Another lesson in the womanly art of housekeeping and family feeding.
The first thing one learns about cake making is that there are cake makers and cake fakers.
Cake fakers have Sara Lee in the freezer at all times.
Except for me who will eat the things frozen when I'm on a sweet bender.
Cake bakers turn out divine confections without putting on an apron. They open cook books just to do a quick refresh and then the brain does a re-boot and memory takes over. Scones rise, sponges rise, cupcakes are iced without the cat being splattered two rooms away and some even make bread.
I haven't baked a cake in five years but after reading the nutrition labels on so-called healthy options, I decided to be a cake maker again and here are my lessons in baking.
1. Don't be tempted to buy homebrand mixed fruit. You'll find it has 10 pieces of minute lemon peel and the rest of the fruit would have to be analysed by a CSI unit. Don't buy already chopped dates, you can't identify chopped fruit from chopped anything else that got in the way.
2. If you do buy the cheap crap, liberally douse it with as much sherry as it takes to make the fruit look like fruit and the smell creeping out of the kitchen is divine.
3. Read the recipe first. I know, just one of those silly rules that cake makers swear by but it does remind you to buy the ingredients that you actually will need. Trying to estimate how much liquid to put in to equate to a can of crushed pineapple which you knew you needed last shopping day but couldn't remember what for. Make sure you have flour. Mixing everything that's left in the jars might work or not. I'll let you know later.
4. Even if you never think you'll bake a cake ever again, buy a flour sifter, just in case. I know Nigella doesn't like sifting flour either but I'll be hanged if I'll get out the food processor to do it, not when I know she's got slaves to wash it and put it away after. She also uses it to get the lumps out of icing sugar but, but those lumps make the icing look so interesting.
5. So you have two bottles of vanilla extract. Make sure you tip the almost empty one into the mixture and not waste the full one. Make sure you have the spices. It's all very well to keep them in brown bottles away from sunlight but the bottles don't cry out in the wilderness of the pantry, "I'M EMPTY". You find that out the hard way but never mind the vanilla and sherry will make up for that. I did have sugar but it's been so long since I filled the sugar bowl I practically had to use the rolling pin to break it up. Dear old rolling pin, I've had it since my kitchen tea, we didn't have male strippers and hangovers before the wedding in my day.
6. Get out the proper sized cake tin. The recipe says an 8 inch round but it was too far back in the cupboard so I'm using a 10 inch square. It's okay, the cake will look flatter but bigger in the way guys stuff socks in their jocks except the cake will taste loads better.
Don't forget to line the tin with greased paper then a layer of baking paper or you can wing it and cut the paper out of the cake later.
7. Light the oven before you start all this, that way you won't forget and still be salivating at midnight when you finally check for a flame because something doesn't seem right. Don't take any notice of cooking times, remember you're using a 10 inch instead of an 8 inch tin and don't rely on the kitchen clock either, the battery dropped dead last week.
8. Never tell you mother at the nursing home that you're making a cake. She'll want a piece and a piece for all her friends and I won't be responsible for what happens after all those oldies ingest cake containing dates, booze and wholemeal flour. I'm sure Jane will agree with me.
I think I'll go over to Cake Wrecks and feel better about myself or I'll have an early meal and have warm cake with ice-cream on top. That's what I call nutritious.