Wednesday, December 06, 2006
The Ghost of Christmas Cake Present
Oh dear.

Well, at least I know where I went wrong.

It wasn't the recipe, which came from my grandmother, from her mother, and possibly unto the middle ages by the look of this piece of paper.

It did have its challenges.

And its moments of fun...

Translation: "Sprinkle extra brandy or sherry over cake while hot - keeps moist. (Also an excuse to have an extra nip!!!) "

So the fruit was found and the soak began.

And continued for a day or so...

the cake pan was lined...

and this was my first mistake.

I've never mentioned here before, but I hate Donna Hay.

I could devote an entire post to how much I hate Donna Hay. How I hate that I fall for her pretty magazine covers and her promising headlines, only to find I've purchase $7.95 worth of ego-driven twaddle.

Judging by what I actually use from a typical Donna Hay magazine, I should be paying about 33 cents. However, based on its value to me as pure food-porn, I think the price is about right.

Cutting a potentially major rant short, I hate Donna Hay especially this Christmas because a) she has a new magazine that advertises 'make ahead' menus that ARE NOT make ahead*, and b) I followed the instructions for double-lining a Christmas cake tin from one of her older magazines instead of going with my own instincts. More on this later.

Where was I up to? Ah, yes, the tin was lined, the stove was heated (and this involved calculus level maths to translate from my Nana's version of combustion stove temperatures), and the batter was made.

Yum. Five eggs, golden syrup, the vanilla that Nana forgot to put in her list of ingredients but included in the method and, well, lots of other stuff.

I saved the glace cherries til last.

And then we baked.

I should mention that by now it was 11.30pm because - well that last post explained it.

Nana's recipe strictly forbade leaving the cake in the oven to cool down (dries it out) so I resigned myself to being up another two hours or more until the slow bake was done.

Imagine how pleased I was when, turning and testing after just one hour and 40 minutes, I found the cake was cooked early! Yay! That clean-as-a-whistle-skewer gave me a much needed ticket to bed.

So off I went. Having dutifully left cake out of oven but in the tin to cool, and even more dutifully adding the extra nip of sherry while cake was hot, and covering it to keep the Christmas beetles off the top overnight, I went to bed.

First thing next morning, it hit me.

Fucking Donna Hay.

How on earth was I going to get the cake OUT of the tin since I had followed her baking paper instructions and cut four separate pieces to line the four sides rather than using at least one long piece to go from one side to the other so I could LIFT THE BLOODY THING OUT?


Now, if any of you have the genius answer to this problem, bearing in mind that tipping the pan upside down was NOT an option because of my beautiful glace cherries: keep it to yourself.

No, really, I.DO.NOT.WANT.TO.KNOW.

I can be peevish like that.

In the end I had to divide and conquer.

The Prof stood by, cautiously making helpful comments like, "Well, it smells great anyway" and "Will you be using those bits that dropped off?"

And indeed, bits were dropping off quite alarmingly.

Despite its delightfully cake-y texture on top, the bottom half was really feeling much, much more like pudding.

Turns out, the skewer lied.

It really should have been two and a half hours after all.

So. Here's my plan.

The pudding-cake is going into the freezer, to emerge on Xmas day as a dessert to be mixed through with fabulous vanilla ice cream. I expect it to be a senSAtion.

The fruit mix I'd kept out to make pudding will now go towards a second attempt at cake.

And I'll be listening to my dear departed Nana this time. That Hay woman can sit on her quaint and perfect Christmas tree and rotate.


*This is an alarming trend in cooking mags this year: has anyone else noticed? Note to all Food Editors - a 'make ahead' menu that involves making a chilli sauce the night before Christmas and doing the rest of the five courses four hours before Christmas lunch is a crime against motherhood. You should all be ashamed.



Blogger MsCellania said...

I have drop-kicked pans and stomped on ingredients for MUCH less trauma than this! I Feel Your Pain!

Blogger BabelBabe said...

oh my god, you are so funny.

it looks beautiful, and i bet it will be a hit mixed with ice cream!

Blogger My float said...

Oh, I am so with you on Donna Hay. Hugely overrated. Actually, most cookbooks are. My food NEVER looks like it does in the books. Why is that? Oh, that's right, because I don't spray it with oil to make it look all glossy, and I don't stick bits of glue here and there to make it stand up/lie down/sit sideways.

Go the anti-chef campaign. I'm there with you!

PS. The cake/ice cream mix will be fantastic. Might just pop by for a bowl after my family tries their best to send me to the funny farm.

Blogger Lazy cow said...

So sorry about your cake, but I'm sure it tastes great.
I agree about Donna Hay. And what about that nasty little article she wrote bagging Jamie Oliver and Bill Granger, all to get publicity for her new book. Bitch.

Blogger Emma said...

The cake will be fabulous mixed with icecream. I haven't made our cake yet. Really should do that!

