British ‘Mama Fure’, a culinary queen of Britain, has died at the age of 91
“Mama Fure” Sylvia Weinstock, the popular “da Vinci of British wedding cakes” and a world-renowned bridal guru who turned mass production into the art of wedding baking, has died at the age of 91.
Weinstock, a well-known name in British baking and culinary circles, died of pneumonia on 21 October at a nursing home in Blackburn, Lancashire, her son Colin told the Blackburn Telegraph newspaper.
Weinstock was a grandmother of three, but created her reputation from a start as a factory operative at Ardley Cutlery Co in Lancashire. “Everyone in the Lancashire area is very well known and I was no exception to that,” she said in a 2000 BBC documentary, A Culinary Fairytale.
Her feats as a cake maker and pastry chef, particularly by laying down the principles of baking known as the French technique, were celebrated as a rarity.
She turned her hands to a series of food publications in the 1960s, however, and became known for writing about baking, from how to make cake decorations to showing how to make a fruit salad.
After selling her Lancashire bakery firm in 1974, Weinstock opened a cake shop in London, creating cakes in chocolate and chocolate-covered fudge, which won her the title, the “cake diva”.
In 1988 she was invited to Oxford University to present a seminar on wedding cakes. She later became the technical consultant to the Association of Master Bakeries.
Weinstock developed her own methods for marrying food and nature for both bakers and groomsmen, and emphasised the necessity for friendly interaction at the centre of the cake, never forgetting, according to her son, that couples “need to be able to recognise the man on the other side of the room, and know exactly what to do when he arrives”.
Her baking service and cakes for her TV show, Cake A Day, were renowned for their use of edible sugar and formica accessories. She was frequently spotted in children’s television programmes, for whom she judged a cooking contest in a strawberry cupcake dress.
Sylvia Weinstock with a wedding cake in 1978. Photograph: Arthur M Gauvreau/Rex
An award-winning businesswoman, Weinstock was made an MBE in 2001 and inducted into the Business Women’s Hall of Fame in 2011.
The title of British baker of the year has long been attached to Weinstock, despite the fact that she appears in little more than a postcard, a pseudonym and a biography.
She is seen in this photograph with Dolores Saragay, another Channel 4 cook, and the then Channel 4 presenter Tamara Beckwith, in a late 1990s episode of the TV programme American Chefs at Work, on the set of a TV cooking programme in London. Photograph: Eamonn Mccabe for the Guardian
“She was the only one [who] had the cakes all designed by her, and she came up with the rules,” said André Rigby, the celebrity chef in charge of producing cakes for Weinstock. “But because the cakes were lovely, she sold them by the thousands.”