Before the Brits were wowing us with their televised competition style bakes, one baker across the pond was tackling a technical challenge all his own. Meet Jack Bryant, the subject of this deliciously vintage video from 1959.
British Pathé is a veritable goldmine for content from the past. The company produced newsreels and documentaries for a better part of the 20th century and are responsible for gifting us with gems such as this video from inside a globe making factory. In 2009, their entire archive was made publicly available on YouTube.
It was here that I stumbled upon this video of Mr. Bryant, cake decorating extraordinaire. Working out of a bakery in Reading, Bryant, clad in a lab coat, hunches over delicately creamed cakes, pastry bag in hand. A narrator, whose voice feels like a caricature of what a narrator’s voice in the 50s should sound like, details the valiant act of “icing cakes in the grand manner,” as Bryant emblazons a small cake with a surprisingly realistic rendering of a kangaroo. In a moment of inspired dedication, he even climbs on top of scaffolding to work on a giant cake from above, like a reversed Michelangelo with sugar in place of paint. While his cake skills may pale in comparison to the creations of today’s master cake makers, his precision and devotion to small swipes and pipes of icing are enchanting.
I'm particularly wowed by his perfect penmanship—all while hovering, suspended, above a cake the size a small bed: He pipes out the words 60th Anniversary on the dessert's surface and leans back to admire his handiwork. I can't imagine he isn't pleased with what he sees.
Are you a fan of baking videos? Link us to some of your favorites in the comments section.
Valerio is a freelance food writer, editor, researcher and cook. He grew up in his parent's Italian restaurants covered in pizza flour and drinking a Shirley Temple a day. Since, he's worked as a cheesemonger in New York City and a paella instructor in Barcelona. He now lives in Berlin, Germany where he's most likely to be found eating shawarma.
See what other Food52 readers are saying.