I must come clean and admit - perhaps to no-one's great surprise - that I didn't study anything to do with business at school. Instead I chose useful things like drawing, and reading, and languages, meaning that I could do you a lovely sketch whilst simultaneously talking you through the plot of Pride and Prejudice and conjugating a few Latin verbs, but would perhaps struggle to explain the finer points of commerce if required to do so.
Even I can see, however, that if you live in an area where there are lots of lovely cake businesses then this is generally likely to be a good thing for you, the dutiful consumer. Manchester in general - and Didsbury in particular - has become a hotbed of cake talent in the last couple of years, leading to a regrettable thickening of the waist as I single-handedly attempt to restart the economy by imbibing as many icing-based calories as possible. More excitingly still, I note with some interest that my favourite bakers are introducing a range of exciting new developments as they try to stand out from the rest. Here are a few of the best:
1. Airy Fairy Cupcakes. The Cake Boutique on School Lane is a simply gorgeous space, and chief Airy Fairy Laura has sensibly decided to make the most of the upstairs rooms by launching a number of enticing classes, the details of which can be found on her website. The latest to be announced is the frankly irresistible-sounding "Burlesque and Afternoon Tea", where we learn some devilishly sexy chair-based dance routines, including basic striptease (goodness only knows what an advanced strip might incorporate) before reverting to sensible middle-aged women and having a nice sit down (on the same chair we just foxed over?) and some lovely tea and cake. The first one takes place in November - which, I might just take the opportunity to remind everybody, coincides with the celebration of my birthmonth.
2. Lollicakes. These are the comparatively-new kids on the cake block, two gorgeous girls in Didsbury who specialise - as their name suggests - in cake pops. For the uninitiated, these are moist little balls of cake, coated with icing and chocolate and then impaled on a handy stick; they are smaller than cupcakes, thereby allowing you to eat them in multiples of approximately seven (although do bear in mind that I specialised in Latin, not Maths). Katy and Laura were the first to bring the cake pop to the North West, and have achieved a lot of success very quickly - they already supply Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and The Circle Club, and now (perhaps the most excitingly for them) they supply me as well, although I cannot promise exclusivity due to my cake-whoring ways. The reason for their success? Cuteness. One or both of them must have an extremely steady hand, for their lollicake designs are simply stunning - my favourite Hello Kitty ones appear on this link, but I am also very taken with their frogs, bumble bees and Smurfs (have a sniff round Selfridges to see what designs are in at the moment - I fear Mr Liz would sell his soul for those Star Wars ones). They are also introducing some dessert-based lollicakes, and if the lemon cheesecake one I've just scoffed is anything to go by, these will be very nice indeed - although I did have to draw my own Hello Kitty face on it.
3. And the Dish Ran Away With the Spoon. Anna and James's gorgeous little shop on Burton Road is perfectly placed to make the most of West Fest, the annual celebration of independent businesses that takes place next weekend. The 3rd and 4th September will see "Teafest" at The Dish, serving up a range of loose-leaf tea; I, for one, will be quite happy to leave the job of scraping tea leaves out the strainer to someone else, particularly as those tea leaves can then be read for you - I'm hoping mine will forecast another win on the bingo at Love2Eat in the evening. Full details are on their website; I'm very much hoping that other local businesses take inspiration from this, and announce they will be celebrating West Fest by holding something called "Winefest" (you see? Clearly I would have been an excellent business student).
And finally, I can't mention cake without extolling the virtues of the lovely friend who, as we sat sadly in the pouring rain at Fletcher Moss Park on Friday night watching Heartbreak's Pride and Prejudice, produced a Tupperware box full of homemade blueberry and pecan cake. You know who you are, and I'm honestly not sure I would have got through the second half without you.