“Agh! It’s a disaster!!”
This was how mum used to introduce most of her baking as she brought the finished article to the table. At the same time as producing a gorgeous, perfect, French-style lemon tart, or an apricot tart, or a lemon meringue pie. Always fabulous, rarely anything approaching a disaster. She was a very good cook, but sadly (in her later years at least) a nervous and unconfident one.
Whereas I simply aspire to making things as good as she made ( one ‘just like mum made’ is the general mark of the standard to aim for), but I’m confident (sometimes too confident…) and I play around with recipes.
As in today, when I wanted to bake two cakes. One for the Danish visitors who are coming for tea, to complement the perfect scones Malcolm has made, and one to take over to our friends whose lovely daughter died earlier this week.
Taking a cake there feels important to me – an echo of my own childhood years when a death always meant baking and taking food round to the bereaved family for the shiva* they would hold, so they didn’t have to worry or fuss about feeding all the people who would be dropping by.
What I fancied cooking was the chocolate marmalade cake my sister had once made from a Nigella Lawson cookbook. It was delicious, and I had a jar of marmalade in the fridge that I wanted to use up. I looked up the recipe, didn’t have some of the ingredients in the house and no time or wish to go out buying.
So, improvise. Have a look at another tried-and-tested recipe book. Decide not to follow either recipe.
Substitute cocoa powder for melting chocolate pieces. Can’t be bothered to faff about melting butter. Instead, use my normal ‘chuck it all in the mixer together’ method (yes, that really is what it’s called).
Not sure how much marmalade 300g is, and I’m doing two cakes not one. Just put in whatever I happen to have, plus a bit more to taste from another jar that’s also in the fridge. No idea how long it will take to cook – put the timer on for 40 mins and I’ll test them and see how they’re doing. After 40 minutes, test and find they need more baking. The tops are rather too dark, so put some foil over the top to protect them a bit.
15 minutes later, out come the cakes. A little dark, but definitely cooked this time.
The question is, will it be a disaster or a triumph? or something between the two?
Cool down, then time to cut and taste over 30th birthday tea for our visiting friends. Pretty good, is my verdict. Lovely moist texture, cooked just fine, a bit too well done on the top and any orange peel in the crust is a little too chewy. Great chocolatey orangey taste. Next time could do with a bit more sugar. Very acceptable though.
Happy birthday R!
The other cake delivered with a card and love to our bereaved friends.
* shiva – part of the Jewish mourning ritual. Shiva means seven – the seven days when friends and family drop by to offer their support, love, and prayers in the bereaved family’s home.