Let them eat cake?
I am not a huge fan of cake (I can't recall my last Birthday cake and did without one at my wedding in 2004). Kenyan friends who have tasted the orange and polenta (ugali) cake I used to bake frequently in Nairobi, or who know my former husband (who is quite well-known for his first question at any wedding being "Wapi keki"*) may not believe this, but it is true. It is rare these days that I get excited by cake.
It is also an unfortunate truth that in the UK, and particularly when you have children, cake is suddenly everywhere. Were it just weddings, birthday parties and special occasions; the delightful well-behaved afternoon teas and the smartly dressed trips to pâtisseries it would be a rare treat, a bearable, nay pleasurable expense. And doubtless the UK's rate of diabetes and obesity would be a lot lower. But this is not the case. The UK has a crush on cake that rivals the fabled excesses of Marie Antoinette. Only sadly probably with significantly worse taste. The talk at the school gates and play dates is often of the "Great British" Bake Off, the media coverage of the sour-faced Mary Berry, and it is now expected that in addition to the proper birthday party cake, you will bring a cake to school on your child's birthday for the children in class to share. "You can always bring a tray bake"** the cheery suggestion of other parents, generally the same ones who recommend (despite an education at the local comprehensive) hitherto unheard of things like "Askeys"*** or "Legoland"**** From the dreaded, expensive and all to frequent school bake sales which encourage you to bake and bring a batch for sale to raise money for the school PTA (a farce that, at my daughter's last two schools resulted in people like me buying boxes of cupcakes from Waitrose and the local bakery for a couple of pounds each cake, only for them to be sold to other parents for 20p each, and my having to buy plates and bags of the sickly sweet covered cakes chosen by my daughter). It is said that we eat, in part, with our eyes and when popping into Fortnums to spend a voucher on something else entirely, and with a perpetually hungry daughter in tow, the cakes pictured, on sale for half price, were too beautiful to resist. The cakes were lovely and came with a cream coloured red velvet version in a box of four. We both preferred the vanilla. We only finished the last of them for breakfast this morning (on Sunday) so it is perhaps unfair of me to comment. But it still tasted fresh and I still preferred the vanilla. My daughter Sheba (aged nine) took the picture above in the car where we were picnicking on Friday. I took the one to the right of the page today.
For me what would have been more fabulous than either of the flavour selections is a rosewater version instead, and a lighter, buttery mixture with slightly less egg. (I personally loathe eggs). The not matching flavour to design thing is also my quibble with Fiona Cairns range of Waitrose cupcakes, which are about the same price, and which these were still vastly superior to. Perhaps we had been spoiled by the taste of the excellent light and buttery rose petal biscuits earlier in the day, or by the silky smooth texture of the champagne and strawberry jam, or the raspberry jam that my daughter tasted immediately declared the "best raspberry jam I have had", or the wonderful crisp but crumbly just right texture of the fudge that, or perhaps the mixture needed to be on the firmer side to withstand the depth and weight of icing. Update to previous post (Macarons and long-awaited violet tea) goo.gl/Hb3ESN We also picked up some macarons, we didn't feel they had quite enough flavour (again they were on sale so may have been past their best). Our standards are Ladurée high. The one exception is that F&M's Earl Grey Macarons, which are quite heavenly for bergamot kind of people (we don't like Ladurée's Marie Antoinette version as much but we do prefer their rose).
* "Where is cake?"
** I had to ask what the tray bake thing was. I was disappointed to find it was in the cheap section of the supermarket with all the other overly sweet, sickly and somewhat plasticky Cadburys and white chocolate factory made stuff. Last year I was lucky. My local Waitrose had a whole lovely decorated Victoria sponge on sale so I bought that instead and they kindly personalised it for us.
*** This is a revolting "chocolate" sauce that freezes hard when applied to ice cream and is sold in an ugly container that probably gets sticky and rots in the back of the cupboard once opened. ****A popular but expensive and horrifying looking theme park in Windsor at which two young children were allegedly recently sexually assaulted. (We have never been to Legoland).
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