7 Years of Cakes

Musings on the Gallery by Art Director Jane

April 16th, 2020

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Seven years ago I thought if would be ‘nice’ if we could offer customers a cup of tea/coffee and a bit of cake. So we did. We brought in or were donated old tea and coffee services (thank you Mel Davies); bought some cafetieres from wherever I happened to be shopping, and nipped down the road to the shop that sells everything to get some baby teapots. We found some old tables in the mill; cleaned and hoovered them (best way of removing crumbs from the gaps between the planks) and decorated them with a flower or a plant. 

So I made some melting moments (from a 1950s Be-Ro cookery book that takes me straight back to my childhood. my Mum cooked from this, and so did my mother–in-law! It was her book and yes I still use it! A lemon drizzle cake, (adapted from a weight watchers recipe) and a chocolate and date cake with sticky toffee top (my version of one our studio holder Clare Lane baked for me when we were life planning together pre Sunny Bank Mills; Clare about teaching (she now lectures at Leeds Arts University) and me about running a space promoting the work of local artists and makers. Look how that turned out! 

Back to cakes – it was very pop up and to some extent it still is. But I found myself making cakes before work two or three times a week and we had a small but steady stream of customers.  

 Seven years on, open six days a week (usually!) 

  • Everything is still homemade; often by me. Should I, in my exalted position as arts director still be making cakes? Don’t I have a gallery to run, exhibitions to programme and curate; creative workshops and events to manage?  Yes of course I do but baking is an opportunity to let my mind drift over and about the “day job”, time to breathe and keeps me grounded. Anyway no one makes that chocolate and date cake quite as well as I do. 
  • Of course I am not the only one who can make a mean Victoria sandwich so I have help. It turns out that Alice’s mum, Victoria and William’s wife, Sarah, are both incredible bakers with their own specialties; carrot cake, hazelnut and pear and banana bread to name a few. And Sonia (still our new assistant one year on) makes a mean shortbread. Alice doesn’t bake. She cooks. and eats the cakes we bake. 
  • We still don’t do cappuccinos or lattes (we aren’t that sophisticated!)
  • Nor do we do sandwiches. Once upon a time we thought it would be fun to make proper sandwiches (the ones without crusts that your granny makes: egg + cress, smoked salmon, cucumber) for an afternoon tea event that might have involved proper dancing (it did). Never again; too time consuming, too messy etc., etc.; stick with the meringues. And learning to waltz when full of bread is a no no.  Want a sandwich/lunch – I refer you all to the Mill Kitchen or Grumpy’s who do a great job so we don’t have to!
  • We do make our own nibbles for exhibition previews and events, although I have abandoned sausage rolls (which relied on a daughter/husband/passing stranger to put in oven and then bring in) in favour of homemade pates and dips, cheese and, and now and again, a broccoli + Stilton quiche.  

And as a team we brew mulled wine and make Christmas cake and mince pies for Farsley community Light Night. I know that visitors to these events come to see the art really …  

  • Our “kitchen” now includes a dishwasher, (so now I empty that in the morning rather than the drying rack) which makes us feel very sophisticated even if our ancient china doesn’t always stand up to its machinations!

So many things have changed but much stays the same; it is still difficult to beat a cup of Yorkshire tea and a slice of cake in the tranquility of the Gallery so why would we want to! If it ain’t broke…


16 April 2020 

 P.S. Has anyone noticed how young the baker on the front of the be-ro book is?! 

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