Monday, 15 September 2008

Baking under the influence

WHOOOSH. KERFLUMP! That is the sound of me shooting out of the birthday party organising flume and landing in a crumpled ball of lethargy. I have survived. And can now joyously forget about children's parties until next February. Hoorah.

It all went remarkably fine. Well except for the birthday boy getting so uptight at the prospect of the happy birthday song being sung to him that he came out in a blotchy rash all over his face (or maybe that was just from excessive e-numbers?) I'm not sure why my children hate the birthday song as much as they do. I can't blame them. It's a fairly doleful, cheerless dirge. In fact I think the composer of the song might have been Eyeore.

But besides that, it went swimmingly. The pirates made their pizzas. My kitchen remained remarkably red sauce free, although there is a gentle dusting of flour on the surface of most of the kitchen appliances. My pirate stickers are all untouched as none of the small boys were interested in decorating their pizza boxes. Why would you when you could charge around naked hitting each other with balloons instead? The presents were ripped open and muddled up so I have no hope of ever knowing who gave us what. Most of the presents have already lost most of their component parts and we're left with the boxes, which is really all they're interested in anyway.

So all in all, an absolutly exhausting past time, but a success nonetheless. However, there were two small baking incidences that are worth reporting. On Friday night (i.e. birthday party eve) I had finished vaccuming the floors, wrapping pass the parcels, blowing balloons, making pizza boxes and a myriad of other tasks, I thought I'd better knuckle down to make some fairy cakes. However, I had by this time had some wine. Quite a lot in fact.

I opened my baking bible (Nigella's Domestic Goddess) and turned to the fairy cake page, only to find that I'd obviously dropped a lot of icing sugar or cake batter onto the page at some prior baking extravaganza and most of the fairy cake recipe had been obliterated. So I had to resort to a different recipe book. Sob.

I took out my 'How to cook anything' American book as it does what it says on the tin and tells you how to cook anything, including fairy cakes. Except that as this is an American book, a single recipe won't make the standard 12 fairy cakes as a UK recipe will. No, my friends. American recipes will make enough fairy cakes for all the children in my son's school... and their extended families. So I had to at least halve it. I was going to divide by three but that was way beyond my mental abilities after 3 glasses of wine. So I began.

Except that I was foiled at the first hurdle as it called for a stick of butter (or rather helpfully, 8 tablespoons). Now having lived in America, I know they very kindly sell their butter in sticks. They don't do that here. And I didn't quite see how I could scoop 8 tablespoons of hard butter out of a lump and I didn't feel like sticking the whole block in the microwave.

So I googled 'stick of butter' (thank god for google) and came up with the answer. Which was 4 oz. Which I then had to divide. At which point I got a bit lost and guessed. I think I then kept switching between the full and the halved recipe until at last I got the bit calling for two eggs (i.e. one) which had to be separated. I did so and mentally patted myself on the back for not getting yolk into the white and vice versa in my less than sober state. It then said to beat the eggwhites until they reach soft peak stage. That's all well and good if you have more than one egg white. But my big beater just wouldn't work on one egg. And besides, it was already dirty and I wasn't in the mood to wash it.

So I opted to use my handheld blender. I ended up with egg on my face (literally). What remained of the egg white never managed to reach anything remotely close to soft peak stage. it reach frothy on the top with runny underneath, vaguely reminiscent of sperm. I gave up and dumped the lot in the cake mix and said sod it.

Despite that, they rose and tasted fine. I'm not sure how. But they did. There's something to be said for drunk baking (although one does find the kitchen in a bit of a mess the next day).

Having mastered baking under the influence of alcohol, this morning I thought I'd have a go at baking under the influence of a ticking clock. I was meant to bake a cake for my son to take to pre-school today but quite frankly, could not be arsed. So this morning, he asked where his cake was with big doleful eyes. At which point my heart broke and I said: It's coming right up.

So having gotten up at the crack of sparrow fart to open presents, I then had to feed the children, do all the normal before school pandemonium and bake a cake, which I did at warp speed. However, I hadn't quite factored in enough time for the cake to cool. I left it cooling while we sprinted up the road to deposit son 1 at school. I had exactly five minutes once back home to turn two semi warm cakes into something that my son would be proud of. He had requested pink icing, so I liberally smeared pink butter cream frosting between two cakes and smeared even more on the top and sides. Son 2 and I took turns pelting it with smarties and that was that. Perfection. For five seconds.

Then the heat from the cakes began to melt the butter cream and the top cake oozed away from its friend below. Tough, we were late. We set off for pre-school, me driving at 30 miles per hour the whole way. I never realised how many hills there were between our house and the pre-school because everytime we went up one or down one, the cakes would slide ominously apart, threatening to decorate the upholstery with pink frosting.

We got there. The cake looked like a pink, melting leaning tower of pisa, with many fingerprints on one side where I'd valiantly tried to slide the two pieces back together. The staff gave it some sideways glances. But I didn't care. Son 2 thought it was magnificent.

I then raced home, packed in a full day's work in 4 hours, fetched children and the remainder of the cake which by late afternoon had solidfied nicely, and had more small boys around to play in the afternoon to help eat the rest of the cake. Everyone is now in bed. I have a lot of cake washing up stuff to do downstairs. But I have made it through to the other side of the birthday. I'm not sure if I feel more exhausted now, or three years ago having just given birth.

Only how many more years of birthday parties to go???


Welsh Girl said...

I think your cakes sound fabulous though having egg whites in fairy cakes is a new one on me! I say open the wine and celebrate making it through in one floury piece.

Home Office Mum said...

egg whites in fairy cakes was new to me too - but this was an American book, Or maybe I accidentally flipped the page to meringues instead.

Licketysplit said...

oooh, sperm cakes. Yum!