A compulsory party (the best kind?)


Never before have I had to force feed a group of hombres cake (I am learning Spanish in my spare time so may be inclined to slot Spanish words into my blogs now to demonstrate my progress).

In a past, but not too distant, life I was a prolific baker. I have mentioned this previously but always feel it is important to revise points of importance in order for them to be successfully digested. A technique I have been utilising effectively in my Spanish vocabulary learning (as an aside). In my past life I was never a quality baker. I leaned more to the side of quantity rather than quality.

I might say that my love of baking stemmed from childhood days spent in Nana’s flat during the school holidays. The sisters would always be occupied effectively; indulging in crafts, baking, playing cards and knitting to name a few. However, I must point out that I have implied here that my sister and I busied ourselves in equal measures on these tasks, but that would be misleading. The fact is, I was more of an observer. I would observe the baking; only involving myself by licking the bowl pre-oven and then again, when the product resurfaced, diving right in. In terms of the knitting, I would have every intention of knitting reams of scarves, hats of all colours and sizes and working up to a jumper or two, first for a baby/toddler, then for a grown up and possibly even starting my own woollen business. Knitting is conducive to dreaming after all. However, inevitably time would pass and two lines of woolly hoops would have been completed and I would have to lay down the needles and switch my attentions to Countdown or, better still, Supermarket Sweep.

Crafts were more common outside of the cosy flat, which was incidentally located inches away from a sweetie mix up from the local newsagents. Are we at all surprised by my addiction to sugar? We sisters would be ushered by bus to our local library for some exciting pillow embroidery, pottery (possibly if my memory correctly serves) and other such artistic endeavours. My sister has always been more inclined to create things of beauty and precision. I am more of a keen starter. Someone with impeccable intentions but little commitment towards a finished product. But I would always enjoy the day and would be delighted to show the mother as she pulled up in our white people carrier, known throughout the land (our village) as the infamous Ashbridge moto. We would slide back the rusty doors to the car and hop in, ready to splurge out details of all our exciting adventure stories of krispie cakes and patchwork quilting as we whistled up the hill to our village home.

But if I am honest I did not learn the tricks of the trade, as it were, from the Nana. Sure, I picked up the fundamentals of cake science and probably thought I knew a lot more than I did but one day the truth of my cakery flaws was finally revealed. On this fateful day I had decided to make a cake solo. I forget the reason, but it was going to be a surprise and I was highly motivated from start to finish. My focus was sustained throughout. So that, when my family returned, from wherever they had been, the cake was ready to take out of the oven. I was terribly excited and mostly proud of my ability to carry out this “craft” to completion. That is, until the cake was removed from the tin….. with a thud. This cake was not light and fluffy as I was so accustomed to. It was not springy to the touch. It was more Saharan drought than moist and airy and I was utterly confused as to what element of my preparation had led us to this brick-like gateau. My family were, however, highly amused. My reputation, unfortunately, preceded me. Their lack of bewilderment was quite infuriating. It was unclear to all as to what I had included, or failed to, to create such a monstrous excuse for a dessert. Until I let the fatal particulars slip.

Ooh yummy

Have you got any clotted cream to go with that?

Yes OK I had gathered up the batter in my hands and plonked it on the cool work surface (pre-floured of course). I keenly remember thinking it was incredibly, and unmanageably, sticky and so continued to add more and more flour to prevent my cake batter from attaching itself irreparably to the bench-top. Can you guess my mistake readers? Oh yes, having observed cake baking AND scone baking over my childhood of cookery courses I had successfully created the first cakescone. Also known as a “rock”. But not a rock cake, those leave you with a full complement of teeth in your mouth. I fear my creation would leave you with few!

Nope, not my idea of a mouth-watering tea break!

So now I am the laughing stock of my family. A joke in cookery spheres. An embarrassment to Delia Smith and Mary Berry alike. I decided, therefore, from that day on, that my calling was not in the line of baked goods.

Fast forward a few years and I am an undergraduate student. My Grandpop has been collecting American-sized baking mixes and is delivering them at regular intervals to me so that I can feed my friends and make some new ones in the process. I find that I like this way of baking: just add eggs and maybe a cup or two of water. A step by step guide on the box and voila 30 or so minutes later my home smells like a heaven and hungry, sugar-crazed students are rushing to relieve me of my fare. (Sugar is certainly the cheapest form of bribery)

I have been reborn. My reputation left far behind me I am teaching myself again how the science of baking can complement my chosen career. I can engage successfully with my peers through the medium of cookies, krispie cakes, lemon drizzle and chocolate tray bakes. I have no need to expand my repertoire since these staples are all the youngsters need to satisfy their tastes and that suits us both!

So it is safe to say, I have been a born-again Delia for several years now. Feeding the rich and sometimes even the poor with flour, sugar and eggs. Sometimes I go a little crazy and make a bakewell tart. I know, madness after what I just described? Probably just to prove to myself, more than anything, that I am no fake. Yes I can make a mean shortcrust pastry (but only when Jamie Oliver holds my hand throughout).

Cue New York City and a laboratory of scientists and medics. Cue no formal arrangement of birthday celebration and cue my new calling in life. A party of cakes whether you want one or not. Yes that is correct. You scientists will eat my sugary creations and you will love them. You will leave your precious benches, be it reluctantly, and you will sing that global singalong “Happy Birthday” and then you will take a piece of brownie, a slice of chocolate cake or even a ball of Mars bar krispie cake and you will stand in silence as I watch you eagle-eyed until you finish every last crumb. No seriously, lick those fingers and then I will unlock the door.

I am Delia Smith reincarnated (before she dies) and I will make you joyful on sugar.


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