There is such a silence this Sunday morning. Even the birds are in quiet contemplation. The soft hum of the computer and the click clack of the keyboard is all that breaks the hush. Once it would have been the scratching of a pen nib on paper. That times have changed is confirmed by the swiftly passing roar of jet engines from an empty blue sky. Les Saintes Glaces have made their exit for another year which means, according to mediaeval beliefs still strongly held, that clouts can be cast off: a little earlier than English clout casting, which attends the end of May, but that’s the French for you. Can’t wait to take them off. This day should herald the arrival of summerish things, if not summer itself, but there is still a chill in the air. More firewood was delivered yesterday as the wood burner is still lit each night. In part for “convivialité” but mostly for warmth which, at this juncture of the year, I don’t remember happening before. It might just be that I feel the cold more and nothing has changed.
But, in the wake of the Saintes Glaces, the sun was shining to lure the unwary into casting their clouts. I decided on cake and coffee in the sunshine, but remained fully clouted. The cake looks good, but looks alone, as we all know to our cost, can deceive. Born of the most complicated and time consuming recipe, this confection emerged from the oven looking as it should. Being by nature an upside down cake, this means to say that it emerged as in a breach birth, bottom first. The perfection of a bottom is not the ideal yardstick by which to measure perfection: tell that to the roués in a Parisian café as they watch the derrières go by. I made this fatal error. Even when cooled and turned over, the cake looked right – rightish. The layer of of orange slices that I had candied, so patiently, in syrup ( I somehow used a kilo of sugar in the making of this cake, and only used half of the recommended ingredients) but the centre slice did seem to be lurching to one side. As I carefully laid the glaze onto the top of the candied citrus slices, bubbles appeared around the centre slice. Like a pilot ignoring all the alarms in the cockpit, I ploughed on relentlessly, even though the inkling of suspicion had turned into an inkblot. The truth of the matter was: the middle of the cake remained uncooked – what a total bastard that sweet new born was turning out to be. No backbone whatsoever, a soft centred, lily livered excuse for a cake. But, as the Curate’s Egg, this cake was good in parts. I dug out the offending centre and spooned it into muffin cases, and put them into a very hot oven for 20 minutes. The cake now had two tiny twin siblings, that not only looked good, but were sticky and delicious. Now didn’t I hear that someone once took a rib from someone in order to create…..