Tuesday, 21 July 2009

The Era of the Madeira

Before we moved to our new house, my favourite cake to cake was a good, old fashioned Madeira. As Nigella Lawson puts it, it’s not the sort of cake you see the point of, till you start eating it. It’s a classic and delicious, buttery and lemony, it’s good for all seasons, but not one I have tackled since inheriting the beast. I guess I was avoiding baking a Madeira as they are my favourites (along with all my other favourites- more Nigella sound bites) and I didn’t want to subject such a scrumptious cake to the ravages of the unwieldy beast and have it come out a disappointment, a sad reminder of its former glories. But early this week I was feeling brave, or reckless, or I guess I just figured it was only a cake! So, whilst Darling boy was having his nap I mixed the batter and poured it into the cake tin and stashed it in the aga, with the shelf above it to try to stop it catching on the unpredictable heat. In the end it actually needed an extra 15mins to cook- and managed to catch at the edges as well (something that only agas can do to your cakes- burn and under-cook them at the same time)

I made the Madeira to eat this weekend when we have marvellous mum and dad down to see us and their friends, the French contingent are in the neighbourhood and will be popping over. The Madeira will join some other cakes and treats to have for afternoon tea. I think we will be needing lots of tea and cake, as although it’s the ‘height of summer’ it’s also the great British summer and it hasn’t stopped raining all day! Definitely the weather for tea and cake.

Boys, boys, boys

When I was massively pregnant with Darling boy, and growing at a fast rate, we moved from London to Devon and so I had to sign up with a new midwife team. I was lucky enough to be passed into the care of a wonderful miracle of a midwife who was quite frankly inspirational. Aside from her day job with the local health team, she also ran a company which ran training courses in Active Birth. I signed up and didn’t look back. I joined a group of 4 lovely ladies and over a series of weeks, Miracle midwife led us through labour and what to expect, teaching us yoga positions to help us relax and stay mobile throughout the rest of our pregnancy and into the birth itself.

I’m sure I will tell you more about Miracle midwife some time, but the long and short of it is that us 4 ladies met before our babies were due and are still friends now, well over a year later. We have stayed in touch and are good friends. We all had boys and it’s such fun to see them playing together.

We finally managed to meet up one Sunday afternoon recently and it was great to see everyone all together, baby boys and grown up boys alike. Everyone piled over to our house and so cake was called for. My gingerbread cutters, which I still hadn’t got round to using were found and gingerbread men- and ladies!- were baked, spiced and golden brown and decorated with two smarties each for buttons. One day I really want to make drag gingerbread men, all i need to do is to perfect my icing of high-heels and lipstick and I will be away!

Alongside the gingerbread men were iced double chocolate cupcakes and a new addition to my repertoire...date slices from the charming Rachel Allens cook book, ‘Bake’ I can recommend her book highly. Reliable and tempting recipes, and lovely photography. The date slices turned out very scrummy, like a flapjack meets a crumble, with a datey jam in the middle. Yum!
The men folk drank beer, us ladies had tea and the babies tried all of the cakes each, ensuring the crumbs were liberally rubbed into the carpet. I don’t mind, its a sign of a good party!

The countdown begins

In a few days, 12 to be precise, I shall no longer be 21years old, I shall in fact be 30...imagine! To mark this momentous occasion, I am planning a series of celebration events.

I have long believed in the ‘birthday weekend’ not just a day of fun for me, but a whole weekend. However, since I am leaving my twenties behind even more than a weekend is require. First off,Birthday celebrations round 1 is a weekend that I have been looking forward to ever since we moved to Devon. All of my university girlfriends will be coming to visit- with their assorted families, babies, children, husbands etc. It should be a brilliant weekend. 11 adults and 5 children. Yikes!

After that is Birthday Celebrations round 2 is a family do, marvellous mum and dad, Brainy bro and his delightful other half, will be down, as will sister in law and the Entrepreneur staying at the in-laws. There are tentative plans afoot for what to do, but just having my nearest and dearest is an excellent start.

A true Devon lad

After our regular Saturday morning outing to the local market (a dozen eggs, field mushrooms, a creamy blue cheese from a local farm, watercress and a punnet of golden yellow tomatos) we decided to pop along to the car boot sale at the local school.

I am always keen for a bargain and am ever patient for the day that my luck turns good and I discover the perfect vintage cake stand and shabby chic kitsch lampshade for 20p. However, despite the carbooty fairies not being perched on my shoulder on this occasion, Darling Boy did turn up trumps. Like a heat-seeking missile, his eagle eyes sought out and found a tractor, his tiny hands reached out and tightened their grip on their target and finders were keepers! The deal was done, and 50p later Darling boy and the plastic toy of his dreams were forever united. So delighted with the new acquisition that as we walked away, Darling boy uttered a new word that marks him out as a true Devonshire lad....’tractor’