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Tuesday, 02 September 2014

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You won’t have my cake and eat it. I can’t bake one

Cake? Why would I want to go to a cake...erm, thing? I haven’t baked a cake since I was at school, haven’t eaten one since I started this wretched diet and wouldn’t know an upside-down from a tipsy-turvy, even were I to stand on my head and study both through bottle bottoms.

I’ve been known to toy with a lemon drizzle on occasion and do seem to recall a brief flirtation with a rather boozy rum roulade. But that’s about the size of it. I’m no Mary Berry.

Apparently that won’t do. Not in Cumbria.

Just as that flighty Earnshaw piece in Wuthering Heights asserted “I AM Heathcliff!” a Cumbrian has to be able to declare, hand on heart, “I AM cake!”

Not so clever for a Kate Bush single, nor an English A-level. But no less true for any of that.

So, now I have a problem. I’ve been badgered to show due allegiance to all things bakery at the Lakeland Cake of the Year competition down Windermere way, in two weeks time.

Not so much an invitation, more a shaming exercise, I fear.

There’s distinct impression of a ‘be there or be in the bad books’ summons.

And under those circumstances, it’s probably an offer I could refuse only should I be prepared to find a horse’s head in my bed. And I’m not quite ready for that.

The competing cakes will have an Olympics theme, they say.

And I don’t think they mean like a sprinter at the end of his race – soggy, sunk and exhausted.

That’s ambitious. To theme a cake is awfully clever. I saw it on the Great British Bake Off on TV this week. Really difficult.

The best I ever managed in domestic science class was a fat queen theme. Victoria sponge sandwich, stuffed to bursting with whipped cream and jam.

A bit sad, just like the old widowed monarch.

I was so chuffed, I shared my cake generously with the lads from the boys’ school on the top deck of the bus home – hoping to impress David Chapman, on whom I had a dizzying crush.

By the time it reached the tea table, it was no more than a mess of sticky crumbs in a tin.

And David Chapman hadn’t even looked at me. Though he had deigned to accept a slice.

From a distance.

Passed to him by his friend.

Still, all was well that ended well.

Mum discovered a Birds Eye frozen equivalent in the corner shop fridge shortly after.

It was almost as good as mine had been – but colder.

Since then head has ruled heart in all time and emotion dilemmas.

Two key lessons were learned that day: Why bake when you can buy? Never trust a man with his fingers in your cake tin.

That’s probably not something to be mentioned safely at the Lakeland Cake of the Year Competition.

My guess is these Cumbrian bakers will have perfected their art sufficiently to make Nigella Lawson want to ditch her piping nozzles.

As for me, I don’t own cake tins, never buy flour, use my sieve to drain peas and my wooden spoons to stir sauce for pasta. One of them was handy for potting geraniums.

So, you see where I’m coming from. Me and cakes? It’ll end in tiers (sorry).

But, in the interests of necessary – nay, compulsory – embrace of Cumbrian cake obsession, I must face my demons, own up to shortcomings, promise to do better and go to the erm, cake thing... putting the bus business behind me.

As an aside, I might mention I ran into David Chapman at a Christening do some years ago. He’d married a domestic goddess renowned for her culinary skills and was popping a mini sausage roll into his mouth as I said hello.

“I used to have a huge crush on you at school,” I said.

I prefer to assume he was too polite to speak with his mouth full.

Ho-hum.

Isn’t it always true that the skills you lack are precisely the ones you should have tried harder to acquire?

Clearly, I should have offered him a slice of my game pie on the bus that day.

Though I say so myself, my game pie was sensational.

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