After a few weeks of depressing weather, weight gain and a general sense of crapness, the sun is shining and I am feeling much happier. I have also managed to knock off seven pounds so I’m getting back in control. Hooray. The events of the last weekend has slightly knocked me off track, but back on the salads tomorrow.
It has been the weekend from hell. I am footsore, sticky, exhausted, and skint. Why? Because my daughter decided her contribution to the School Fête would be a ‘Welcome to Cakeland’ cake stall. She asked me in a weak moment when I wasn’t listening, and somehow the ball had started rolling and quickly became unstoppable.
It all began on the Friday when Daughter decided a trip to Lakeland was needed to purchase cake tins, ready made icing and various bits and pieces. My purse was considerably lighter when we left and that was before we bought a pack of thirty eggs (I didn’t even know they came in boxes that big) and about nine billion packs of butter. In fact we got through so many packs of butter Son was on permanent ‘butter runs’ to go into town to buy more. He did well on it; he charged a £1 commission fee for every trip.
Son wasn’t allowed in the kitchen as it was awash with eggs and with his allergy we didn’t want to risk a trip to A&E, so he happily did nothing but play Fortnite and buy butter.
Saturday was under control. We decided to make brownies as they would last the longest. A lovely ex-pupil has given me this.
It was driven home to me how rubbish I am in the kitchen when I read her dedication inside. She was in year 11 when she gave it to me and she is now in her third year at university. Last weekend was the first time I had ever opened it. Isn’t that awful?
Especially when I realised the recipes are AMAZING! (Actually I should lock it away as it’s a carb frenzy and I really shouldn’t go there). Daughter and I decided on this one, and I am putting it here in full because they was a dream to make and tasted absolutely incredible.
Here are the ones we made…
They weren’t all sold so I bought some back, chucked them in the fridge, and have been nibbling on them, ooh about every hour or so, since then. They are chewy, rich and absolutely gorgeous. So far so good!
A Victoria Sponge was next. Boom! Lovely and looking good.
We had to stop then as I was working Saturday night. Sunday dawned brighter and earlier than I would have liked due to Daughter’s intense and uncontrollable excitement which drove her to wake me up at 6am.
I tried to say in bed for as long as possible and we started work in earnest at 10am. It wasn’t long before the kitchen was in complete chaos. Gone was the calm, methodical and peaceful progression of the day before. Daughter and I were aware time was ticking and she had VERY ambitious plans as to what she wanted to have done by the end of the day.
We seemed to be baking a hundred different things at the same time in a very small kitchen. It was a glorious day outside and I kept looking longingly out of the window at the stretch of blue sky – not a cloud marred it. Bitter envy crawled through me as summer-dressed gits walked past laughing lightly in sunglasses unencumbered by responsibilities or five tons of flour, butter and sugar. To make matter worse, unlike the rest of the whole world, I had work on Bank Holiday Monday and the poor kids had school.
Within about an hour the kitchen was a war zone.
Every single surface was covered in crap. Boxes of ingredients, cake tins EVERYWHERE – I don’t know why we suddenly had eleven billion of the damn things. Flour, butter, 37 eggs, milk, spoons, plates, muffin tins, tubs of ready made icing and a hundred different types of sugar. Both Rob and I on different occasions had been persuaded separately by Daughter that ‘we haven’t got ANY Butter/self-raising/plain/flour/sugar/icing sugar/caster sugar, Mummy/Daddy you HAVE to buy some more or it will be a COMPLETE DISASTER!’
We had enough ingredients to bake cakes for about a thousand people for the next five years.
Mysteriously, the floor was carpeted with a mixture of flour, icing sugar, and caster sugar. I always wear bare feet indoors and I hate the feeling of crap under my feet. All my flip flops/slipper type shoes had disappeared, so I had to make do with two clean tea towels under each foot which I shuffled about on for the rest of the day – it seemed pointless sweeping and mopping when mountains of sugar were falling to the floor every half hour so I thought I’d leave it until we were finished.
Two o’clock: time to collect Dog from her (belated) birthday spa day grooming session. She’d been there for a couple of hours and we couldn’t wait to see how she looked. Here she is before, note the stain still left from the ‘tea bag incident’ I wrote about a few weeks ago…
And look at her afterwards! She’d had a blow dry and was gorgeously fluffy and extremely pleased with herself. I love the ‘Fresh as a Daisy’ bandanna.
Back to the baking. This time Daughter wanted to make a giant chocolate fudge cake.
This did not go well. I don’t know why. We followed the instructions to the letter but it was a disaster from start to finish. It didn’t look too bad when we got it out of the oven and we made the buttercream icing without any problems. But then when I tried to paste the icing onto the cake it ripped great chunks of the sponge away leaving big, gaping holes.
As I was trying to glue bits of chocolate sponge back into the black hole with buttercream icing which seemed to be melting into a puddle, Daughter was working round the back with chocolate fingers, trying to shore up the sludge coloured circle of sponge which seemed to be spreading and morphing into some kind of alien species. I persuaded Daughter to sprinkle some silver balls over the top to try and rescue things, but the word ‘polish’ and ‘turd’ sprung to my mind.
I was bemoaning the chaos of the different sized chocolate fingers, wondering if I should take them off and send Son to buy two more packets to make a more even ‘fence’ when I heard Daughter trying to read the silver balls packet. ’20/10/10′, what does that mean?