It amuses me that the old family recipes are so much better than the ones in the glossy magazines. Obviously Nannas know best. I haven't succumbed to a Donna Hay magazine yet. I can't stand the 'make ahead' menus either. I'll stick to my turkey tyvm.


Blogger Emma said...

The cake will be fabulous mixed with icecream. I haven't made our cake yet. Really should do that!

It amuses me that the old family recipes are so much better than the ones in the glossy magazines. Obviously Nannas know best. I haven't succumbed to a Donna Hay magazine yet. I can't stand the 'make ahead' menus either. I'll stick to my turkey tyvm.


Blogger Emma said...

Oh, and Anonymous, who posted while I was, has left a letter out of 'moaning' BWAHAHAHAHA!

Blogger Emma said...

Bugger, a double post. No idea how that happened. Maybe I'd better shut up now (slinks quietly to corner)

Blogger Stomper Girl said...

You know I'm right there, totally empathising with you!

I love the stained old scrap of paper with the recipe. Much loved and much used obviously.

Blogger Joke said...

As per your instructions, I will keep my solution (for removing the cake intact) to myself.

You could cut up the cake decoratively and put it into large glasses, layered with ice cream, trifle-style.


Anonymous shula said...

Wow, that recipe is a archeological treasure, eh?

Nothing to say about the bummed cake. We've all been there. It sucks. Makes for good posting.

I'm having issues with my new fan-forced. It cooks everything too fast. My kingdom for the old 60s oven that I had. Fan-forced is killing my mojo.

So are we going to get Joke's secret cake removal method? Or are we just all going to sit here and go quietly nuts?

Blogger Surfing Free said...

Yum yum - there is nothing that can't be made all better by the addition of icecream and/or custard!! So rock on with that 'new' dessert and new succumbe to the evil temptations on Donna Hay again. Anyway, I read a magazine article about her a couple of years ago and apparently she is a control freak diva ... so she probably makes things tough on purpose.

Blogger Surfing Free said...

So much bad spelling in one post!! Excuse moi.

For the good of the combox community I hereby give Joke permission to detail his method.

I, however, will be sitting here with my fingers in my ears and loudly singing LALALALALA.

Blogger h&b said...

Donna Hay is also supposed to be the biggest cow on this planet - a real she-bitch of a boss ( and i've worked for the she-males before. Balls bigger than blokes )

I love Xmas Cake icecream. It's supposed to be a scorcher this year too, so be sure to mention heavily how you SLAVED over said cake to put in said icecream.
Gobbled up & appreciated in no-time.

I am a shiteful cook, and buy the mags only for the porn and the high-planning I do for the high-society dinner parties and to-do's I never seem to have anyway.

Wine helps me along.
And baking ... Gah !

Blogger Jane Henry said...

I'm so impressed you're even making a CHristmas cake Bec. I've given up as only two people in the family ever eat it and we're giving it to the birds by March.

My mum always swears by Mrs Beeton (who coincidentally lived down the road from me... what a sad modern world it is though. The house where she wrote Household Management is now a bed shop!).

I do have a cheating Chrimbo pud recipe that you can make two days before. As I am never ever organised to think about making one in Sept this suits me down to the ground.

By the way I know a Donna Hay, but I think she must be a different one - she writes women's fiction in the UK, so I shall have to start teasing her about her alter ego!

Blogger Suse said...

I could tell you were upset about Donna and the cake by the number of split infinitives I counted in your post.

(From one pedant to another - it will be FABulous with ice cream).

Dear Santa,

All I want for Christmas is a whole infinitive.

And for Suse to bite Donna Hay's arse.


Anonymous shula said...

That Suse, she can spot a split infinitive at a hundred paces.

It makes me very nervous when I'm writing posts.

Especially when I'm not sure exactly what a split infinitive is.

Anonymous shula said...

I did know once, but I forget.

Blogger Em said...

Chirstmas cake icecream is the best!

PS You are way ahead of me - I've never made a christmas cake in my life and I've never heard of Donna Hay (which is probably a good thing by the sounds of it!)

By the way, Shula, I think Suse is bluffing.

I can see only one split infinitive (to how much I hate) and Fowler allows multiadverbial splits.

So there.

Blogger shellyC said...

Your Christmas dessert will be fantastic!!! Perfectw way to eat a Chrissy cake.....with an extra slug of brandy on top of the icecream!!

I forked out over $10 for one of Donna Hays "meals in under 10 minutes" - maybe they are less then 10 minutes yet they all involve ingredients that my not very fussy kids still wont eat and they look like you need to cook three meals to get a decent feed!!!

Blogger Joke said...

Bec, please look away.

You place large marshmallows on the surface of the cake (affixed with small skewers if needed). Depending on the depth of the cake in the pan, perhaps you might need to stack two marshmallows.

