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There's still time to snap up a crafty gift for Christmas that will look great and keep little ones busy in the holidays

Recipe: Smooth and spicy

We begin our series on spiced breads and cakes with a recipe submitted by Patricia Jeanrenaud of Ramsgate, Kent. 'My mother made this cake when I was young, and I continue because there is nothing else like it,' she writes. Her mother found it in The Joy of Cooking, by Irma Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker. Ms Jeanrenaud will receive a bottle of 1989 Bukkuram de Bartoli muscat purchased from Reid Wines in Bristol.

Icing on the cake for quality control: A computer system that memorises the way a product should look promises to streamline food inspection

MR KIPLING may soon be checking the decoration on his exceedingly good cakes with a computer vision system developed at the University of Wales, Cardiff.

Cakes and ale bring discount on Bard: RSC sponsor in radical promotion deal

PURCHASERS of doughnuts, beer and wine will be able to buy discounted tickets for the Royal Shakespeare Company under plans being considered by the company's new sponsor, Allied Lyons.

What the papers said about . . . Brian Johnston

'He was the ultimate overgrown schoolboy. He was the voice of cricket, the sound of summer. Now he is silent.' The Sun

Letter: Dear Johnners

Sir: It is a rare occasion when a man feels comfortable about crying openly. The death of Brian Johnston is one such occasion. Yet I'm sure Johnners wouldn't have minded. He symbolised a summer of eternal boyhood, where tears mix with laughter in equal measure and where there's always an extra slice of chocolate cake.

Obituary: Brian Johnston

Brian Alexander Johnston, broadcaster and writer: born Little Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire 24 June 1912; MC 1945; OBE 1983, CBE 1991; books include Let's Go Somewhere 1952, Armchair Cricket 1957, Stumped for a Tale 1965, The Wit of Cricket 1968, All About Cricket 1972, It's Been a Lot of Fun 1974, It's a Funny Game . . . 1978, Rain Stops Play 1979, Chatterboxes 1983, Now Here's a Funny Thing 1984, Guide to Cricket 1986, It's Been a Piece of Cake 1989, Down Your Way 1990, The Tale of Billy Bouncer 1990, Views from the Boundary 1990, Forty-Five Summers 1991, Someone Who Was 1992; married 1948 Pauline Tozer (three sons, two daughters); died London 5 January 1994.

Budgie boost for Kids

SHARES in Sleepy Kids whirled 8p higher to 72p on news that Budgie, the Little Helicopter will be transformed into a chocolate cake for Marks & Spencer from February, writes Alison Eadie.

Independent/Sharp School Team Quiz: Electronic equipment to be won

HERE is the second set of questions which offer you and your school the chance to prove that you have the knowledge and invention to grapple with fiendishly tricky questions and win an array of Sharp electronic equipment.

Bring on the Brotherhood of the Eccles Cake

I DON'T know quite what it is about Mireille Johnston, the presenter of A Cook's Tour of France II (BBC 2), but you get the feeling that it wouldn't be a very good idea to cross her. It may be her delivery, which is projected as though she is trying to maintain order in a class of unruly seven year olds, or it may be the glacial elegance of her appearance, but there's something slightly forbidding about her, a sense that you will be in trouble if you don't enjoy what's put in front of you.

All the former President's men - and me

I WAS eating a slice of cheesecake in a restaurant in Los Angeles, reading a newspaper, quite bored, when everybody's head turned round all at the same time. So I looked up. I wondered what had happened. It couldn't have been a movie star walking past, because a movie star just had walked past, and nobody had been bothered at all. I was the only person craning my neck to get a better view of Sean Penn as he walked along, looking at the ground. So maybe this was a huge star. 'Like who?' I thought. Like, say, Jack Nicholson.

Culinary art: Mixing with the master bakers: Iain Gale meets a pair of gateau sculptors

The image is instantly recognisable. A father holds his newborn baby. As a photographic poster it's the national bestseller. But this is different. The photograph has been rendered in 3D; transformed into a piece of sculpture by little- known artistic duo Greg and Max. 'It has a real vulnerability,' says Greg, and he's not joking. The sculpture is carved from a large piece of madeira cake. Greg and Max are cake sculptors - the Gilbert and George of the patisserie world - and 'Father and Child' is just one of 15 examples of their work which go on view in London next week.

BOOK REVIEW / No fools like the old: The laughing academy by Shena Mackay, Heinemann pounds 13.99

IF YOU put all the characters from Shena Mackay's new story collection in one room simultaneously and spent any time there, you'd be ready for the Laughing Academy (Funny Farm) yourself. Taken in manageable doses as directed, however, these creations embarrass, alarm and charm the reader nicely, with only one side-effect: for days afterwards, you may expect of the most ordinary people a raffishness they do not possess.

BOOK REVIEW / DHL and the woman in love: 'Zennor in Darkness' - by Helen Dunmore: Viking, 14.95

WHEN D H Lawrence and his wife Frieda lived in Zennor in 1917, the local Cornish villagers were suspicious of them, partly because Frieda was German, partly because Lawrence spoke fiercely against the war. This novel gives fictional life to a group of young people at the edge of this drama, and invents a precise occasion for the Lawrences' eventual exile from Cornwall.

BOOK REVIEW / Big apple cakes and pastries: Dreaming in Cuban - Christina Garcia: Flamingo, pounds 5.99

'HAPPY families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.' Anna Karenina's opening line, as quoted in Christina Garcia's first novel, could not have been better chosen.

The best and worst of Christmas: No tree, no cake, just ice in the loo

I MADE the trip to Italy for my first expat Christmas with a hangover so evil that I had to knock back a vodka on the Gatwick Express. Under strict instructions that I was not allowed anywhere near the Tuscan hills unless I had a Marks & Spencer's pudding in my armpit, I finally made it to the half-converted farmhouse late on Christmas Eve.
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