Wily ways with cake..
PUBLISHED: 17:17 29 November 2013 | UPDATED: 17:22 29 November 2013
Baking Christmas cake for a local fair proves more tricky than hoped for new writer Annette
So on Thursday, after many years of making numerous Christmas cakes for friends, I took a stall at Stratford Town Hall at the Christmas Fair there to try my luck on a larger stage… Christmas lights were on, late night shopping had commenced – ideal.
Christmas cake production is absolutely not my day job but it is a part of the package ‘moi’ and has been for nearly 30 years now I come to think of it. It’s in the DNA and I now think I’ll probably never shake it off.
My friend and neighbour had decided to organise the Christmas Fair in support of the Shakespeare Hospice and SPEAR the local equine charity. I was recently moved by a report on the increase in the horse population and the crisis this is causing in how to mitigate this. SPEAR have very little funding but like many charities, make a significant impact however the challenge is worsening.
Amused friends and long suffering relatives have long observed the chaos caused by my annual cake compulsion which usually yields about 13. But gauging how many to make in order to last a day and a night – hmm – not easy. So after scientifically settling on ‘63’ I decided that the thing to do would be to apply a factory style production line approach to get through it.
Last year I bought a cooker for the first time in my life, even though by then I was in my fifth house. Cookers are usually bequeathed by the previous owners aren’t they? And last year, when looking to buy my first one, I found they either only have one inadequate oven or 2 smaller ones – suitable only for the roasting of plump pigeons. So I decided that as a dedicated cook I wanted something sensible but also ‘with knobs on’.
Together with buying multiples of the same sized cake tins, my new roomy oven meant that I was able to mix and bake 5 cakes simultaneously so that I could power my way through my quota over the course of 3 weekends in September.
Storage buckets of inebriated rum-soaked fruit sat, swelling in my kitchen for use in the cakes. Once made, I moved on to the weekly ‘feeding’ process by the end of which, had you wanted to, you could have easily inserted a straw and experienced a distinctively festive feel good feeling!
Then a weekend was spent making decorations and a weekend marzipanning the cakes followed by the application of fondant icing and crimping. Visits were paid to the Stratford Food Festival and to the Christmas Fair at Ragley among others – to guage how others ‘did it’. Facebook was updated and tweets issued and I soon had some orders ‘in the bag’ too.
At this point, my son was acclimatised to the focus switching to these new ‘family members’ and temporarily discounted me from parenting.
On the morning of the big day, Ben, my son, stomped off to the school bus happy to leave his demented dervish of a mother cellophaning cakes that appeared to emerge from every orifice in the house and loading the car with all manner of ‘useful things’ for the stall.
Alas I discovered a fundamental problem – not enough boxes and a small car! That was despite a nocturnal visit to a leading supermarket chain in Stratford and a clandestine rendezvous by their cardboard recycling trolley with a man in a motorcycle helmet about to start his shift….
What to do???? I did think there is no way that some of these cakes will not be going to the ball. After all the effort involved, I wanted to be ready for any chance of selling them.
Amazing how resourceful one can be with the clock ticking and the proverbial back against the wall….
Two wicker drawers from my sideboard were seized and cleared of their crockery contents at speed – et voila 6 cakes gained new mobile accommodation.
Last week, I was lucky enough to win an award for being a stand out member of the professional woman’s group I go to which has a branch in Kenilworth. I got a gorgeous glass trophy, now on proud display, in a lovely padded box. This means an empty sturdy box – lid and bottom = home to 2 more cakes.
Getting there but still 2 little critters to house. Aha! There on the stairs sat a forlorn yet strangely inviting empty suitcase – hey presto 2 more slid comfortably in there. YES!
As I’m about to leave the house, car bulging - out of the corner of my eye I see 1 more sitting there! Winking at me. Like a cheeky child playing hide and seek….. Noooo!