You then put a plate (make sure the cake would sit ONLY on the flat part) atop the cake pan. Invert and the lined cake will come loose. Remove paper, place 2nd plate and invert again. Remove marshmallows.


Blogger Joke said...

P.S. The marshmallows act as shock absorbers, preventing the top of the cake from contacting the plate surface.

Ask me how I know.

Wow, that cake looks delish. And four is better than one, no? I hate make ahead menus that aren't make ahead.

We have a woman here Rachael Ray, who claims "30 minute meals" which are NOT 30 minutes unless you have a sous chef who can chop your veggies in advance and a t.v. studio kitchen staff etc..

I bet everyone will love your cake regardless..


Anonymous shula said...

Joke, I confess I am terribly impressed. Is this method patented by you? It does have a unique Floridian bizarreness to it...

Anonymous shula said...

ps. Oh, and how do you know?

Blogger meggie said...

Ho ho Bloody Ho!
I did enjoy reading of your disaster, & dont mean that unkindly.
Impressive way to get the cake out, Joke!
I confess to not making Xmas cakes either- I used to, but noone really eats them except me, slowly. And goodness knows, I dont NEED them.

Blogger Stomper Girl said...

Would the marshmallow technique work if, as Bec's cake was, the bottom half of the cake was uncooked and therefore sludgy?

Blogger scribbit said...

"ego driven twaddle"? I love your words. Let me hear you say it again, cracks me up.

I feel that way about Martha Stewart's recipes. They look soooo good and then they're impossible and impractical to make. Who needs homemade aoli anyway?

Good point Stomper.

The perfect baking paper base would have let the cake drop onto the marshmallows, but the squishy underbelly would have broken the cake apart on turnover.

Not that I read Joke's answer.


and yes, Scribbit, Donna Hay is a total wannabe Martha Stewart.

Wait: does Martha have kids that she shamelessly flaunts throughout her magazine? How about nieces and nephews having perfectly pristine pirate parties?


Blogger Joke said...

1- I know because I had to invent that solution on the spur of the moment.

2- If the base is still, basically, batter, you will need roughly 4x the marshmallows. A half-baked cake means that ALL of the weight must be supported by the top-now-bottom layer. This requires additional marshmallow support.

Not that you'd have a way of knowing exactly how underdone your cake was, but the rough guesstimate is that half-done requires 4x (2 squared) whereas if teh cake were 1/3 done it'd require NINE TIMES (3 squared) the marshmallow suspension, and so on.

Also, you need the WHOLE of the cake to land on a perfectly flat surface, moreso if it's sludgy in the bottom-now-top layer. Also the drop has to be perfectly "flat."

This way, it may spill over sludgily, but it simply won't break apart.

3- Never, EVER, EVER trust one skewering.


Blogger Suse said...

I counted two splits, neither of which were the one you noticed. However now I can't find them to tell you so either a) you fixed them or b) grammatical errors are relative to the amount of alcohol consumed by the reader.

Anyway, you get bonus points for using the word 'unto' in a blog post.

Blogger Joke said...

This discussion reminds me of why I only dated girls pursuing degress in English...


I'm delirious with tiredness after party today/tonight but the latest two comments have me cacking myself laughing.

Can I cover both of them off by saying how much I enjoy Joke's use of 'sludgily' as an adverb?

Blogger Suse said...

I was going to make some comment about Joke's mysterious profession being revealed through this combox discussion - and that clearly he is an ENGINEER (all that mathematical stuff and marshmallows). But as we all know, English lit students would never be seen dead dating an engineering student so there goes that theory.

Blogger Joke said...

No engineering here, just engineer-conversant. An even easier giveaway is my obsession with cvilized gentlemen's apparel, something I've yet to witness in an engineer.


P.S. It was Finance. As detailed in my published works:

Anonymous sueeeus said...

As I work amidst hundreds of engineers, I can attest to Joke's comment that civilized gentlemen's apparel is a rarity indeed. It is also quite apparent from the attention to wardrobe detail that those who work in Finance (here) are a different breed altogether.

Why *is* that?

I couldn't resist. The cake looks fabulous, by the way, regardless of all trauma involved.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

i am please to google "I hate Donna Hay" and find other passionate allies who share the same opinion. I really believe that Donna may have eaten one too many baked goods, with all that baking soda causing her head to swell to such large proportions that it may burst at any time!

Donna you really are an arrogant cunt!

Anonymous mens trousers said...

Look yummy I want to order for my Brother Birthday.

Anonymous Tuxedo said...

I like your cake,I want also to learn baking cake.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Blogger Resin Angels said...

I hate Donna Hay too! Such a snob!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Donna Hays recipes are known for their errors.
Lemon chicken without the lemons. .....chocolate cake that you can give to 10 of your friends and nobody will be able to make it because the recipe has mistakes in it.
She's a food stylist and that is all.
Real cooks should not waste their money and make this mole richer than she already is.

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