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BEVIS HILLIER

Let Them Eat Art : Two Former British Police Officers Bake L.A.'s Best Novelty Cakes

July 12, 1987|Bevis Hillier

The "custom cakes" made by Lynn Daykin are so elaborate that she works from a "blueprint" designed by her husband, John. "I call myself the technical adviser," John Daykin says. One cake represents a teen-age girl's bedroom, littered with her clothes, records and magazines. Another is a miniature effigy of a lady in a bath. The least complex model is a cake that looks like a large hamburger. Some of the cakes take Lynn three days to fashion. Prices range from $50 to $750.

"Most American cakes," says John Daykin (both the Daykins were born in England), "are simply cakes upon which people paint a design with the icing. You see them in shop windows. A picture is drawn in the gooey icing on the top, and the cake is personalized with a message. But the cakes that Lynn makes are different, because she tries to make a cake into a sculpture. She molds the figures in marzipan (almond paste). Each cake is a model, a replica--not merely a flat cake with a picture on it. The lady-in-the-bath cake is a lady in a bath; it's not a flat cake with a picture of a lady in her bath."

Lynn Daykin adds: "Shop cakes often have plastic decorations. If you bought something for a sports fan's birthday, it would have a plastic football--whereas our football would be edible."

The only inedible thing that Lynn has ever put on a cake was the basket on a giant cake made to celebrate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's 40th birthday in April; however, Abdul-Jabbar's goggles were made of transparent toffee. Lynn represented "the big fella' " (as the cake inscription called him) shooting his skyhook. The cake, for 200 people, was delivered on a 3x5-foot board.

Also for birthdays, Lynn Daykin makes a "bouquet cake," shaped like a bunch of gift-wrapped roses. Another birthday cake looks like a pink, heart-shaped chocolate box. It is topped by a selection of real candies and is decorated with small roses and a ribbon--all edible.

To celebrate the birth of a baby, you could order a cake in the form of a blue or pink crib. Or, if you have a friend who is sick, you might send Lynn's "Get Well" cake depicting a patient in a hospital bed, with candy bandages, temperature chart and thermometer.

One customer who had a male friend in the hospital asked Lynn to make a "Get Well" cake with an edible nude nurse on the bed. Later, Lynn asked whether the cake had been a success. "Sure," the customer said. "The nuns were thrilled. They said: 'Hey, we must take this to the Mother Superior.' She laughed, too." Lynn had not been told that the cake was going to a Roman Catholic hospital where all the nurses were nuns.

The Daykins were both born in Barnsley, Yorkshire, England. Her father was a coal miner; his, a building contractor. John Daykin had been married before and had in fact been introduced to Lynn by his then mother-in-law. Neither John's nor Lynn's career record would seem to lead inexorably to novelty cake making. He was a Yorkshire police officer, a salesman, a milkman, a waiter in an Italian restaurant, and an undertaker.

Lynn also was a police officer for a time, but in London. She covered herself with glory in her first week on the job by arresting a senior plainclothes officer who refused to open the trunk of his unmarked patrol car during a routine roadblock inspection. Her most dangerous moment was when she was called with two male colleagues to a domestic disturbance. "This woman, her ex-husband, her husband and her boyfriend were all having a real row," she remembers. "The husband had a hammer and a knife and he was just lashing out here, there and everywhere. He absolutely smashed the boyfriend's face in with his hammer. He threatened to kill his wife if we tried to rescue her." How did Lynn handle that tricky situation? "The men jumped on him."

She left the police force through injury in 1979, after two years' service. "I was in the canteen when the report of a fight came over our personal radios. In the rush of officers trying to get out for a good punch-up I fell on the stairs and was trampled underfoot."

She became a London store detective. She arrested one man for filling his hollow artificial leg with cans of baked beans, and a woman for leaving with a frozen chicken under her hat. "She came walking in like the Queen Mother with a big frilly lace hat. She went to the deep freeze and looked left and right--I thought, 'I'll watch you'--and she got this little frozen chicken, a three-pounder, and walked into the next aisle. There was nobody there but I was watching her in a globe mirror we had hanging up. And she just lifted her hat and pushed this chicken under. I couldn't believe my eyes. She went tottering out, keeping her head rather stiff. I stopped her outside. I said: 'I'm a store detective and you haven't paid for that chicken.' She said: 'What chicken?' I said: 'The chicken under your hat'--and all of a sudden these juices began running down her face. I was in hysterics."

From 1981 to 1982 Lynn and John worked as cook and butler in Princeton, N.J. They were married there in 1983. When they spent a vacation in Los Angeles in 1982, it seemed to them "like Shangri-La" after the ice of New Jersey. They became majordomo and housekeeper to a Beverly Hills attorney, who encouraged Lynn to make the novelty cakes as a sideline. "I also bake really good bread," Lynn says. "Not American-style bread, which is two gulps of air, some wet crumbs and a teaspoon of sugar, but the sort of stuff a hungry plowman might want."

The Daykins are at 270 N. Canon Drive, Suite 1389, Beverly Hills 90210.

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