On cake

"A party without cake is really just a meeting." Julia Child

I flicked through my Coles Magazine again - I actually found a printed one the other day, and was struck by how half of the recipes were emphasising all things healthy, fresh, vegan, etc. and the other half were totally over the top desserts - especially cake. On their last page they always have a 'Fake it' recipe which is designed to be something fabulous looking but basically just constructed, not made. This is this month's - Splash Cereal Cake. As I said, it's really a construction job rather than a recipe. You buy two Coles White Mud Cakes, take off the icing, stack them and cover them with some bought vanilla frosting. The basket thing on the top is really quite clever. You melt some white chocolate in a bowl, blow up a balloon, spray it with oil, dip it in the chocolate and leave to set. When it's set, burst the balloon and hey presto a rather stunning basket that you fill with Kellogg's Froot Loops and place on top of the cake. The Froot Loops are also pressed into the frosting to decorate.


So I thought I would ponder on cake in general and this one in particular - well just briefly because I have a couple of things to say about this particular cake. The first is that it seems to be a bit of a rip off from something called Milk and Cereal Cake, from a site called Sugar & Sparrow: Cake & Lifestyle Co. and yet there is absolutely no acknowledgement of that fact anywhere here. I suppose the cake is a Coles mud cake, so no rip off there, but the style of the decoration definitely is. It seems that it was originally created by 'Whitney' for a friend's cereal themed birthday party. I will say no more about that! Anyway - I think a bit of acknowledgement should have been made.


The second thing about this cake is its shape. It's the modern shape for celebratory cakes is it not? My niece's wedding cake - made by a friend was like that - shown here with a couple of others I found on the net.


And do you notice that the actual slice of the very fancy cake on the right doesn't look all that tempting. Well not to me anyway. And neither does the slice from Sugar & Sparrow's Milk and Cereal cake, even though it does have some sort of creamy filling in the middle. They both look somewhat dry and stodgy. But don't they all look gorgeous? And that is their true function - to look glamorous, fun, glitzy, expensive, beautiful, special. They are not everyday cakes though - definitely celebration cakes for parties - a cake that turns a meeting into a party.


I don't eat a lot of cake. Not even plain old fruit cake - which at this time of year also gets tarted up enormously for Christmas Cake. And Coles have done that too. This time the decoration looks to be a little bit derived from a Martha Stewart recipe, but then she may have got it from elsewhere too. No acknowledgement in either case. Anyway - as Julia Child so rightly says a party is not a party without a cake. And these very fancy concoctions fit the bill.


They all look very impressive and yet it would seem they are pretty easy to whip up - especially if you use a bought cake as your base. But it's not that hard to make a decent cake either. Even I can manage Claudia Roden's most delicious Orange and Almond cake.


"Cake baking has to be, however innocently, one of the great culinary scams: it implies effort, it implies domestic prowess: but believe me, it's easy." Nigella Lawson


And indeed it is. If you choose the right recipe that is. My last attempt at a Nigella Lawson cake was a bit of a disaster - undercooked in the middle, though to be fair I had cooked it before with complete success, so I obviously just didn't test it properly for doneness. It's not my oven either, which it could be according to Delia:


"A cake is a very good test of an oven: if it browns too much on one side and not on the other, it's not your fault - you need to have your oven checked." Delia Smith


I suppose we are nearing Christmas but I suspect that there are just as many sweet things in the Coles magazine at other times of the year too. There always seems to be an excuse for cake. As I said I do not eat a lot of cake. For me it truly is a special occasion thing, even if that special occasion is something as simple as going out for coffee with a friend, which I rarely do. To me you should always have coffee with something sweet - and vice versa. So it is a bit distressing to see so much reckless and wanton almost, over the top deliciousness on offer in the Coles Magazine, which, after all is supposedly all about everyday food for ordinary people. It's certainly not helping the obesity crisis. Here are a few more:

The first is a Caramel and pretzel loaded cheesecake but with so much bad stuff on top - and so difficult to eat surely? The second is a mango and white chocolate cheesecake - impossible to slice mangos like that. Just impossible. I suspect it takes years of training to be able to do it. The third is Double-choc caramel peanut tart - so many bad things all together, although that one does look quite tempting.


“Cakes are healthy too, you just eat a small slice,” says Mary Berry the English cake queen but really that's difficult is it not? And besides it's not true. Nothing about a cake is healthy. And for another thing, if you order cake in a café you almost inevitably get a huge slice and a massive dollop of cream to go with it. Why do they do that? It can't really be good business. I'm willing to bet that they could sell a much smaller slice for the same amount of money. Also if you are making cake at home and there are only two people - well inevitably you are either going to eat too much in one go or go on eating steadily diminishing in goodness cake for a week or so, just so you don't waste it by throwing it away.


I do make cake when family or friends come to our house - although obviously not at the moment. Otherwise - never. Not even cup cakes. And it's rather sad is it not that we seem to think that children will only help mum cook if she is making cake? I'm sure they would be just as happy helping with meatballs or making pasta.


Cake definitely has a place. Especially when you dine somewhere special. And here, finally, are some really special offerings. The top two are from Heston Blumenthal - the first is that chocolate cake I showed recently, the second is called Tipsy cake. I do not know where the other two come from - they just caught my eye and I'm sure the inside is as delicious as the outside. Do not attempt these at home. Even the Heston chocolate cake which he was proposing as an easy to make thing. First buy a paint spray!


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