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.

19 September 2012

yarn along :: stuff that shouldn't be happening today

Picking the first and only sweet peas of the year... in September? That's just bizarre.

I shouldn't have had time to finish the raspberry Rubble sweater.

I wish I hadn't heard the words "it's discontinued" this morning, with respect to my most favourite wool EVER. Especially at a time when I can't afford to bulk buy all the remaining stock in the local craft shop.

I shouldn't have had time to start a Pompom Papoose in the aforementioned favourite fantastic wool (inspired by lovely Anoushka's version).

I wish I hadn't spent so much time searching through hunnerds of photos (of our recent sandy recreation of DunBroch Castle) for all the porpoises that were frolicking in the background... didn't manage to catch a single one on 'film' sadly.

I shouldn't have needed to recharge and replenish the hospital bag Kindle already, without it ever having been near the hospital bag (now stocked with some Alexander McCall Smith and Chris Cleave btw).

: : :

I should be having a baby today. I don't seem to be doing that. It's bloody annoying.


    18 September 2012

    random recipe :: savoury scones for tea

    I had no intention of taking part in the Random Recipe Challenge for September. Because September wasn't supposed to turn out this way. I had predicted days (if not weeks) already of swaddle-wrestling a posset-stained howler monkey, shuffling around as if kicked in the nethers by a Shire horse and leaking copiously into a nursing top full of mysteriously-placed gaping seams. I know, dreaming the glam dream, right?

    But it hasn't happened, so I thought I'd try to invoke Lou's labour jinx... again.

    This month's challenge is linking with a combination of delightful blogs (which you can read about here via Belleau Kitchen) and focuses on tea time. Something that has become more important than ever since The Boss started school, arriving home after 3pm, ravenous.

    I don't have a recipe book specifically on baking, but I do have a plastic file devoted entirely to the subject, stuffed full of clippings and scribbles for recipes both sweet and savoury. With the help of random.org, I was delighted to select a clipping that I haven't made before, that is available for you to read online here, and that opens with the phrase "Irresistible slathered with butter and served for tea". Surely the stars are all aligned for this Random Recipe!

    So, while listening to Nigel Slater on the radio, extolling the virtues of savouring even the humblest piece of fruit at the table with a napkin and cutlery, I mixed up a batch of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's Cheddar, Onion and Herb Wholemeal Scones. Very therapeutic it was too. I used up my spelt flour in place of the light brown in his recipe, rosemary from the garden, and included a few chunks of applewood smoked cheddar as well as the regular stuff I had in the fridge.

    Looks good right? Tastes good too, beautifully soft, salty and savoury, and crunchy round the edges. I scoffed my slice before even getting round to butter... or tea. Oh, and it's only mid-morning. Certainly there was no napkin, table or cutlery. (It took very few moments to forget Nigel's advice on treating food with the respect it deserves - oops.)

    Once again, Lou's labour jinx hasn't worked today, the buzzer went off and I'm still the shape of my gym ball. But never fear, I have more baking on my to-do list. My inherited, hand-written copy of The Queen Mother's Favourite Cake is next up...

    10 September 2012

    treacle, caraway and apple muffins :: it's officially autumn

    I have this lovely friend (you can see just how lovely here) who probably won't mind me telling you that she went into a fast, furious labour with her first child while a cake was in the oven. I remember listening, hand clamped over mouth in horror, as she explained that she was fine when the batter went in, but had to crawl across the floor in a painful rescue operation by the time the beeper went off. Her birth story actually got more and more dramatic (and slightly hilarious in the recounting!) as the evening progressed, but that's not what I'm here to share.

    I am desperate for this bubba to arrive. DESPERATE. Despite there being officially a few days left on the clock, we're thoroughly cheesed off waiting. So I thought I'd do some baking and see if I could tempt Lou's jinx.

    The marvellous Dan Lepard wrote a recipe in the Guardian magazine a few weeks ago that called for some slightly obscure ingredients (spelt flour and caraway seeds) as well as three small apples. Not only did I happen to have the spelt and caraway in the cupboard, but for the first time in its short life my adolescent apple tree was positively dripping with small and nearly ripe apples.

    Daily I have wandered around the tree, checking the largest fruits with a gentle twist of the wrist. All the while wondering which would come first: ripe apples for muffins or a tiny baby.

    Well, today I got my answer. 

    This muffin recipe is as delicious as it looks, it's Autumn on a plate and I thoroughly recommend it to you. But evidently, the beeper has rung and I didn't have to commando crawl across the floor to rescue them. Turns out my second born won't be named after you Dan, sorry.



    04 September 2012

    yarn along :: new

    Posting a little early for Wednesday's Yarn Along, just in case...

    The enormous new blanket that won't fit the dragon baby's bed 'til it's three is finished (dimensions = 97cm x 123cm in the end).

    four colours of Rowan wool cotton striped together
    (nearly... ahem... 16 balls of the stuff. Please don't tell)

    I've invested in new slippers in preparation for my first Scottish Winter in three years, and the amazing Mr Breadwinner shocked me with a final, surprise constituent for our hospital bag: a Kindle. With a beautiful cover that matches my phone perfectly - so chic. I love my new toy. So does our bookshelf. If I could've jumped up and down with excitement I would've. Sadly that'll have to wait a while.

    currently reading "Charlotte Street" by Danny Wallace and "Simplicity Parenting" by KJ Payne.
    "The Gift of Rain" by Tan Twan Eng is queued for those first weeks of endless infant feeding.

    Meanwhile I treated myself to some Cascade 220 for The Boss' new winter jumper (thank you for all your recommendations last week). We consciously keep pink in moderation, and I can confirm that being mindful of princessification during the first formative five years of my daughter's life has worked so far, pink isn't an overbearing issue in our house. But this looked soft and pretty and cosy, and we wouldn't dream of banning the colour altogether. (We're not total bampots.) A pink jumper will be something new, both for me to make and for her to wear.

    details: 3 skeins Cascade 220 Heathers in Framboise, destined to be an age 6 Rubble,
    using a ChiaoGoo 60cm 4.5mm circular needle (my favourite needles of all time)

    So, come on new baby. We're SO ready for your close up now.

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