The Food Revolution - part 3: Scotland's Role

265.img_assist_custom-400x266.jpgHe is berating himself for having taken on the huge commission of supplying Christmas stollen for Selfridges. The job runs contrary to his principles; his aim to keep small and special. He is, he emphasises, a retail baker, not a commercial one. Yet, he couldn't resist this temptation, and now he is working at production-line rate in the tight space of his open kitchen. "When I've got enough time this job is quite relaxing," he says. "The minute time becomes an issue the fun seems to disappear." When people suggest he set up a store in Glasgow, he resists. His existing stores - a bakery in Gullane and this Edinburgh cake shop - are more than enough.

Burkert made his first stollen at eight years old. As a child growing up in Swabia, Germany, he used to go down to the kitchen on a Sunday morning while his parents slept, and take out the cookery books and bake. The making and consuming of cake was a ritual back then. At weekends family and friends would gather and cake would be shared and judged. Standards were high, and Germans could be blunt. "What did you put in this?" they might say, with disapproval. Most often, the only sign of success was silence. "In Swabia they have this saying, If you don't moan it's praise enough." Burkert is nostalgic for that tradition. "It seems to have died completely. How many families do you know who have dinner together? It's the same with cake. All that's disappeared. Its not just in this country. In Germany too. The Germany I remember does not exist any more."

Scotland, he believes, lacks a proper modern cake culture. The cake has been one of the victims of our transition to mass-manufactured food. When he first arrived in to work in Edinburgh, as a fully trained Konditormeister, he was shocked to find that he was expected to make cakes using packet mixes. He calls this "the Great British cake of horror" and he believes it is ubiquitous.

It's easy to forget that we also had a domestic baking tradition. Burkert's business partner, Robert Linton, for instance, grew up in Lanark licking the cake mix from his mother's bowl and was left with an enduring passion for all things sweet and spongy. "Cakes. I like so many of them," he enthuses, pointing to their cabinet. "I like the plum cake and the spiced almond cake, and lemon tart of course."

The company is the result of a chance encounter between the cakeheads. Within hours of them meeting in a bar in Edinburgh, Linton, then a computer programmer, was asking why Burkert hadn't set up his own business, and by the time they parted, the idea for Falko's was virtually in the oven. Soon they were selling their cakes in the Edinburgh Farmer's Market, baking them the day before in Linton's flat. On the first day they sold out by 10.30am. Proof that even if we don't have time to bake our own cakes and bread, we still want to buy our cake and eat it.

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