Last Sunday was Mothering Sunday. Or Mother’s Day. I’ve never really known the difference between the two. Potato, potarto and all that.
I wanted to do something which I knew my mother would appreciate. Given various factors, I’d decided against flowers or taking her out for lunch. Instead, I’d resolved to bake a cake. Simples.
And I’d use one of my grandmother’s Victoria sponge cake recipes, carefully transcribed in my own eight or nine year old hand into my first cooking notebook. Then we could take the cake over to her in the afternoon, and help her eat it. A true mother’s cake. I’d jazz it up with fresh cream and strawberries, just to make it that little bit more delicious. Win win!
I must have made this recipe eleventy million times in my life. It never fails me. And now that I have Kit, the KitchenAid, to help out, it takes but a matter of moments. Which was good, because I only really had moments. For I had a Smart London Friend staying and we were doing brunch and then going off to the local Designer Outfit to try on unsuitable shoes and stroke handbags we still couldn’t afford even at 99% off.
Le Pomme went for a run and I lined my grandmother’s cake tins, switched on the oven and got out the scales. Kit was pressed into service and in went the butter and the sugar and the eggs and the flour and the milk and the baking powder.
And then I realised something, standing there in my dressing gown, holding the measuring scoop in my hand as Kit revolved and the batter battered. For the first time ever I had failed to follow the recipe. I was on such autopilot that I hadn’t even put my glasses on – with the result that I had added one and a half tablespoons of baking powder, rather than one and a half teaspoons. I have never done this before in my life.
After I’d finished cursing, weeping and wailing (and testing the mixture which tasted ok-ish but that’s no sign, as you bakers will know) I dolloped it into the cake tins and slid them into the oven, hoping for the best.
So Le Pomme returned to find me crashing crossly around the kitchen, convinced failure was imminent, with one eye on the oven and the other on the scrambling eggs which were to top bagels and smoked salmon.
Those bloody cakes took ages to cook. Twice as long as normal. They rose and rose until I was convinced they would hit the top of the shelf above them – and above the level of the cake tins until they looked like a soufflé. Le Pomme and my Smart London Friend spent about half an hour with their noses pressed against the oven door, taking bets on what would happen. Eventually I had to face facts – either be brave and take them out, or go to Marks & Spencer to buy a cake. The ultimate shame on Mother’s Day in my mind.
So I took them out, turned them out and said a little prayer or two. With less than 5 minutes to go my plans for cream and strawberries went out of the window and a jar of Italian jam left over from a holiday a couple of years ago was pressed into service as being the only strawberryish flavoured compote in the house. Then I added a ridiculous amount of icing sugar.
And went to put it on the lid of a cake tin (please tell me I’m not the only one who does this – inverts them?!). Le Pomme looked doubtful. And then I looked doubtful. The Smart London friend had been occupied with eating the huge chunks which had come off the side when I’d peeled off the greaseproof paper but started laughing when she turned around.
Because it was so tall, it filled the entire cake tin. The top barely fitted on. See? Note the cake tin lid, dwarfed by this monster, cringing in the background.
Yes, I had made an Enormous Cake of Love.
You’ll be pleased to hear my mother loved the cake, and it tasted just fine. But I won’t be repeating that trick again anytime soon. She’s probably still eating it a week later.
The moral of the story is not to think you are so familiar with a recipe that you don’t need to put your glasses on. Especially not when you’re making a cake for your mother.