Sunday, December 27, 2020

Pick of the year

In these quiet days between Christmas and New Year I often read through my blog to remind myself of the year I've had. 

In doing so this morning I've decided that this is my favourite post of the year, written early on, in lockdown:

The Saga of the Carrot Cake

I am no longer enamoured of cooking, but I still like to bake, and on Sunday I decided I wanted to make a carrot cake for a friend who is recovering from a nasty bout of Covid19. 

So I looked in my ancient recipe box for my carrot cake recipe. My big sister gave me this recipe box when I was first married, 50 years ago, 

and it survived the fire because I didn't send it into storage. 

Inside the lid it says this:

Many of the index cards in the box are recycled ones from the time in my life when I was a researcher, working on this book:

(OMG) which means they have things like this written on the back:

What a hoot.

However, I could not find the recipe. I had all the cards out and threw away some rubbish, but kept various dubious items, in this case below because my mother wrote it:

And this, below, because Zoë wrote it as a child before she became a vegetarian, and it reminds me of the era when she and Isaac were young:

I do not recall actually making the bacon roll.

I've kept this one below because Mary was going to give me the recipe. You can see it is ludicrously incomplete - I don't know why. At the time, I liked cooking and she didn't, and I remember she and John making this one evening for guests who were coming and I called round to see her and insisted she witness my will, NOW! because I couldn't wait, because that's the kind of person I am, and she was really annoyed with me. And now - more than 25 years later, it's morphed into a happy memory.

Who me? Sentimental? 

The point is, though, that I could not find the recipe I was looking for - a terrific carrot cake recipe unlike any I have seen anywhere else. I didn't look for it in my hand written recipe book which I got a few years ago, because I could see the recipe in my mind's eye on a card (though obvs not in useful detail). 

So I texted Zoë, and she emailed me her friend's recipe that she said is the most amazing carrot cake she's ever tasted. I doubted this, because mine is the best. 

Anyway, I made the cake and tasted the raw mixture from the bowl, which tasted disgusting, because of the baking soda, I hoped. All mixtures with baking soda in taste horrid, don't they?

The cake looked fine when it came out of the oven, but as I only ever intended to give half the massive cake to my friend (because of her tiny post-virus appetite) I cut a sliver and tasted it. It was still warm. I was dubious. There was still that baking soda taint.

So I thought I might make another one, and I asked Dave to go through the recipe box for me and to see if he could find it. This was a vain hope, because he is lousy at finding things, but the fact that I asked him is a measure of my desperation. He couldn't find it, but he said 'Have you looked in that book that you write recipes in?' 

'No,' I said. 'It's not there, because I haven't made it since I got that book.'

'Look anyway,' he said.

So I did. And it was the first recipe in the book. I must have written it out and then thrown the card away.

This morning I woke up and cut a tiny bit of the cake and it tasted fine. Not as nice as my recipe, but good enough. 

The recipe said 'ice with cream cheese, icing sugar and almond essence,' but I had no cream cheese and no hope of getting any. There was a tub of mascarpone in the depths of the freezer with a best before date of 2012.  I opened it. Hmm.

It smelled fine.

I rang my little sister - a talented cook - and she said 'Sure! If it smells OK, it is OK. Use icing sugar and grated orange rind but not orange juice.'

I asked on Twitter. One person said - 'Yes, use it.'

I texted my friend, Het:

Dave agreed with Het but I thought they were being namby-pamby.

So I sieved in icing sugar and added finely grated orange rind and as it tasted of nothing, I added orange juice.

It was far too sloppy, so I rang my sister. She said 'I told you not to add juice!'

'Well, I have no memory these days,' I said. 'If I don't write it down, I forget.'

'You'll have to give it separately, as a sauce.'

'I can't do that. I want to put it on the cake and package it up and leave it on her doorstep.'

'Well, use butter and icing sugar and the grated rind of an orange.'

I did that. It looks fine. It tastes good, too.

I just updated Dave on the state of play, and he was relieved: he had been horrified at the idea of my using the ancient mascarpone.

'But it was fine. It didn't smell of anything!' I said. 

'Neither does death, but it's quite important.'

The next day, I posted this on the blog:

I have three further things to say about the carrot cake.

Firstly, the person for whom I made it (who is recovering very slowly from Covid19) thinks it's yummy.

Secondly, I agree that on the third day it's delicious and it might even supplant my own recipe. I just need to ditch the baking soda.

Thirdly, although my sisters had no problem with the idea of my using mascarpone that was 8 years past it's sell by date when I hawked it out of the freezer, a younger member of the family read my blog post and responded thus:

Such a person did not have outside earth closets at their village primary school, and did not have no bathroom, no hot water and a loo at the bottom of the garden when they first got married. More importantly, they weren't brought up by my mother.

Anyway....I did not use the fossilised mascarpone, so we can all rest easy, and you can be assured that this was the oldest foodstuff in the house by 7 years, so if you ever come here, you won't need to worry about food poisoning.

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