Sunday, 20 November 2011

Christmas cake

It is said that cooking is an art, baking a science.  And I'm crap at science.  But this year, for the first time, I felt an overwhelming urge to bake a Christmas cake. My Dad used to bake a Christmas cake every year when we were little. He always chose a heavy, rich, dark and dense cake recipe. My mother would end up doing the icing and marzipan.  As Dad poured his heart and soul into that cake, my Mother surely ripped it out.  If his style was Michelen, my Mother's was McDonalds. Packaged marzipan and roll out "Icing in a Box". Two weeks after Christmas the layer of icing and marzipan was always half gone, picked off and devoured by us kids on a sugar binge. The actual cake was left virtually untouched as the only ones who liked it were my parents.  It was too heavy and boozey for our undeveloped taste buds.  Eventually my mother would give in and wrap it up, store it in the press. It would be taken out at intervals throughout the year; Easter, birthdays etc.

Even though I'm pretty sure I'd have a greater appreciation for that type of cake as an adult, I can't quite chase the bad memories away and so chose a lighter recipe to make for myself.  No treacle, no currants, better variety of dried fruits and the addition of nuts all sounded like my kind of cake.  And so yesterday I added my brandy soaked apricots, cherries, sultanas, figs and mixed peel to the cake batter with whole roasted hazelnuts and almonds to make my perfect cake.  Seen as I was snubbing my Dad's classic recipe I felt I had to pay homage some other way.  I decided to use the same tin my Dad had back in the 80s. A little bout of nostalgia, an extra ingredient to add a bit of magic to the mix. I texted my mother in the evening, after I had soaked the fruits, to make sure it was still knocking about. She ensured me it was and said she'd have it pulled out of whatever black hole it may have fallen into by the next day. And true to her word, after much routing and rummaging, she found the tin.  She called to let us know, with a warning that it was on it's last legs and may not be much use. The tin arrived in the house, looking a bit battered, bruised and rusty but when lined with a bit of parchment, I knew it would be fine.  At this point I decided to check the size of the tin needed for the recipe.  I like to do things like that, wait until it's too late to check necessary details.  And of course I then see that the recipe calls for a 20 cm cake tin. Mine was 25 cm tin. Shit. Still, never mind all that exact science stuff, what's 5 cm between friends, eh?  Quite a lot it turns out.
What my cake would look like if I was not stupid
During the cooking, I constantly looked through the glass of the oven door. I knew the cake would be a bit thinner than it should be due to the tin but I hoped it wouldn't be too noticeable. When time was up I opened the door, took the cake out and yes, it did look a little undernourished.  In fact, if cakes were breasts, mine was screaming for a Wonderbra, superboost.  I was very upset. My cake was ruined.  No one would want to eat it.  And worse, my Dad would rip the piss out of me for years to come! Husband tried to console me, telling me the marzipan and icing would add at least another half inch. But I didn't believe him. I knew I had destroyed Christmas. I thought about making another cake.  I could make the same cake again and place it on top of this one! Or I could make a different cake, but use the right size tin and do it properly. Then again, I could scrap the cake and make some other dessert altogether, a pudding perhaps or one of those Christmas Yuletide log things? In the end I did none of these things. Instead we went to the pub and got drunk. And you know what I discovered? A hangover will relieve you of any grand ideas or great plans you had for the next day.  And that scrawny, pitiful, worthless cake you once looked upon with disdain becomes a kooky, alternative and unique creation  that you'll be proud to show to friends and family alike. And I also consoled myself with the thought that by the time they're eating my cake on the big day, they'll all be pissed anyway.

Please excuse the lack of pictures of my cake and my bag from the blog below but it turns out we don't actually have a camera or at least we lost the charger - d'oh! Hopefully getting my hands on one soon so all of the millions of you reading can see the pics for yourselves.

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