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Monday, September 26, 2016

Load of old pony

I taught myself to bake in the summer of 2010. We had moved to the outskirts of London and shared a car. On Saturdays, TheBloke (TM) took the car and went to cricket for the day, often leaving at about 10 a.m. and not home again until 9 p.m.

Unwilling to do my daily commute on a weekend, to get to London-proper, and a bit stuck in the suburbs without a car, I tended to find myself at home, at a loose end (pre-kids, obviously), and would end up doing housework... and then feeling (unfairly) resentful when TheBloke (TM) came home, as he'd been out having fun all day and I'd been tidying and cleaning.

So I decided that I would find something home-based I could do whilst he was out. I bought myself a copy of The Hummingbird Bakery and started working my way through the recipes. I had a lot of disasters: a lemon meringue pie where the filling didn't set. A Victoria sponge where it was still raw and runny in the middle - so I tried to microwave it to cook further. A tart-au-citron where I forgot to add the cream, and therefore accidentally made a dairy-free version. An awful lot of cupcakes. Slowly I got better. I enjoyed the scientific process of seeing what happened if I changed the order of adding the ingredients. If I substituted this for that. If I did this for longer or shorter. There are so many variables.

Eventually I became quite good. Not great, but could reliably turn out a decent cake.

One thing I have never been good at - nor seemed to improve at - is cake decorating and/or presentation. Partly I am just inept at anything like that (my art teacher pre-GCSE, with a worried look in her eye, and conscious of the school's 100% pass rate, cornered me and made me promise I wasn't planning on taking art GCSE). Partly I think it's because I don't really care. I'm much more interested in what a cake tastes like than how it looks.

So this week saw the preschooler's birthday. As we have raised her with strong feminist ideals and encouraged her to enjoy superheroes and diggers just as much as anything else, she obviously wanted a My Little Pony cake. Well fuck me if I'm making Rainbow Dash out of Royal Icing, so I bought the figurines cheaply from eBay. Rarity looked green instead of white, but all else looked good.

As the preschooler has recently changed her name to Applejack Rainbow Dash, she asked for an apple cake. I made her a carrot cake, but substituted the carrots for apples. All good. Then decorating time came. I thought I would keep it simple. A nice layer of (pre-bought, pre-rolled) fondant icing, then some ponies stuck on top. It would be fine.

However, we all hate buttercream, and as I was using a carrot cake recipe, I thought I'd stick to our usual cream cheese and mascarpone frosting. It would be fine.

And it sort of was. This is what the cake looked like. It wasn't perfect, but for a four year-old's party, it would do.

I stored it overnight in an airtight container (OK, the microwave, but it wasn't switched on).

The next morning I heard TheBloke (TM) say, "No need to panic, but have you got any more icing?"

I gave a calm and measured response, "What the fuckity fuck have you done to my cake?"

He hadn't done anything. Apparently there's a reason you don't use cream cheese icing - or if you do, keep it in the fridge. This is what greeted me on the morning of her party.

He was swiftly despatched to buy more icing. And I re-did it, whilst muttering obscenities under my breath.

So it looked like this again.

Anyway, it was all worth it when the preschooler saw the cake, immediately stripped it of all ponies ("I'm going to keep the figurines Mummy for ever and ever") and announced, "I don't like the cake bit. Don't put walnuts in my next birthday cake, Mummy.") I reminded her about politeness, and how next time she might not have a birthday, let alone cake, and then sat and munched my way through a two-tier apple and walnut cake.

It could have been worse.

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