The right cake

I’ve got to bake a cake. Now that in itself isn’t a problem, I can Wizz up a cake in under five minutes, a pudding in three, and that’s having it at the table and served. Easy, 1 egg, 50g self-raising flour, 50g butter, 50g sugar, and vanilla essence. Mix the whole lot together, spray a dish with fry light, add a dollop of jam in the bottom, put the pudding mix into the dish, nuke on high for a minute and half and hey presto. Turn out, serve with ice cream. If you try this at home remember to make it a big dish, this baby rises. But this cake is going to take a little bit of time. Time which I might add I don’t really have. You see my beautiful wonderful egit of a husband has chosen to go on a trip on his birthday. No, not a wonderful site seeing romantic trip, oh no, we are going to be driving through the Yorkshire moors on the last day of October. Now I’m not a scare monger, but did someone mention snow? That aside, back to the cake.

Mark is going back to work. He hasn’t been right, bless his cotton socks and the time off has been worse for him then the bad back. He is a mithering old git when he hasn’t got a problem to sink his teeth into, so I gave him one. Don’t tell him, but I did it on purpose. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I became the damsel in distress. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but I live in the Frank Spencer house of DIY. Not ours I hasten to add, but the idiot that did the odd jobs for mum was, how can I say this, (I was taught that if I couldn’t say anything nice, then I shouldn’t say anything at all) that ends that conversation. Anyway, I decided to put up some new blinds in the kitchen and the bathroom. What a bloody palaver, I’ve put blinds up in every house I’ve ever lived in, but this was beyond a joke. The wall mountings for the old blinds where left up and the window edging was put on afterwards, meaning that when the old mountings where moved, half the seal around the window, came off with them. I was infuriated and did the, I can’t do this bit. Mark my hero instantly came to my rescue, and two days later he put up the new blinds. It’s cost me, I had to go out and have a coffee and spend money on a new scarf, just to give him time to do the heroic thing. The sacrifices us women make just to make men feel better about themselves.

I’m getting to the cake, honestly.

Mark has a cake club at work, every Thursday someone takes in cakes and they all gather in their coffee room which is bigger than my dining room and front room combined. I, being the queen of baking decided that because Marks efforts would be a swiss roll from Asda’s and a packet of ginger biscuits, would help out. So once a month I bake. Being his birthday, I traditionally do a cake for the Thursday. Last year his birthday fell on Thursday which meant I only had to bake one cake. This year I need a birthday cake for the day and one for Thursday, but I won’t have time on the Wednesday because we will probably be struck in the snow in the middle of the Yorkshire moors. Ok that’s a bit dramatic, but you get the idea.

Baking the cake on Wednesday, I have to decide what kind of cake. I don’t have to worry about it being a slimming cake, I won’t have any, that means that it can be made with butter. Ginger has to be involved. Last years was a three-layered butter iced ginger biscotti flavoured cake, decorated with inch high gingerbread men. It took half a day to make and I must admit I was proud of the result. This year I haven’t got a clue what to do. It has to be something that will last for two days without going gooey, mushy, dry or sag. It has to be able to withstand the rigors of being carried by a clumsy giant (sorry Mark, but you are) and be large enough to serve about 40 people. Now I’m thinking two cakes. This is getting complicated.

Stay with me, cakes are important. Especially to me. When I married my first husband, my darling mother-in-law-to-be, generously offered to pay for the wedding cake. I was absolutely ecstatic and so grateful. I looked forward to meeting the baker, discussing designs and having the perfect cake. Yer right, like that happened. What I got was the cake from kindergarten city. A month before the wedding I asked my father-in-law-to-be when we would meet the baker, I had told them what I wanted and my father-in-law assured me that everything was in hand. It would be a surprise and I would love it. I trusted them. The day before the big event I waited with anticipation as the cake was delivered. The first box came in. And that was it, one tier. Couldn’t grumble, it was a gift. The box opened I cried deep down inside as I was presented with a bright pink heart shaped butter iced sponge cake. Devastated. My guests would arrive and the cake I had made for the reception lunch was better than this. The tears held back, I said thank you like a good daughter-in-law-to-be and shut the box. It was three o’clock Friday afternoon. They left the house at four. Yellow pages out, no internet back then, I thumbed through, M, Ma, Mar, found it, Marks and Spencer’s. I called and crossed my finger.

