Visitors: a piece of cake

This is possibly the cutest backstage blog we’ve ever posted.

When we discovered that the cast and crew of Visitors take it in turn to bake the cake that is eaten each night onstage, we swooned. Associate Producer Ashleigh Wheeler tells us more.

The task I was set for Thursday night was one of those that fall into the ‘nice but odd’ camp, but it’s the sort of  thing that’s often requested of you when you’re making a play. In the past I’ve raided Croydon IKEA’s entire stock of house plants, watched as my beautiful bike was painted sludge green, and sawn through my trousers– all in the name of making a show happen. This time, the task was rather quaint: baking a lemon drizzle cake for Linda Bassett and the rest of the Visitors cast.

A play is a group activity first and foremost. Everyone has a key role to play, from actor to audience member, from Assistant Stage Manager to Associate Producer (my role). Everyone is crucial to making the show what it is each night. But at Up in Arms, we like to think we’re even more group-oriented than most. So I wasn’t at all surprised when a company cake-baking rota was suggested, as the answer to the question of what cake  should be eaten onstage each night. Everyone seemed really happy to contribute, to do a bit more than their job description.

So far, our Designer Fran, and  our Production Manager Jaz’s mum(!) have contributed a cake, and on Thursday night it was my turn. Fortuitously, a straw poll of the cast’s preferred cake corresponded with my own: lemon drizzle.

There is only one thing to do when baking such a classic: consult Felicity Cloake, and her excellent Guardian blog ‘Perfect…’. Felicity’s done all the work of surveying recipes old and new, so you don’t have to– ideal for when you’ve got important producery tasks to attend to, like updating budgets and retweeting Barney’s award nominations within an inch of your life.

I pretty much followed her recipe, but I admit I was over cautious with the syrup; after all, who’d want to be the cause of some onstage disaster involving an actor and a soggy cake? The stakes are high when your cake is to appear as a prop on  a five star show…

Recipe for Visitors lemon drizzle cake


  • 175g butter (top tip: soften using the defrost setting of the microwave if you’ve just bought it)
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 2 unwaxed lemons (if you can get them)
  • 3 eggs
  • 100g self-raising flour
  • 75g ground almonds
  • A little milk
  • 100g demerara sugar
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/160C fan.
  2. Beat the butter and caster sugar together with the zest of one lemon, until light and fluffy. Make sure you do this properly, to avoid making a disappointingly flat cake (rookie error)
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well
  4. Fold in the flour and DON’T FORGET THE ALMONDS (which I definitely did not do). Add a little milk to loosen it up: it should drip off the spoon.
  5. Pour into a greased cake tin
  6. Bake for about 50 minutes, until a skewer comes out dry
  7. Mix together the remaining zest, the juice of the two lemons, and the demerara sugar
  8. When the cake’s still warm, poke holes in it using a piece of spaghetti, and then pour over the drizzle

Visitors runs at the Bush til 10 January.