A true account of my first attempt at baking
|Why men don’t bake.
The big Four Oh!
Which, when pronounced with my wife’s rather ‘endearing,’ birthday lisp, sounds remarkably like twenty-nine.
She was dressed and about to leave for work when she woke me with her customary kiss and a cupper.
So I woke with an instant feeling of guilt.
Of all the days of the year, this was one I had intended to wake her with a cupper and a kiss. Thought it would be nice for a change. Trouble is, she gets up at an ungodly hour every morning and I simply don’t do mornings.
It takes me an age to wake in a morning.
I’m a night owl you see.
I’d only had a few hours’ kip and here I was being awoken with a kiss and a cupper…and a big grin. Well, I suppose the grin was a good sign. She’s handling being 40 OK so far.
“Thank-you for my necklace, it’s lovely. It looks all right doesn’t it? I’m off to work, see you tonight. Oh, and don’t forget Sandra and Rob are coming tonight. Love you.”
I wanted to sing happy birthday but before the thought had formed she’d already gone.
Then, as the recent events sank into my sluggish mind, I realized she’d already found the bloody necklace and was wearing the damn thing to work!
I had wanted to surprise her this evening by romantically draping it around her neck as she dressed for dinner.
I could see it was going to be one of those days!
I got up! That’s where I went wrong, I’m sure of it! I should have stayed in bed.
Like I said, I don’t do mornings.
As the shower warmed my brain into something that resembled wakefulness, it dawned on me that I should bake a cake.
A cake! Me!
Now, to be honest, I’ve never baked a cake before. I enjoy cooking! I do a lot of cooking, but I’ve never got round to baking a cake before. I was quite looking forward to it if the truth be known. Homemade cakes are loads nicer than store bought things that’ll cost over a tenner.
So I hit the recipe books and find the perfect cake.
A Chocolate orange cake! Nancy, (my wife) loves chocolate orange!
The recipe called for real chocolate, a pint of double cream and orange zest topped off with a coating of melted caramel and nougat. YES!
An ‘artery blocker’ of a cake if ever I’ve seen one! Two slices of this and Nancy would soon be fat and forty.
Perfect! More of her to cuddle!
Within an hour, I’ve been to the supermarket and I’m back in the kitchen. What was it the manual said? 45 minutes to prepare, 30 minutes to bake? Right! No problem!
An hour and a half later I’ve created a disgusting, glistening sludge in a bowl.
What culinary chemist came up with this idea?
This coagulated mess is destined to send the taste buds into orgasmic rapture? Somehow I can’t see it.
Baking hurts! My wrist was killing me from all the whisking involved! No wonder the ‘missus’ never bakes! Anyway, I split the mixture into three baking trays, (after greasing and lining them of course) and inserted them into the oven.
For the next 30 minutes I’m like an expectant father.
Clock watching, pacing up and down, wishing I still smoked. Every now and then I looked at the oven door, desperately fighting the urge to open it early. After 30 minutes precisely, I pounced on the oven door to find I’m the proud father of three, beautifully formed sponge cakes sitting smugly on the shelf.
I was over the moon!
I wanted to hand out cigars!
Two seconds later, with all the grace of a ballet troupe, the three, beautifully formed, sponge cakes, along with my newfound pride, deflated, slowly and in perfect unison.
A second trip into town brought me back into the kitchen mixing up a second mess. This time, I thought I’d bake the three sponges separately, maybe give the first sponge an extra 5 minutes or so. For the next 40 minutes, I’m really wishing I’d never stopped smoking. The seconds are ticking sluggishly. Maybe the batteries are running flat on the clock! Check the time on the tv.
Nope, Time itself has s l o w e d.
Holding my breath, I eventually open the oven door. Just a crack, and peer in. Once again, I’m looking at a perfect sponge. I open the door further, a little bit at a time. A full 20 seconds and it hasn’t deflated! Excellent! I begin to breathe again. But is it cooked in the middle? I found the needle and touched the crust with the tip. Just, touched it! That’s all I did. I didn’t ‘injure it in any way, but the damn thing deflated like a tired balloon and with the sigh of a ladies fart. (Ppphhffff) It was like watching a soldier faint at the sight of a syringe. I would have laughed if I hadn’t felt so wretched.
I figured the other two sponges may as well go in together. I gave them 50 minutes this time but the bastards didn’t even bother waiting for me to open the oven door. They were just…flat! I felt like I’d killed them. The poor things never stood a chance with 50 minutes.
So, after over 5 hours, instead of three light and fluffy sponge cakes I’ve got 6 sticky floppy frisbees. Well, they would have to do. I set them to cool and began melting two mars bars for the topping then continued torturing my wrist whipping the cream. When the frisbees were cool to the touch, I began the structuring. The building, of the cake!
½ an inch of solid cream onto the base, next sponge, 1/2inch, top sponge, melted mars bars on top, jobs a good ‘un.
Actually, once the golden crown of orange zest was sprinkled loosely around the rim, it would look quite impressive.
I had another three or four inches of sprinkling to go. The last little bit.
But this demonic creation hadn’t finished toying with me yet.
Its timing was perfect. It collapsed, almost with glee. It had fought against existence since conception and now, at the very point of completion, the topping split, the top sponge slowly tore, revealing a sickening, creamy wound which rapidly widened and began to ooze through my fingers as I held on to the sides, desperately trying to push the sponge back into place and stem the flow of liquefying cream with my hands. But it was futile. I knew I had to concede, admit defeat after all my efforts. With a feeling of total helplessness I dejectedly laid the carcass in the fridge and resigned myself to the fact that I can’t bake cakes and I would be carrying it to table with humility rather than pride after the meal. Oh God! The dinner! I had spent so long on the cake I had forgotten about the main meal.
The dinner was a little late. Not a lot late, a little.
And it was very nice, even though I do say it myself.
Good company! Nice wine! Good conversation!
“Isn’t there a cake?” Sarah said it. She knew about it, had arrived home from school in time to witness the final collapse and so she asks. An evil, teenage twinkle in her eye that shouts: “GOT YER!”
I felt like strangling her! All eyes turn toward me expectantly.
“It depends on how you define the word cake.” I mumbled whilst giving Sarah an “I won’t forget this” glare.
I opened the refrigerator door with something approaching trepidation, half expecting to find a ‘Dahl-like’ cake draped casually over and through the bars of the refrigerator shelf.
Anthony played ‘happy birthday’ on the piano as I brought it to table… Les Dawson style. A size 40 candle flickered atop my creation. It had the look of a cowpat with a creamy streak through the middle, not at all appetizing.
The stunned silence spoke volumes but the raucous laughter that followed said it all. Why did I bother?
Well, the proof of the pudding is, as they say, in the eating and we tentatively dove in… and you know what?