Lucy Charles on how her travels around Asia inspired a whole new journey: from cake-lover to published author
Words: Lucy Charles
Images: David Griffen
It’s been quite a journey, in all senses of the word. For some years I’ve been preoccupied with cake. Hugely satisfying to eat and, for me, equally as therapeutic to make. Baking can provide an escape from everything else while you carefully weigh out ingredients and become mesmerised by swirls of light, fluffy mixture. At least, on a good day.
Of course during the course of the past couple of years, some days have been less than relaxing and on those fifth attempts to master a recipe I really just wanted to throw the bowl of mixture across the room! But, I’ve come out the other side and my love endures.
The writing of my book, Cakeography, stemmed from a three-month, food fuelled, exploration of southeast Asia and Australia. Holidays had long been governed by seeking out good food, but this time I was on my own and free to seek out local favourites and marvel at foreign markets to my heart’s content, without holding anyone else up—completely liberating. Returning to the UK, feeling little more than an overwhelming urge to be back in unknown lands, a poignant conversation with my brother convinced me that writing this book was the next step.
Book of ideas
Hours spent on various modes of transport allowed me time to create a sketch book of ideas while trawling through the hundreds of food photos I’d taken, imagining how I could turn them all into cake! I don’t even know why I was doing that at the time—the idea of writing a book was not present. Really thinking about it though, this is something I’ve longed to do most of my adult life.
After spending a few weeks transferring my ideas into recipes, it was time to create, test and test again. I treated each day like a working day and invariably had a cake in the oven by 8:30am. Some days were great—when I hit the jackpot on the first bake or only a slight tweak was needed. Others were more challenging: when you lift a loaf out of the oven and someone says “the builders up the road could use it to build a wall”, it is not a good day at the office.
I enlisted the help of friends and family to test every recipe and when I was completely satisfied I could move into the world of food photography—a new realm and one full of excitement. I learned a huge amount working collaboratively on this process with David Griffen and am really proud of what we achieved—all 70 recipes photographed in five days.
I thought by this stage that the hard work was done. I was wrong. The year that followed was the most challenging of all—not having the benefit of publisher expertise to draw on, I experienced countless learning curves; a complete novice entering unknown territory at every turn. I can’t even begin to quantify the hours spent on proof-reading. But, I feel like I’ve learned a new language and acquired so many new skills.
I appreciate the importance of a clear typeface and enough white space on a page. I know what end papers and head and tail bands are. I know the price of foiling and the names of various cover finishes. It’s been tricky at times but I wouldn’t change a thing. Holding the book in its completed form makes it all worth it.
Would I do it all again? Let’s see….