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Life Chez Dee Episode #13: Cakes

I’ve got cake on my mind … I often do have. I’m always baking cakes … most occasions … any occasions to be honest. I don’t do all the fancy stuff though … can’t be messing with all that fondant icing which smothers cakes, all the fancy shapes and figurines which get put on. They look amazing … granted, but my cakes are the ones which look homemade, rather than pretty, they look like they’ve been knocked together with love – with meaning – for a purpose – for an occasion. They’re special, they look homely, and inviting… and taste delicious.

My love of baking started when I used to bake with my grandma. Nothing particularly fancy. We made fairy cakes – we often didn’t even ice them – they were just sponge fairy cakes – eaten whilst still warm more often than not. Tiny fairy cakes, not like the big muffins which are made now, just the small ones, bite size you might say. I loved weighing the ingredients, sieving, mixing it all up in the old brown mixing bowl – which I still have. Using the plastic spatula to get the last of the mix – wanting my Grandma to miss some of the gooey deliciousness so that I could lick the bowl clean. We made pastry. My grandma used to make pastry for other people. I was in awe of her, yet I couldn’t understand how it could be so hard to do. There she’d be making her pastry and dividing it up and delivering these weighted packages wrapped in tin foil to neighbours … even my mum. We turned that pastry into apple pies (we had loads of stewed apple from all the apples in her garden, so we’d have stewed apple with custard, apple crumbles, apple pies); we made jam tarts with the bits of pastry leftovers … a circle of pastry for the bottom and strips of pastry which we twisted and made a lattice pattern on top. A huge meat and potato pie was made in a solid, heavy, stone, tall pot, topped with pastry which was propped up in the middle with the white pot chimney (or whatever these are called) which I still have today, and which when I see it takes me immediately back to this meat and potato pie. The pie which was always made and in the oven on New Years Eve. We fed so many with this dish …. trays of extra pastry being put into the oven, as although the pot had enough meat in it to go round, the pastry topping wouldn’t stretch that far. Knickerbocker glorys made up in advance, with tinned fruit, jelly, cream, crushed meringue; all prepared in the tall, decorated, gilded glasses, kept for this such occasion, and always the lovely sweet pudding to end the feast.

Mince pies and almond macarons were always made at Christmas time. Nobody else in the family made mince pies, or not that I can remember. It seemed that glut of mince pies was always my grandma’s job to do at Christmas. The only year I remember them not coming up to scratch was when my elderly aunt stayed with my Grandma, and decided she’d help with the mince pie making .. she was so mean with the filling …she was rather frugal with lots of things, but to not have enough filling in my Grandma’s mince pies was disappointing.

But my love of baking I think began then. I love it. It’s a sort of therapy. Something about baking which is calming, all absorbing, a time out you might say. And the smell … that heady aroma of a cake baking in the oven, is just wonderful, homely, nostalgic. I never use a mixer or kitchen aid – all my cakes I bake by hand, even if it is hard work… probably why my right arm is so strong! I don’t need too much of a reason to make a cake – and always for birthdays, and indeed Edward always insisted that I made two cakes; both chocolate; one square one, for friends; one round one, for at home with family; both decorated with smarties … always. Always my homemade cake was ordered with a specific instruction that he didn’t want any bought from a shop.

Edward would take slices of my homemade cake into school to eat with his lunch. Feeling smug as he pulled out the gooey chocolate cake; making his friends green with envy as they unwrapped their penguin biscuit, or such like. He’d often come home with crisp wrappers in his packed lunch, where he’d swapped a bite of the cake for a packet of crisps …. a rather unfair swap I’d say, but it just goes to show how sought after a bite of my chocolate cake was! Edward loved baking too, and often joined in with my cake making – and even helped with the preparation of family meals. He insisted on being allowed to bake, and be left to his own devices in the kitchen so he could add his own creativity to the cakes being made.

I always make cakes … for birthdays, family visits, friends visits, Christmas, Easter; mother’s day, father’s day, start of the holidays, cake for holiday, cake for picnics, thank you cakes, cake for the end of exams … every day sort of cakes (often these involve using up old bananas) … or sometimes, it’s just cake for cake’s sake.

I know the theme of this blog is cakes and bakes … but my goodness … its “weighted” with all the naughty treats … no wonder I’m carrying too many extra pounds … but I just love food, so there’s no hope for me being stick thin!

I’ve made a cake for Father’s Day already – Oliver has already insisted we have a chocolate cake again. It has lashings of chocolate buttercream and topped with hundreds and thousands on this occasion. It looks homemade, it’s made with love, it looks very yummy.

So the hard bit is looking at it now and resisting it until tomorrow … and when it’s been demolished, I’ll be starting the next cake … “the end of GCSE’s and last day of school cake” for William; hmmm just to decide what kind of cake he’ll want.

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