakes that have been her most popular to date, as customers seek to add a touch of the OTT to their otherwise unavoidably low-key celebrations. “They suit the current climate of being stuck indoors, unable to celebrate with loved ones,” points out Payne.

Some customers have told the Mankoo sisters the smooth rows of icing on their cakes has a therapeutic effect.

The nation’s talented baking community can expect to be even busier now that social restrictions are finally starting to ease. Because cakes this extravagant belong, if not on Connie Corleone’s wedding buffet, then at least at an actual party. And we’re all overdue one of those. 

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