My Love for Mr Kipling Cakes...

Especially at Christmas

Guest post by Shafiq Jamal

As far back as I can remember, I’ve had a fascination (some might call it an obsession) with Mr Kipling cakes.

 

I got acquainted with Britain’s bestselling cake brand over 40 years ago, as a result of my good fortune at being an airline baby.

 

I grew up in Nairobi, Kenya, one of two boys whose father worked as an accountant for Scandinavian Airlines. This meant we got to fly, albeit on standby, and see the world. And in the Kenyan education system, one typically got the months of April, August and December off school.

 

Our parents were working middle-class and did not get a lot of time off. But the challenge of keeping both my brother and I engaged was soon solved by shipping us off to London to stay with our aunt for those three respective months.

 

Early influence

 

It was on one of those trips in December 1981, that I saw my very first Mr Kipling TV commercial––complete with the company’s very famous slogan: “Mr Kipling makes exceedingly good cakes.”

 

As I scoured the Internet for information for this article, I discovered that this slogan has really stood the test of time, making its way into the consciousness of an entire nation. I’ve also learned that there is no actual Mr Kipling: he was simply a brilliant marketing invention, but that’s a story for another day.

 

I was fascinated with that advert and eagerly looked forward to testing out the slogan for myself. I didn’t have long to wait, soon accompanying my aunt on a trip to Tesco (a major UK supermarket chain) for some groceries. Reluctantly tagging along, I suddenly spotted the words “Mr Kipling” on one of the boxes. It was down what can only be described as the aisle of confectionary heaven.

 

Discovering the treats

 

I lit up: could it be true? Were my eyes deceiving me or was I actually in front of an aisle of cakes that the mythical Mr Kipling had so deliciously described on that TV commercial?

 

I rubbed my eyes and pinched myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Having confirmed that I wasn’t stuck in a reality distortion field, I now had to decide which box of tempting treats to try. I also had to convince my aunt to buy them. And there was also the issue of having to share them not only with my brother but my cousins as well.

 

I selected the Battenberg cakes. I’d never seen anything like them: a chequered sponge cake wrapped in what looked like an almond flavoured paste (I love marzipan!). Convincing my aunt wasn’t too hard, primarily because I had to share them. And, if the treats were as tasty as advertised, high demand and low supply would mean I’d forever be the most eager grocery-shopping helper around.

 

Testing the claim

 

We got home and I could hardly wait to dive in. But patience is a virtue was something I was often reminded of as a child, and so it proved on this day.

 

Dinner came and went with me wolfing down my food at a speed that would put a hot dog-eating champion to shame. Soon, though, it was time for dessert. Finally, I had the chance to open (and share) my Battenbergs.

 

I took my time, revelling in the joy of opening this little package of treasure. I slid open the box, pulled out the wrapped tray housing the five mini, delectable-looking cakes. Next, I gently opened the shrink wrap…and a waft of marzipan filled me with joy.

 

After sharing out the cakes with my brother and cousins, I finally laid my hands on one of those mini cakes. I savoured each and every bite. The moist sponge cake with interconnecting layers of sweet and slightly tart raspberry jam enrobed with a wonderful layer of almond paste lifted me to a new level. I was hooked. It had more than lived up to the advertising slogan. And from that point on, there was no going back.

 

Hooked on Kipling

 

Week after week during all those months of April, August and especially December, I would join my aunt on her grocery store visits. And each time, I’d broaden my horizons by trying a new and different Mr Kipling cake. Looking back, the only ones I didn’t fully fancy, were the ones with apple in them: I’m not a fan of apples and I only really tolerate apple pie on occasion.

 

However, Victoria slices, almond slices, bakewell tarts, French fancies and angel slices were some of the other amazing treats I discovered for the first time back then. And I’ve never forgotten a single one of them.

 

When my dad left his job in the airline, and our family eventually immigrated to Canada, I thought my connection to Mr Kipling cakes had been severed. At the time, living in Toronto, I searched far and wide but couldn’t find them anywhere.

 

A rediscovery

 

I resorted to pleading with anyone and everyone visiting Britain to bring me back a box or two (or sometimes more!) of my favourite cakes. To my surprise, a few indulged me and I would savour those little gems they brought back for me.

 

When I married and moved out to Vancouver, I resumed by search. But this time, I struck gold. A couple of mini grocery stores in the Lower Mainland carried a selection of Mr Kipling cakes, mostly around Christmas. I would buy as many of those packages as soberly possible, freezing the boxes and thawing out individual packages to satisfy my regular hankerings.

 

Friend for life

 

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my Welsh friend Brian here. We hit it off at work and one day we somehow got onto the topic of Mr Kipling. Now, whenever he visits Britain (which is almost annually, and again close to Christmas), he brings me back 15 or 20 boxes of my beloved treats, for which I’ve neither treated him to dinner nor paid him back in beer. That’s a true friend!

 

Alas, with my freezer supply now depleted, Brian, I’ll need you to travel again sometime soon. And for the rest of you out there reading this, please let me know when you might be heading to Britain. While you’re there, I certainly suggest you try a Mr Kipling cake for yourself. And when you’re in the store, if you wouldn’t mind…

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