Inspiration behind The Cake Shop in the Garden
I think if I ever gave up writing, my dream job would be to run a café. And one as perfect as Faye’s Cakes in my new book, The Cake Shop in the Garden, would be my idea of heaven. I’ve been baking since I was about twelve when my Nana used to teach me while she was looking after me in the school holidays. I’m not a fancy baker, just your bog standard sponges, pies and fruit cakes suit me fine. I like to spend hours in the kitchen as a way of relaxing, but find anything too complicated a bit stressful. I’m addicted to The Great British Bake-Off and Masterchef and marvel at the skills and creativity of the contestants. They’re braver men than me!
The limits of my ability were tested last year when I made my stepson’s wedding cake. I did a two-tier cutting cake and a hundred and fifty cupcakes. They were made with a lot of love and just as many swear words! I can understand now why wedding cakes are so very expensive. I’ll swear my hair turned grey with simply getting it to the venue in one piece. It was my first and last wedding cake. If Lovely Kev and I ever get married, someone else will be making mine!
People often ask me where I get my ideas from and I was inspired to write this particular book on my first narrowboat holiday in England with my friend, Sue. We met so many funny and mad characters on our meandering journey along the Grand Union canal from London’s, Paddington Basin to Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire that I couldn’t stop myself from reaching for my notepad when I was supposed to be chilling out.
I love the waterways in Britain. We’re so lucky to have this legacy of our industrial heritage to put to good use for leisure purposes now. En route we stopped at some lovely pubs and cafés by the waterside, sitting in the sunshine with a glass of wine to hand. Bliss.
So what could be more idyllic than combining the two? For me, nothing. For my main character, Faye, it becomes a labour of love as she has to fit it around looking after her invalid mother, a selfish sister and a partner who’s she’s not sure that she loves anymore. So she can work from home, she sets up her small cafe in the garden and sells cakes and homemade jams and lemonade from her canal boat The Maid of Merryweather – a boat very much in need of restoration. Her life is shaken up by the arrival of the gorgeous Danny Wilde, who drifts in on his narrowboat and throws Faye’s rather humdrum existence into a flat spin.
So, now I’m not only a keen cake baker, but I’m a keen narrow boater too! Last year we took another leg of the Grand Union canal from Leighton Buzzard to Market Harborough which was fabulous. You see the countryside from a completely different angle. It’s lovely to lie in your bed and see a swan swimming by your window. This year we’re heading further north on the Worcester and Birmingham canal from Stourport to the beautiful town of Warwick. I’m hoping that, on our route, we’ll find somewhere as lovely as The Cake Shop in the Garden to stop and sample the wares.
Carole Matthews is a best-selling Sunday Times author who has written numerous best-sellers, including her latest book, The Cake Shop in the Garden which is out now.