As with the Curate’s egg, this cake was good in parts. The reason for the incompleteness of this delicious recipe, a marmalade cake which originates in the current issue of Jamie Magazine, was a sad lack of concentration. It is my way to follow recipes reasonably closely, not slavishly, but at least keeping within the spirit of the author’s concept. In this particular case, my mind being elsewhere, I felt that reversing a proportion of the instructions would help whilst simultaneously forgetting anything that I have ever learnt about baking a cake. If I mention that I began the process by creaming softened butter with self raising flour rather than the time honoured preference of creaming the butter with the sugar it will be clear to you, dear reader, that this is not going to end well. Unlike St Paul, the blindingly obvious mistake did not lead me to the path of culinary righteousness. As the butter and flour metamorphosed into farinaceous cement beneath the whirring blades of the electric whisk there was a moment when I could have stopped what I was doing, built a house with the buttery cement, and restarted the cake making process anew. Therein lies the enigma of free will – we feel the accident is about to happen and we have the ability to change that which is about to happen but it is unlikely that we will take that step. Simple logic and common sense had left the kitchen in dismay sometime before leaving me to continue, like the young subaltern of the forlorn hope during one of the sieges of the Peninsula War, throwing more ingredients into the breach in the hope that some sorcery would create the cake for which I had had such high hopes. A sweet smelling, semi liquid paste was eventually poured into a buttered mould, which I had earlier layered with the wrong oranges and the wrong sugar, and placed in the correctly pre heated oven making my success rate 1 out of 100. As time passed I felt that a miracle might be under way and that, some time in the distant future, penitent cooks might visit La Moussiere in their droves in order to dip their rubber maids into the miraculous marmalade cake mix that would make the peripatetic monk’s creation of stone soup seem like Cuppa Soup. Optimism was still coursing like a drug through my veins as the golden cake took its place on the cooling rack but the miracle was partial and had only affected some of the cake. An apposite metaphor would be that the lame man of the Bible, having raised himself up on the instructions of the Lord, bent to pick up his bed and walk only to be immediately crushed under the weight of his four poster. The part of the cake that was cooked was fantastic and this chastened cook will be making it again this week.
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