“You have, oh thank you, I am so grateful.” I explained the situation in tears, I just could not believe what had happened. The woman was amazing and totally understood.

Would I like to collect this evening, she would wait for me? Would I? As I pulled up to the loading bay at the back of the store, a very prim and proper five-foot Fairy God Mother stood waiting. Beside her, three boxes of varying sizes. I kissed her and hugged her, loaded the car, and sped away. Tesco’s…

I grabbed the necessary sugars and ribbons, praising every God I could think of that they had all the bits I needed. That night I set about transforming three M&S plain iced rich fruit cakes into my dream wedding cake. It worked and by 2 am there stood a perfect wedding cake. Now to plan getting it to the reception without the in-law’s knowledge. Debbie.

Debbie came through with flying colours. Being my best friend since I was 12, she arrived at 10am, bottle in hand. “No time for that, get this in the car.” My hair dresser was fussing around me, but I needed to get the cake sorted first. Debbie just looked at me, stunned, as I once again explained the situation and described my wedding cake of nightmares.

Shaken into action, Dawn my hairdresser and Debbie both helped to put the cake into Debbie’s car. The thought struck me, Debbie, driving carefully in a hurry wasn’t the best plan I’d ever come up with. But it had to do, there was no choice.

The reception was to be held in the local community centre. We three odd balls ran in as though our lives depended on it. On the other side of the centre, there was a youth club, full of impressionable young, erh, kids. What can I say, I used to be one of them, not so innocents. Debbie, done up like a dogs dinner, she was after all my Maid of Honour. Dawn, in her black out suit, ready to do battle with my unruly locks and me in PJ’s and slippers, what was the use of getting dressed. The kids looked on, some even daring to giggle and point. I soon put a stop to that, the cake was my priority and I wasn’t in the mood. One look and they all shrank back into the other room.

No lights, “Fuck it, where’s the switch.” I tripped. Debbie caught the edge of the cake box I was holding, saved in the nick of time.

“Found it,” shouted Dawn.

The lights flickered on. The hall looked beautiful, but no cake. We put the boxes down on different tables as Deb ran out to find someone.

“Oh, the wedding cake, yes we keep that and the food in the kitchen until the reception starts, here I’ll show you.” The caretaker had no problem in believing Debbie’s story that the wrong cake had been delivered and that we were there to set things right.

Disaster averted the caretaker assured us that everything would be taken care of, and what did he want us to do with the wrong cake.

“Can we see it,” Dawn asked.

“Why sure.” He led us to the back of the kitchens and opened a large pantry door. The shelves were full of prepared sandwiches, sausage rolls and other delicacies. The big pink box stood out. As he opened the box, he declared, “Oh yes, I can see now, definitely got the wrong cake there.”

I smiled as my heart broke.

“Never mind, we’ll take care of the assembly of the new one. My wife does all that. I think the kids would enjoy this, don’t you?” I couldn’t disagree.

The wedding day went pretty much to plan after that, not that the marriage survived. The in-laws were too polite to say anything about the cake to me as the new one was revealed and everyone complimented me on the decoration. “So simple and elegant. Where did you get it from?” Proud Debbie couldn’t stop telling the world that I had made it, and how incredible I was.

The best part of the day? Not getting married, but decorating the best darn wedding cake of the century.

I went back to M&S with the wedding photos and a bunch of flowers for the lady that had saved the day. We became quite good friends, and ever since then I realise that choosing the right cake is very important. So what cake should I bake for Marks birthday. I haven’t got a bloody clue, but I do know it will be the right cake for the right occasion. My darling husbands’ birthday.

Happy Birthday Mark.

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