Gerhard Jenne relives with delight the moment his Curly Whirly Cake suddenly came under the Eurovision spotlight.
Back in 1994 I was challenged to create a lighter chocolate cake by one of our customers. Until then we had a gorgeous dark chocolate cake on our list, filled with a rich truffle ganache.
My solution was to combine the sponges with a real vanilla bean, cream cheese frosting. It turned out to be a winning combination. It was reminiscent of mouth-watering vanilla ice-cream that, at first glance, looked like an ordinary vanilla sponge. However, once cut, it revealed its chocolatey inside. To avoid confusion we decided to give the cake a chocolate decoration.
Around that time we were going through a Gustav Klimt-inspired period with our wedding cakes. Klimt’s ‘The Kiss’ is full of decorative elements, such as gold leaf, whirls and waves. After a few trials we decided to apply a ganache based curly whirly pattern to the vanilla frosting, much like Klimt’s ‘Tree of Life’ painting, and since then it has been the Curly Whirly Cake.
But it has taken 20 years for it to reach super-stardom. Last week it debuted as the iconic cover star of my new book and it became an unexpected TV sensation.
To recap, last Saturday we came home and settled on the sofa just as France was unleashing a jumpy Jedward-style chanson (or not) at the Eurovision Song Contest 2014. We were thrilled we had not missed the UK’s entry, Molly Smitten-Downes, who sang last. Then followed the phone voting, during which the programmers added some entertainment and a tour of the green room, laced with short interviews.
The interviewer started talking to various acts, then went over to Molly and probed her on her love for baking, but suggested that it was not one of her own cakes she loved most.
Molly was baffled and so was I, especially at what came next. The interviewer said she knew her favourite cake was a Curly Whirly Cake from her local baker’s in Borough Market. At this point my ears really pricked up - actually I went into meltdown! She told Molly that they had gone to London and got her the very cake (I still get goose bumps as I type). And there it was, thrust in Molly’s lap, 10 inches of chocolate vanilla wonderment embellished with the yummiest of curls and 180 million people watching! It did not stop there. A discussion ensued as to who was going to get a slice of the action, and Molly was keen to point out it was all for her: “I’m having none of that, this cake is for me!” she exclaimed.
Meanwhile, I was fumbling for the phone – “We must tweet, Facebook, message, email,” I screamed. Pardon me, but this kind of thing does not happen every day. Of course, I had already been beaten to it; Nigella Lawson gave us a shout out and had correctly identified the creator and tweeted “Congrats @konditorandcook” to her 680,000 followers.
The Twitter-sphere went into overdrive. Ex-staff from various Eurolands whatsapp-ed with excitement. Later we found our website had six times more traffic than usual. On Monday morning many of our regular customers were beaming with delight, as they had seen it or been alerted to it by friends with whom they had shared our cake. As much as we strive to create exciting marketing opportunities, once in a while a surprise comes along that makes it all worthwhile. Long live the Curly Whirly Cake!