‘It’s the best before date,’ I said distractedly. ‘Wait, what?’ I briefly toyed with leaving the well out of date silver balls, then thought I could kill someone, so we laboriously picked them all off and replaced them with silver balls which weren’t EIGHT YEARS past their use by date.
The chocolate fudge cup cakes went well to begin with…
Trouble came knocking again when we tried to ice them. Daughter had only one, petal type attachment for the piper which created an odd, rippled wave of icing. I tried, Rob tried, but neither of us could ice the damn cup cakes without being unable to break the icing from the nozzle. If we lifted the nozzle from the cake the bloody icing we’d already put on the cake came up with it leaving a long trail of butter cream icing from the piper.
Eventually I just rippled around the icing for a bit then smushed the nozzle into the cake using my (clean) finger to break off from the icing bag.
OK they didn’t look that pretty, but it triggered the screaming abdabs in Daughter who hated how they looked and declared the whole thing hopeless and I had to email her teacher to say that Cakeland was off and she wasn’t going to go into school.
I managed to tempt her out of her room by saying we could do the cake pops. They were fun, but… The recipe was enough for 40 cake pops but we only had 20 cake pop sticks supplied. I told Daughter to only make half the recipe. She flatly refused so cue a sweat shop in the sitting room where Rob and Son cut a whole pile of kebab sticks into cake pop sticks.
They came out OK but I couldn’t work out how to store them. Finally I hit on the genius idea of wrapping three slice of bread in tin foil and wedged them into a (clean) planter. As we made them I stuck the cake pops in and they lolled about in their stand like a group of drunken footballers.
While Daughter were icing these, I whipped up a big batch of Delia’s Shortbread biscuits, which were egg free and ideal for Son. I had to spend a good hour wiping down everything, so paranoid was I about any cross contamination.
Here is dear old Delia’s recipe. I don’t cook much, but when I do, I tend to go with Delia as her recipes never let me down.
By this time it was 9 pm. Way past Daughter’s bed time. I told her it was time to clear up and go to bed.
‘But we haven’t made the rainbow cake!’ she said.
‘I know, sweetie, but it’s very late and Mummy has been on her feet since this morning and she wants to watch the next episode of ‘Fear of the Walking Dead’ with Daddy. Come on, off to bed.’
‘But you PROMISED we could make a rainbow cake,’ she replied, her face a picture of outraged disappointment.
Oh dear. Cue complete meltdown. She was worn out and emotional. After half an hour of wrangling she gave up and ran to her room, slammed the door and – heartbreakingly – cried herself to sleep.
I tried to watch TV with Rob but couldn’t concentrate. Going through my mind was this debate…
‘OK, so there are five layers to this cake. Each one will take at least 25 minutes. I can’t do it. It’s too late. I’ve got work in the morning… She’ll be fine. We’ve got loads of all different cakes for her stall. I haven’t stopped for twelve hours…’
Flash forward an hour and there I am in the kitchen reading the instructions for the goddamn rainbow cake. It’s now 11 pm and Rob has gone to bed calling out, ‘you’re mad,’ over his shoulder as he went. This packet was from Lakeland (£6.99 and the icing was also from Lakeland).
I don’t know what I was thinking. I was shattered. I think it was a combination of the thought of Daughter’s sobs and the usual guilt of the working mother.
So off I went. Five different layers of sponge in different colours. Each one taking about ten minutes to mix and 25 minutes to cook. I had to wash the whisk, mixing bowl, and cake tin between each layer. It took AGES!
Looking at the time on this photo, I can see that by just before 3am I had made, iced, and put together the stack of five layers. Look closely at this picture.
Now I used the SAME cake tin for all five layers. Can anyone explain to me why the top layer is bigger than all the others? It is a complete mystery to me.
To be honest, I was not impressed. All those different mixes and they all looked the same to me. NOTHING like the box. I didn’t care, though, I just iced the damn thing all over and left a letter for Daughter by her bed telling her I had made the rainbow cake and she had to add the unicorn horn and eyes when she woke up.
Quick tip: I used this ready made icing from Lakeland and it was the only one I have ever used that doesn’t taste like artificial bleurgh. Highly recommended: Renshaw Frosting.
Monday morning, the alarm goes off and I am dead to the world. Rob tells me later that Daughter was delirious with delight that I had made the rainbow cake and had promised him, ‘tell Mummy whenever I am naughty or don’t do as I’m told – just say rainbow cake and I will be good again.’ (Bless her, but this lasted for about five hours before she was back to her old tricks). Here is the cake after I had iced it completely and Daughter had added a unicorn horn and some eyes.
I am pleased to say the fête was a huge success. Strangely, the chocolate fudge cake was not hugely popular. I sold two pieces, and both of them I had to hand over by nudging the oozing lava of the chocolate fudge onto the plate in their hands. Luckily, although it didn’t look much, it tasted delicious and we snarfed the left overs and brought them home
Finally, and I am quite chuffed with this, the rainbow cake looked a hell of a lot better when sliced open and sold like, well, rainbow cake. Check out this beauty! And it tasted AMAZING.
Yay me and Yay Daughter. But for goodness sake, don’t EVER let me say yes to anything like this again.