Meet Mandela’s Mthatha baker

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Copy of cw Birthday Cake_3122 SUPPLIED James Dyantyi, left, and Donald Senhenu, the bakers of Nelson Mandela's birthday cake. Picture: Supplied

Customers who walk past James Dyantyi at the Mthatha supermarket where he works may think he has a mundane job, but this baker feels like a superstar.

That’s because for the past four years Dyantyi has been the master confectionary baker who creates supersized birthday cakes for Nelson Mandela.

Dyantyi delivered his latest creation on Wednesday – Madiba’s 94th birthday – to Mandela’s homestead in the rural village of Qunu, about 20km south of Mthatha in the Eastern Cape.

It was a two-tier fresh-cream sponge cake the length of half a door, decorated with the message, “Happy birthday, Madiba”, and the SA flag, Dyantyi said.

He also baked and delivered a small fresh-cream sponge cake intended for Mandela only.

While hordes of media teams waited in the parking lot outside Madiba’s home, hoping to catch a glimpse of the action, Dyantyi and supermarket manager Chris Kapsali were among a handful of outsiders allowed to enter Mandela’s home, on a hillside near the N2 highway.

“My heart was beating fast as we walked into the house. It’s hard to explain how happy I felt. It’s a grand home, very well maintained, with posters of Madiba everywhere. I was hoping to see him, but realised I probably wouldn’t.”

Although Dyantyi didn’t see his hero, this is what he’d like to have said: “Long live Madiba. I’d love to make more cakes for you. I just want you to be in good health and happy. When you’re 100, I will make you a big cake.”

This year’s cake was not without drama. Dyantyi and two assistants baked the cake on Tuesday afternoon, making sure just the right amount of jam and cream were added.

“You know it’s a cake everyone will see, so you make sure it’s perfect.”

But on Wednesday morning, just as they were about to leave for Qunu, where two dozen Mandela relatives were gathering for the big day, the baking team realised with shock they had the SA flag the wrong way around.

Kapsali said: “We would have been at his home much earlier, but we had to make changes at the last minute. We’d already taken pictures of it when we realised: ‘Excuse me, the flag is upside down.’ We had to take the layer of icing off, smooth off the cake again and put the flag and message on again.”

Dyantyi does not regret his career choice. “I was thinking, maybe some people look down on me and think I just bake a few cakes. But I’m so proud because I’ve been doing the cake for Madiba for four years now. I thought my job was great, but today my job is perfect.” - Weekend Argus

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