Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Victoria Sponge

{Cake Number Two: Victoria Sponge}

Bake a Victoria Sponge. That was my plan. I thought it would be a breeze, but I was wrong. At eleven pm last night when I dumped two little golden disks, dense as hockey pucks, into our compost bin I felt like a dark cloud had descended on our little kitchen. What the heck am I going to do now? Birthdays don't wait for bad bakers and my poor mum, first no chocolate then no cake?

I'm not sure if my self-rising flour was old, or if I didn't measure properly, or if that little minx Nigella made an error in her recipe after one too many gin & tonics. Whatever the reason, cake number one ended up in the bin.

The Victoria Sponge is not a difficult cake. It is a pretty basic sponge cake that is either baked in two small pans or cut in two and made into a sort of cake sandwich. Traditionally the cake is eaten with whipped cream and raspberry jam. Apparently it was Queen Victoria's favourite. My plan was to make a lemon sponge and fill it with mascarpone cheese and lemon curd. This was Nigella's idea not mine. I trusted her.

This morning as I lay in savasana at early morning mysore my anxiety level rose. What the heck was I doing at yoga when I had a cake to bake? The opposite feeling (I can't skip yoga to bake a cake) consumed me as I dragged my sleepy bum to our freezing cold car an hour earlier. Happily I have a sweet husband who arranged to pick up Violet after work so I could rush home and bake a second cake to take to an early dinner with my parents.

I was too nervous to give Nigella's recipe a second chance so I went to the tried and true repository of all things British - the BBC website, and found a recipe for a traditional Victoria Sponge. It was almost the same as the one I attempted the night before, but I had faith in the british public service. They did not disappoint.

I made a couple of adjustments to this recipe including adding the zest of one lemon to the cake batter and replacing the jam with lemon curd (we tried the PC Black Label and Mr. Weston did not let me down). The cake ended up being quite pretty and very well received by the party guests (read: my family) after all. Personally I like a more moist lemon cake: one with a sticky, syrupy top and a damp texture throughout but I think this cake is an elegant choice, it is understated and refined. It is not overly sweet and would be perfect with a hot cup of tea, which is exactly how the the birthday girl and I enjoyed it.


Monday, January 30, 2012

Make that 284 million and one food bloggers

My mum is not a lemon cake sort of lady. She doesn't do very many things half-heartedly and dessert is no exception. For her, the quality of a dessert can be measured by how much chocolate was used in its preparation. Tomorrow is her birthday and I am making the cake.

Typically deciding which cake to bring would be a no brainer. This cake has been my go to for a couple of years. It will make you weep. I think it has something to do with the cup of hot coffee you add just before you pour it in the pan. To call that particular cake life changing would be an understatement.

Maybe you are thinking, "Just make the cake, Emily. Move on, I'm getting hungry".

I'd love to, but I can't! My poor mum has a pesky stomach issue and her doctor seems to believe that asceticism is the cure. No chocolate allowed.

So tonight I am making her a lemon cake. I think the lack of pleasure is going to her head because when I offered to make her cake she said, "I would love a lemon loaf Em". Are you kidding me? Loaf for a birthday cake? Not under my roof. I immediately got to work. I scoured my cookbook collection, which has grown exponentially post matrimony and, no big surprise here, Nigella Lawson came through for me. So tonight, as soon as Jeff returns with the ingredients, I will make a lemon cake for my mother who loves chocolate.

I will document my culinary adventures because you know what the world really needs? Another food blogger. I don't want to give away too many details because the birthday girl is probably the only one who will read this but stay posted, I have my camera locked and loaded.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Tiny Dancer

{Lady Vi before her first Creative Movement class}
"She isn't a doll Emily". 

Well, that is news to me Jeffrey. 

Before I peed on the stick, I didn't know if I wanted to have kids. The moment I peed on the stick I knew I wanted to have a girl. Think of the dresses, the hair bows, the tulle, and there have been dresses, and hair bows and tulle. There will also be periods and boyfriends, but don't rain on my pink parade.

Today was Violet's first dance class. I have been waiting for this moment for a long time. There may or may not have been some *exaggerating* of her age to get her into the class, but she is a very mature almost-three-year-old and to make her wait another year would have been cruel and unusual punishment (for me). 

I was never in ballet. (Note transition from this being about Violet to this being about me. I, like any good mother, am obviously living vicariously through my daughter. Future Violet, if you ever use this blog post in a therapy session, you're instincts are right, putting you in dancing was a teeny tiny bit about me). I always wanted to be in ballet. We lived a smallish town and when we moved there the only ballet teacher was no longer accepting new dancers. What the cuss. My sister and I joined highland dancing, which we thoroughly enjoyed, but if we are honest, highland dancing is no ballet. Fancy people in large urban areas do not go to dinner and a highland dancing performance. So, because I could not be in ballet, Violet will be and she will love it. 

I am kidding about the last clause. But if she does happen to love it, I will be so happy.

You see, ballet classes are never before the crack of dawn, conservatories are never freezing cold and I have never heard of any head injuries from a pliĆ©e.

Yes, I have seen Black Swan. I think that was more of an Aronofsky thing than a ballet thing. 

I digress.

About twenty minutes before we headed out to class I told Violet to go and show her daddy how beautiful she looked. Of course he agreed but there were a few comments about how she would probably be the only child in a silk body suit with leg warmers and a top knot. In fairness to my sweet husband his comments did come after I begged Violet to pose for a twentieth photo.

I started to feel kind of guilty. The same feeling rushed over me that I felt after I straightened Violet's hair. What I am doing? If I lived farther South of the 49th parallel my daughter would be in pageants. I even took Violet's  leg warmers off before we went to class. It would be embarrassing if we got to class and all the other kids were in their sweats. 

My fellow ballet mums did not let me down. As soon as I stepped in the dressing room I knew I had come home. Every single little girl was wearing a bodysuit and all but one of them were cotton-candy pink. 

Of course I told Jeffrey this the moment we got home. Indignant I asked if he would take Violet to skating without skates or a helmet. Bodysuits and tutus are ballet equipment I said, and the other mum's think so too. Victory, I thought to myself.

"Great, the other mum's think their daughters are dolls too". 

I hadn't considered that.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Inaugural Post

I first came across the word "infelicity" in a grammar textbook. Apparently writing can be technically correct, but rife with grammatical infelicity. Great, more grey area.

I like the word infelicity because although it describes something unpleasing it is a very pretty word. Maybe I am associating it with the beautiful Kerri Russell, not least of all because her career ending haircut defined infelicity. Also, an infelicity isn't that bad. Awkward yes, disastrous no. In my experience infelicities make excellent fodder for future funny stories. 

When I hear the word lovely in my head it is always breathy, reserved for moments when no other word will do. 

Lovely infelicity. I hope it sticks.

When I was in junior high, my neighbour told me if she ever had a rock band she would name it "Electric Liquorice". I was instantly jealous I hadn't though of that name. I think I actually passed the idea off as my own on more than one occasion. For probably a decade when I thought of that name I felt totally mortified. How could I have thought that was cool? Now enough time has passed and I think my junior high self was totally cute for envying my perpetually cooler neighbour and her awesome band name. Anyway, I hope I don't spend a decade regretting my blog name choice. 

So why blog and why now? This is not my first foray into the blogosphere. A few years ago I started a little blog, which I quite enjoyed but the timing wasn't right. I love reading blogs and unlike other media I enjoy I can join the party, no invitation required. 

So here we go. Welcome to my blog, I'll do my best to make your stay here enjoyable!