24 September 2012

late cake

If you're always at least 10 minutes early for everything, ALWAYS, does that make you obsessively punctual, or not? Either way, avoiding being actively late is something I inherit from my father. I am almost NEVER late, and if something makes me late I get ludicrously, blood-vessel-burstingly cross.

There was a perfect description of this in a novel I've just finished: 
I have a crushing fear of lateness. I would rather be an hour early than cause someone a minute's wait. Dev would always say, 'We're not late until we're late.' I knew what he meant and it was technically true, but it never worked for me. Knowing I'll be late is always bad enough. The least I can do is get the worrying in early.
(from Charlotte Street by Danny Wallace)

This is EXACTLY how I feel about being on time.

Which is probably why this baby being nearly a week late is so stressful for me. My last baby's labour kicked off at 9am on her due date. Very businesslike and precisely on time, I hadn't anticipated anything less. So what on earth has happened, why has my scrupulous timekeeping deserted me, what am I doing wrong this time around?

So I'm still filling the days with baking, and then writing about it for you here. Oh, and scarfing it down like a pig of course. Knitting aside, there's nothing better to take my mind off things. To that end, here is a recipe for the most sublime cake in my repertoire. It's the (ahem... late!) Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother's favourite cake.*

Queen Mother's Cake
6oz sugar
2oz butter
6oz plain flour
1tspn baking powder
2oz chopped walnuts
1 egg
1tspn vanilla essence
1/2 tspn salt
4oz chopped dates
large pinch bicarbonated soda
  • cover the dates with one cup of boiling water with a pinch of bicarb and set to one side
  • preheat your oven to 180*C and line your cake tin
  • mix all the other ingredients together in the usual way (ie use a hand whisk or wooden spoon to cream butter and sugar, add egg, vanilla and sifted dry ingredients)
  • add the dates, their juice and the chopped walnuts and mix well (it's sloppy, don't worry)
  • bake for 35 minutes or until the skewer comes out clean.
5 tbspns soft light brown sugar
2 tbspns single cream or full fat milk
2 tbspns butter
  • Melt together and boil (constantly stirring) for 5-8 minutes before spreading on the cooled cake and decorating with leftover walnuts.
Unlike my Granny's carrot cake recipe, this one must have it's icing. It is literally the icing on the cake, and turns a date and walnut sponge into a bird of paradise in full plumage. This icing, on this cake, is the sensory distillation of my childhood.

My midwife was surprised (though not concerned) to find trace amounts of glucose in my samples this morning. I wasn't. I think taking the photos alone was enough to have caused that.

* I have no idea if this really was her favourite cake, or even where the recipe originally came from. I remember copying the list of ingredients from my Granny's book (a badly printed spiral bound charity pamphlet I think) at least 25 years ago. So if you own the copyright to this, perhaps you can forgive my lack of credit. And if you happen to know that Ma'am preferred another cake more, well, I'm past caring. In my house, this is Queen Mum's Cake, end of discussion.


  1. Doctors, and even midwives, are often incorrect in their due date estimations, hence the two weeks plus or minus disclaimer. Just move the date in your head. The date the baby comes is the new due date. ;-)
    Or maybe you have a Contrary Mary in there.

  2. The dates I was given on each occasion were based on my scan not my last cycle. My youngest arrived on the day I thought she would. Work out your own date and then your baby will hopefully not be late or else it is have a jolly old time in there and does not want to come out.

  3. Oh I know, in my logical mind, y'know, the one that studied surgery.... but all rational thinking has now passed, especially now that we're having to read up on all the interventions that the coming week may bring. Just wish we could plan for straightforward like last time, and AAAAGH, I was so ready for this about THREE WEEKS AGO when the sun was shining and my mum was staying and i hadnt developed stretch marks yet. But now I'm bored and tired and cheesed off... Which feels like a backwards move!

  4. I feel the same about being late/early. I have to be early!! My son was 12 days overdue, its so painful waiting waiting waiting and not being able to DO anything!

  5. It seems wrong somehow that I should be stocking up on fabulous cake recipes because Dragon baby is so far a no show! Fingers crossed that's the last yummy recipe you'll have time to share for a while :)

  6. I just picked up some dates and will be preparing your recipe tomorrow, it looks really good.
    Still no baby? Oh you poor thing, I am keeping you in my prayers!

  7. Just realised that this post title should have included a play on the word 'date'. I seem to have lost my powers as well as my sanity...

  8. Well well well, it appears that you have a very shy baby. I thought for sure we would be reading a post of your newest bundle.

  9. Well, it's very nice for us to have you still there to share yummy recipes :) I think I might have just about everything for this cake in the house, hmmm....
    I'm keeping my fingers crossed for you, hopefully baby will decide to come on its own before induction etc will be necessary!!

  10. late cake, hee hee. c'mon baby! happy birth day dear!

  11. oh it sounds so yummy and that picture helped me to imagine how it would taste even better! i would like to make it one day. i think i'll have to find a kitchen scale first. i wish we all used the same measuring system - why did america have to go and do something different from everybody else? best of luck to you and the birthing! maybe your due date was off? i would be very frustrated too... must take a deep breath and just be grateful for a few days more sleep.

  12. Ha! I'm the opposite - I feel that being early is a waste of time that could have been used for doing something useful :) Most of my friends are tardy too, so we all arrive at the same time - late, but on time :)


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