Thursday, 26 July 2007

Indo-European language family tree

Fruit cake, lawn of green dessicated coconut, tree of gingerbread, covered in leaves of rice-paper painted with green food colouring and stuck on with icing. Totally edible, apart from the labels hung on each branch.

This was the cake that really began my Oxford academic baking career, back in the autumn of 2006. It was my friend Matt's turn to take a cake to the Philologists' lunch, and he pleaded for help - I responded that I would only bake for him if it was a challenge. It was. The moment we moved from a two-dimensional to a three-dimensional concept was significant, and caused us rather a lot of pain and many many hours of work. More pain ensued the following morning when I discovered that the tree had collapsed and had to be re-baked! But it was worth it.

Further significance can be read from the length and height of each of the branches, reflecting Matt's particular language preferences, and as an attempt to undermine all those Classicists...

Sacred Syllable

Another joint project with Matt, for Mike's birthday, March 2007. The carving of cake has become one of my most treasured skills. And I've never baked a cake that embodied the cosmos before.

Devanagari gingerbread

I first made Devanagari Gingerbread in the autumn of 2004 in Cardiff, though this batch was for the last Sanskrit class of the 2005/6 academic year in Oxford. It meant I didn't have time to prepare any of the text, though nobody seemed to mind much. I am particularly proud of the 'ksh'.

Tocharian Caravan Permit

For the Philologists' lunch, Hilary term (spring term to you and me) 2007. A very straightforward chocolate cake, lovingly painted in Brahmi script by Matt. Due to an unfortunate mix-up this cake led to us running through the streets of Oxford five minutes after the lunch had begun, shouting "Aaaaaagh! There's a cake locked in the Boden Professor's office!!"

Friday, 22 June 2007

Shiva sutras

The Shiva-sutras are kind of a code-breaker for Panini's Sanskrit grammar (written probably around the 5th century BCE). Through 14 sutras - each consisting of a collection of phonemes and a code letter - it is possible to refer to any morphologically (is that a word?) significant selection of the Sanskrit alphabet through a two-letter code, thus making the grammatical rules that follow more concise and more silly-sounding. If you want a better explanation than that, go ask Wikipedia! As you can see, the alphabet is painted onto the cake surface, whereas the code-letters are vertical chocolate pieces (painted with white chocolate to make an easier writing surface). Shiva's drum, from which the sutras were supposed to have emanated, is in the centre. This was another team effort with Matt (who indeed did all the writing) this time as an exam- congratulations cake for our favourite Shiva-sutra-reciter: Victor.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Linguistic analysis

I wanted to start with my first ever academic cake - the amazing mandala of sponge cake and marzipan that me and Hannah created in 2003 - but I am having scanner issues. So here is this June's creation of the six levels of linguistic analysis represented through concentric circles - a joint project with Matt for the Philologists' lunch here in Oxford. Symbolism, from the centre out: phonetics (plain sponge), phonology (choc chip plain sponge), morphology (choc choc sponge), syntax (ginger parkin), semantics (carrot cake) and pragmatics (fruit cake). If you want to know the academic justifications for each flavour you will have to ask Matt. Please note (and appreciate) that when completed, there was no indication that there were different types of cake within, so when dished up it led to cries of 'ooh - it's got internal structure!'. Note also, we had to bake six cakes in order to make one cake, so there were five cakes leftover...

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Showing off our cakes

It is becoming increasingly difficult to describe the amazing cakes that have been created in the House of Eternity, so I have been told that it is about time I embraced all this new-fangled technology and got a blog, in order to share my photos of the baking-creations. I still refuse to go on facebook though, just so you know.