I suppose it's a dubious inheritance from childhood. From a time when a writhing worm looked much like lunch and dissecting a frog was all in a morning's work. Or at least that may go some way to explaining the attraction of the cakes Miss Cakehead (aka Emma Thomas), creative director and mistress of the gory and gross, has commissioned for the pop-up she's hosting on Friday in east London for the launch of horror DVD The Helpers.
On offer at the one-night-only event will be suppurating acid wounds and severed arms confected entirely from Victoria sponge, babies' heads set in chocolate, and "vomit" cocktails. It is not a menu to delight all viewers of The Great British Bake Off (I doubt my aunt Joan would approve). But the work of the bakers and cake makers she commissions (she doesn't herself cook) has certainly found a fan base – a rather large one, as it happens.
Her last project, for the launch of Resident Evil 6, saw punters snaking through Smithfield's meat market in London for a chance to take home the assorted sections of torso arranged on meat hooks around her butcher's stall. "People really went for it," Thomas says. "Everyone wanted to take home their own foot or hand and the pictures went around the globe." And as well they might, given that the limbs were top-notch lemon-drizzle sponge.
It's not just Thomas going in for party-time gristle and gore, either. On the eve of London Fashion Week last year, culinary creatives Bompas and Parr served knowing canapés of jellied egg and tongue to a throng of editors and designers more used to foie gras and smoked salmon blinis. And who can forget the "post-coital condom on a beach" offered as a dessert at Bo London, Alvin Leung's "x-treme Chinese" restaurant. Neither, though, pushes things as far as Thomas.
Even her collaborators confess to wondering whether her ideas may sometimes be a little outré. At her pathology-themed pop-up in October, she commissioned cake maker Sarah Hardy to make prostate-cancer truffles. "I did wonder if we were going a bit far – but I loved making something dark and everyone went mad for them," she says.
Thomas herself, however, never blanches – or doesn't admit it if she does. "I've learnt that it's impossible to create an offensive cake. The gory look is offset by the deliciousness of the cake. I once had a cake woman made; she was in a bath with her throat cut and I called it 'Bitch in a Bloodbath' – everyone loved it." Gulp. Visitors attending on Friday may be well advised to channel their inner schoolboy.