In the beginning there was cake.

24 Jul

Stuck on the wall at my maternal grandmother’s house was a motto: “Life’s too short: eat dessert first”. So this is where I thought I’d begin: with dessert.

I can remember the first cake that I made ‘all by myself’ :  a simple chocolate cake at my mum’s house when I went and stayed on the weekend. It was a warm summers day and I would have been perhaps 8 at the time.  I can recall getting annoyed at all of the little summer  flies that were buzzing around the room and the way the afternoon sun looked as it flickered softly through the window onto the table.  The cake was iced with a good old cocoa icing and covered in hundreds and thousands and was taken with me when my dad came and picked me up.

We went from my mum’s to one of my dad’s friend’s house and the cake was sliced up, shared around and proclaimed delicious. I, on the other hand, was disappointed. It was grainy and in my head I thought it was full of all of those little flies that had been pestering me while I cooked and I refused to finish my slice!

I don’t remember baking  a cake for quite a while after that, but eventually I started again and got a little obsessed. I began by making simple cakes that you basically threw everything into a bowl and  beat it and baked it,  to understanding a little more about what made a great cake. Like discovering how to  cream butter and sugar together prior to adding the other ingredients; experimenting with different spices; and making my own variations by adding handfuls of nuts or dried fruit to the batter. Sometimes it worked, some times it didn’t. I learned from my mistakes and tried to move on.

My grandmother and her mother used to drop around ice-cream containers full of slices and biscuits that used to go into our lunchboxes.  The containers would contain nutty hedgehog, lemon slice made from lemons from the tree, drop biscuits that would leave a slightly bitter feeling on the tip of your tongue from the bi-carb in them and of course chocolate cake – so similar to that which I made with my mum.

That first chocolate cake was most likely made from mum’s old school Home Economics cookbook which was full of good old fashioned recipes that were simple and easy to make (she still has a copy lying around that get used pretty frequently). I have a similar copy, old and covered in food that I make anything from scones to pickles from. Last Christmas I decided to make hampers full of homemade preserves and that book sure came in handy!

When my great-grandmother passed I inherited all of her old cookbooks, full of newspaper clippings and with handwritten notes. My dad informed me that a lot of the notes were taken by her husband as he would patiently jot down what she dictated! Admittedly I haven’t made anything from these yet. Maybe I’m a little scared that I will spoil the memory that these recipes evoke, but I am comforted by the fact they are there and waiting for me when I feel the time is right.

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