cake fury
© Wales News ServiceCake fury: Sally Dodd, left, was attacked by the unknown woman while shop assistant Terri Mammett, right, witnessed the incident
Sally Dodd has worked as a pub landlady. She has broken up drunken brawls and calmed the high spirits of armies of tanked-up Welsh rugby fans. But nothing prepared her for the day this week when a female customer ran amok in her genteel cupcake shop.

Mrs Dodd, 43, owns Sugarswirlz, a bakery selling decorated homemade cupcakes in an airy Victorian arcade in the centre of Cardiff.

The shop was full of lunchtime customers when a woman - middle-aged, sturdy and wearing a belted mackintosh - launched an extraordinary attack.

She lashed out at a display of cakes, sending them flying through the air, then flung her arm across a window display, scattering its contents around the shop.

Then events turned from farcical to terrifying. She grabbed Mrs Dodd by her hair, pulling it out by the roots in clumps, and launched a foul-mouthed tirade of abuse.

The provocation? Mrs Dodd had run out of her favourite cake. Her assailant wanted to buy a box of elaborate iced confections - called 'sweet tooth fairy cakes' - but the last one had just been sold.

Attempts to appease the irate customer by offering to bake some more were rejected.

Much fun, of course, has been gleaned from the comedic value of what newspapers have dubbed 'cupcake rage'.

Reflecting on it yesterday, even Mrs Dodd could appreciate its farcical elements - how, after all, could a £2.20 iced fancy provoke such a bout of intemperate fury?

cake fury 2
© Wales News ServiceSugarswirlz Cupcakes in Cardiff, South Wales where the furious customer ran amok
'It's quite surreal,' she says. 'And it has attracted lots of people to the shop. Yesterday we sold 600 cakes, which is three times the usual amount.'

But the incident exposes a much darker - and potentially more tragic - story. Britain is becoming a nation boiling over with anger.

People sent into a fury by dealing with call centres. Customers fed up with long queues. Irritation at having to deal with jobsworths. Even a blue fit at being denied a cake.

'The woman's reaction was totally out of proportion,' says Mrs Dodd, with studied understatement.

'She shrieked, "You've stolen my cakes!" to the poor lady ahead of her in the queue, who'd bought the last cupcake. I told her I'd be happy to make some more, but by then she was deaf to reason. She lunged at a display of a dozen cupcakes and they hit the floor.

'Then she swiped her arm across the shop window which was showcasing dozens of wedding and 'princess' cakes. It was like a dramatic scene from a movie. In that single sweeping gesture of her arm, she swept everything onto the floor.

'I stood there, dumbstruck. Passers-by were staring slack-jawed through the window at this out-of-control woman rampaging round the shop in a blind rage. Then she took a swipe at me. She lashed at my back and neck and kicked the top of my leg, calling me unspeakable names as she did so.

'I remember crouching down and then two security guards - both of whom looked stunned - pulled her off me. They didn't manage to apprehend her. I think they were probably too shocked.

'As she ran out of the shop, dragging her two poor children behind her, she looked like a frightened animal. And, then, in one final gesture of rage before she left, she swept some more cakes to the floor.'

Mrs Dodd is an equable woman, not prone to over-reaction or hysteria. Indeed, when she used to run a busy pub, the Gwaelod-y-Garth Inn, outside Cardiff, she became accustomed to keeping a cool head in a crisis.

'But this was so unexpected,' she says. 'It's not uncommon to have to deal with violent drunks when you work in pubs or bars - but in a cake shop?' Her bemused exclamation hangs in the air.

Mrs Dodd is surprisingly forgiving towards her attacker, saying: 'Although it was terrifying at the time, I bear no grudge against her. The police want to charge her with actual bodily harm, but I think she needs counselling. And her two little boys, who were clearly distressed by her outburst, must need it, too.'

The distress of the elder boy at her anger was palpable. 'He was shouting: "Mummy, Mummy! Please leave!" But his younger brother was copying his mother. He started thumping his fist on the counter. It was distressing to watch,' says Mrs Dodd.

So many people in today's Britain seem to be on the edge of self- combustion. Too little time, too little patience, too little empathy between individuals. The merest slight can trigger terrible consequences.

They may seem a long way from yesterday's events, but two of the most shocking and tragic episodes in recent times seem to have had their origin in trivial disputes.

Last July, Raoul Moat went on a murderous rampage in Northumbria, shooting three people, killing one and permanently blinding policeman David Rathband.

Taxi driver Derrick Bird killed 12 people and wounded 11 more in a gun rampage in Cumbria last June.

The trigger for these dire events were, it seems, quite prosaic. Raoul Moat's girlfriend had left him, while Bird, we learned this week, was worried about tax bills. Fellow taxi drivers say he was irked they had been queue-jumping, muscling in on his fares.

All of us, in our lives, have witnessed alarming incidents of disproportionate rage - coming out of the blue.

As Mrs Dodd says: 'The woman didn't look mad. She seemed ordinary: non-descript. You couldn't have placed her in any social group. She might have been on benefits; equally she could have been a surgeon's wife. Yet she went from zero to 100 mph in a split-second.'

Mrs Dodd was going about her business as usual yesterday, but as she did so she reflected on the irony of the incident - that having given up running a pub after stopping fights between drunken customers, she became the victim of an unprovoked attack in a little shop that sells fairy cakes.

Even the most mundane of activities, it seems, is not immune to the simmering anger that accompanies so much of life in 2011 Britain.