I think I now understand why the cooks on The Great British Bake-Off spend so much time gazing through the glass of the oven door at their latest concoction to check its progress. It's all about the oven, isn't it?
Earlier this week, packing up for a couple of days' stay with the Youngest of the Darling Daughters, I decided to fill a handy cardboard box with all the necessary ingredients for a birthday cake. I was remembering my
daughter's wistful comment that she really, really would like a home-made cake this year. At the time she was contemplating Young Faris's birthday cake which, as regular readers will recall, was made by my own fair hand. Okay, I don't think she was hankering
after a dinosaur cake for herself - but each to her own, as they say.
My daughter wanted a home-made birthday cake - and a home-made birthday cake she should have. I even packed my cake tins because, according
to the Divine Delia, they are the perfect depth for a perfect Victoria sponge. And this sponge cake just had to be, like Mary Poppins, Practically Perfect In Every Way.
My opportunity to bake arose because
the Y of the DDs was setting off with her daughter for a trip to Portsmouth University where a kind of Pick Your University open day was in session. There would be just enough time, I reckoned, to bake, cool, fill and decorate before they returned, arms full
My plan nearly hit the rocks when the Almost Birthday Girl asked if Mr B and I would like to tag along? Fortunately Mr B declined the invitation so I was able to look suitably regretful (I
never usually turn down an invite to tag along. Anywhere) in the interests of keeping Mr B company.
No sooner were daughter and granddaughter out of the door than I was hunting about for the necessary utensils.
As in kitchen scales and an electric mixer. I thought I knew my way around my daughter's kitchen, having done my fair share of washing up and putting away, but my searches were drawing a blank. In desperation, I texted Hazel, explaining my Secret Mission.
Did she know, I asked, where I could find said scales and mixer?
Now this is what I love about communicating by text with my grandchildren: they always answer immediately. It's almost as if they are just waiting
for me to send them a message. It is conceivable, I am willing to concede, that I may not be the only person with whom they are communicating. Possibly, even, at one and the same time.
Still, back comes the
information I so desperately need. The scales are on the window sill, the mixer is in the second drawer down to the right of the cooker. The beaters are separate, she tells me, helpfully. As an Ace Conspirator, she takes some beating. Rather like my Victoria
Eventually the cake is mixed and ready for the oven. Did I really think my troubles were over? I call on Mr B to see if he can work out how to turn the oven on. He can't. I fiddle about with a few
knobs and a light comes on inside. This is, I tell Mr B, A Good Sign so he takes himself back to the sofa and his newspaper. I wave a hopeful hand inside the oven; it appears to be warming up.
My hand is not
the best judge of how hot is hot enough but in the end I deliver my cake tins into the depths of the oven and settle down for the next half-hour to watch, minute by anxious minute, whether the cake mixture is rising. That is when I start to understand those
Bake-Off cooks, peering anxiously at their choux buns. Delia has been most insistent that the oven door must not be opened for half an hour. It is an agonising wait. At home, in my own oven, thirty minutes would have been exactly right but the cakes which
emerge from my daughter's oven look decidedly, well, soggy. I crank up the heat and pray for a miracle.
Hazel Bagel, Ace Conspirator, texts me to say they are just leaving Portsmouth. She will text again,
she reassures me, when they are about ten minutes away. What would I do without her?
The birthday cake is decorated with butter icing, wafer daisies, and candies spelling out Happy Birthday. I set it on the
dining room table and congratulate myself that it really looks quite edible. Okay, it does resemble, in all important aspects, every other birthday cake I have made since perfecting Delia's Sponge Cake just about a year ago. Let's face it, if you find a Winning
Formula, why not stick to it?
I expect you want to know if my culinary efforts were well-received by my girl? I think it's safe to say it was a big surprise and she especially liked the daisies on the top.
Dinosaurs just wouldn't have been the same.