Tuesday Taste: Caterpillar Controversy – let ‘em eat cake!

Few news stories have garnered as much public interest and sparked as much fierce debate as the recent case of the caterpillar cake copying controversy. Colin v Cuthbert. Marks and Spencer v Aldi.

Now, in a landmark ruling, the itsalawyerslife Cake Supreme Court delivers a verdict of sorts. 3 intrepid cake experts put their taste buds to work to find the tastiest of them all.

The contenders: Cecil, Curly, Clyde, Morris, Wiggles and Colin.
The criteria: moistness, chocalatiness, overall taste and visual appearance. 

Geoff : Despite having a seriously sweet tooth and weakness for baked goods, I didn’t have high hopes for the caterpillar cake challenge. My overall experience of celebration cakes is that they are generally less than the sum of their parts, often consisting of a rather sub-optimal cake hidden by a somewhat meretricious amount of icing and decoration. Add to the mix the need to cater for the palate of the average guest at a children’s birthday party, and a sugar rush requiring the services of a baby sitter is in the offing. That said, the caterpillar cake challenge was excellent fun, giving me an opportunity to meet Mat Brunning and Rachel Chan virtually for the first time, have a hilariously good conversation with them over tea and “cake” and benefit from Rachel’s superlative organisational and logistical skills. For what it’s worth, my overall take on the cakes we tasted was that they fell into two camps: the overwhelmingly sweet and artificial-tasting ones with an unpleasant sponge and/or too much chocolate filling; and the ones which while dangerously sweet, tasted at least as though they had been made with relatively natural ingredients. My least favourite by far was Cecil, who I found dry and quite difficult to get down despite copious amounts of chocolate filling and a mug of tea. My personal favourite was Curly, who I found pleasantly un-sweet, well-balanced and moist by comparison with the others but whose frightening orange face caused him to fall down badly on visual appeal. That said, Colin, as a good all-rounder with the cutest little pink tongue, was a worthy winner. I finished the challenge feeling slightly hysterical with a headache, a raging thirst and the beginnings of a sugar sweat and don’t plan to eat another slice of caterpillar cake for the foreseeable future.

Rachel: When they say, ‘take one for the team’, they don’t expect you to take the whole team.  But I did.  A whole team of 5-a-side caterpillars plus one reserve.  Mat was the instigator, the one who incited this crime against caterpillar cakes; Geoff as Chair was the leader and I was the one who aided and abetted the process with help from Nick who was our awesome admin/scorekeeper. The whole thing was run like a military operation; it had to be.  The integrity of the blind testing was crucial – our reputations were on the line. 

So you’ve seen the results.  You’ve read what Geoff and Mat have had to say.  Now, this is my exclusive take on these Caterpillar Cake Trials. Would I serve it at one of my kids’ birthday parties? (of course ignoring the fact they have a godmother extraordinaire who caters for all their birthday cake needs until they are 18)?  No.  Reasons (other than I’d get complaints from parents that their children are bouncing off the walls from too much sugar)?  
These cakes were a blooming nightmare to cut.  My dining table looked like chocolate caterpillar carcass hell.  If I have a tonne of kids waiting for their party bags, parents impatient to go, I do not want to be hacking the cake with a saw, trying to chop through Smarties and whatever the supermarkets want to put in the way of an easy cut.  The chocolate shells varied in thickness and it was near impossible to create slices of a consistent thickness.  There was no way that some of those cakes would serve 12, 15 etc. even if you sliced the cake lengthways.

So, supermarkets, if you are reading this and want to actually sell these cakes, make them easier to cut.

Massive thanks to Geoff, Mat and Nick – I’ve really enjoyed meeting them virtually (and Nick in person), their company and our shared sugar high!  Until our next taste test then…

Matt: It’s been a while since I’ve had an evening like this – and I only have myself to blame!  Quite what caterpillar cake tasting has to do with being a PI lawyer, I’ve yet to work out fully; but anyway, that’s how it turned out.

There’s long been some judicial competition for the best first sentence, or first paragraph, of a judgment; heightened since Gordon Exall started his blog.  Colin the Caterpillar v. Cuthbert the Caterpillar was crying out for attention.  Lawyers everywhere were gripped (ok, maybe only for a weekend – but by then the damage was done).  

Twitter can be a grim place, and I’ve nearly left it a number of times.  But, if you find the right people, then it can be really good.  And who better than people living with the same struggles you are; at least, the work struggles?  As, I think, was obvious last night, I’m not a baker (although my oldest daughter is really good at it); but I do appreciate those who are, and especially those who can use language well to describe what they’ve done or why they like something.  I can at least try hard at the latter.  But Geoff and Rachel have each helped make lockdown more fun than otherwise it would have been and each picked up the gauntlet that I threw lazily down in their general direction; so it only seemed fair to join them.

Now, one thing that tends to be a common characteristic in lawyers is the temptation to do something – anything – to excess; to overachieve.  I think we managed that in the caterpillar cake tasting.  
Rachel ran a whole family effort to ensure that we each had slices of each cake, numbered but otherwise unidentifiable: a proper blind tasting!  Mine were delivered by Royal Mail, Geoff’s by hand but none were any bit affected by their journey.  

We had discussions about how to score it: what categories, how many points, etc.  There we sat, numbers and spreadsheets at the go.  And we ate – tasted – by zoom.  

I’ve not yet met Geoff or Rachel in the flesh (although Rachel is where I did pupillage a while back) and I’ve never done a chocolate cake tasting before either, but Twitter (and cakes) has helped me “meet” them.  And my life is richer for it (unlike some of the cakes)…

THE WINNER: Colin, the Caterpillar from M&S! He was consistently ranked first or second in every category by every judge and swept the board on visual appeal.