When we were chatting to Deslyn, we found out that her baking skills are world renowned!
Deslyn learned to bake in Jamaica when she was in her early 20's - she started helping out in a bakery in her District and was taught all the basics of how to make a wonderful cake, including how to cream the butter and sugar together properly, so no sugar grains were left, in a large silver bucket.
Deslyn then moved to London, where she continued worked as a baker in schools. But her flare for design came out when she baked cakes for friends, family and colleagues. Indeed, the biggest cake she ever made was a whopping 16-tiers!
Famous for her fruit cakes - which is also her favourite cake - she has some top tips for any aspiring bakers out there.
First, you have to “steam” the fruit in wine (Deslyn told us when moving to London she started using sherry) with a little bit of rum. For the fruit, you can use any sort of mixed fruit pack from a supermarket - currants, sultanas, raisins, then add lemon peel, and sometimes a bit of cherry. This needs to be soaked for at least a day.
"This is much better than the English way, when you just put dry fruit in!"
Secondly, you need to make sure there's not too much icing and marzipan - just a thin layer of each! Too much will make the cake too sweet.
Thirdly, in Jamaica she always used strawberry jam to stick the marzipan to the cake, but since moving to London she now uses apricot jam - in order to make the jam easier to use, mix some of the wine (or sherry) and heat it through for a minute so it's easy to spread.
Fourthly, if you are going to create any sugar decorations - including flowers - don't use too much water! This is key. Otherwise it'll cause the flowers to collapse. When bending the petals into a foundation, you just want a dab of water on each finger.
Unfortunately, Deslyn no longer has her cake recipes as they were lost when she moved flats 10 years ago - but her granddaughter has now taken over from Deslyn, and is leading on the family tradition of baking wonderful cakes, though she still needs Deslyn's help making the tricky sugar flowers.
Deslyn is very proud that her cake's have travelled across the world - including Ireland, China, and Canada. Her cakes were so popular, people used to order them, then carry them back on the plane to enjoy at a family birthday, wedding, or christening. Deslyn used to love receiving the letters from people who had enjoyed them from so many different places.
Deslyn is very proud of her baking history and the many wonderful cakes she's made. And we know she would be delighted to see you cake creations as well!
Feeling inspired? Why not host a bake sale in aid of North London Cares. From Monday 15th April to Sunday 21st April, we’re inviting to grab your spoons, spatulas and scales and join us for Cake for your Community to help us raise money to bring more neighbours like Deslyn and Lea together to share time this spring.
Posted by Victoria Buckle on Tuesday 12th March 2019
Victoria is North London Cares' Development Coordinator