Monday, 26 August 2013

Too Sweet by Sarah James

i) expectations                                                

My mother is rolling out icing: her fondant
pressed evenly against a wooden board.
For years, her fingers have been flecked
with white as she cuts and shapes petal
after petal, then wet-sticks these small
thumb-curved ovals together with a tight
pinch at the bottom until this flower,
her work of art, fills the kitchen, spills
out the doorway, through the hall, lounge,
stairs… She places this heavy gift in my hands.                    

ii) ingredients

Dear Mum, let memory repeat it:

eggs, flour, sugar, butter…
After the mixing, the baking.
After the baking, the white icing.

Alternatives in almond essence,
peppermint or vanilla. Add brandy,
sultanas, cherries, peel, any dried fruit.         
Easy on the grated zest and spice.

Always before the icing, the making.
Before the making, eggs breaking.
Before the breaking, raw weighing.

Be sure to first calibrate your scales.                         

iii) in time

Years later now, birthday barbie
is still in her ballgown of roses.

Shelved in my Mum’s cabinet,
alongside a set of silver spoons,

Nan’s best porcelain and memories
unwrapped from crumpled newspaper.

Her pudding-bowled dress has kept
its shape, blossoms from trim waist.

But her plastic arms, dried brittle,
have cracked at the wrists, white

petals break from her skirt.
Powdered sugar layers as dust.

Sarah is a poor baker but an enthusiastic cake and bread taster! Although the chances of her successfully mastering icing are probably lower than her ice-skating a figure-of-eight, she still lives in faint hope. Her first poetry collection Into the Yell (Circaidy Gregory Press, 2010) won third prize in the International Rubery Book Awards 2011 and her most recent collection Be[yond] is published by Knives, Forks and Spoons Press. Sarah's website is at

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Caramel by John McCullough

Weigh, measure, dissolve. Learn the dialects
of sugar. Make sweets hard, harder,
hardest. Wring colours—red from cochineal,
green from scalded beet leaves. Inhabit six degrees
of boiling: thread, pearled, blown, feathered,
cracked, caramel. Elevate yourself
to the baron’s house―a carved orange at the apex
of a pyramid of salvers. Loathe the cost
of ingredients. Mr Platt the footman cannot
be trusted. Ginger is delivered to a secret door,
to Miss Crosby’s hands. Use your tongue
to gauge success. Craft a Battenberg house
just for servants, for two. Find small, firm tears
naturally in cane. Keep finding them
for years. Detect a bad taste instead.
Live there but not for long, not for too long clearly.
Plan a wedding centrepiece. Glass fountains,
tulips cut with the point of a knife. Hover
at the work surface, ready and not ready,
staggering, clutching your chest. Remember it.
Remember everything these hands have done
and not done while you stand there
and gasp. Weigh, measure, dissolve.

John McCullough’s first collection of poems The Frost Fairs (Salt) won the Polari First Book Prize for 2012. It was a Book of the Year for both The Independent and The Poetry School, and a summer read for The Observer. He lives in Hove, and teaches creative writing for the Open University and New Writing South.

John says this poem was inspired by the September 18 episode on puddings last year, which saw Sue Perkins finding out about cabinet puddings and the showstopper cakes made by confectioners who actually lived in nobles’ houses.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Get ready...

Rum babas at the ready everyone. The Great British Bake Off is back on our screens on 20 Aug, and the Great British Bard Off pop-up poetry shop will soon be opening for business once more. We've got deliciousness, rhythm and some surprises in store... and to take part in the fun, send your poems to!

Anything inspired by baking or by the marvellous TV series itself is welcome. And, at the end of the series, we'll be crowning our very own Star Baker, a high honour awarded to the person whose poem we like the best (and we'll also be awarding prizes for the best Showstopper, Signature Bake and Technical Challenge). There is no prize but glory, and the ability to claim yourself as an expert in both baking and poetry. Last year's winner was Lavinia Singer.

As a reminder, we are in no way affiliated with the BBC, Love Productions or the Great British Bake Off. We are just fans of the show, of baking and of poetry. Ready? GET BAKING!