Monday, 23 April 2012

April 23rd - All the cake in the world

Dear Nigel,

The miserable weather is taking its toll on my stomach. At times like this the only answer is to eat cake - lots of it. As Kate Winslett said in 'Mildred Pierce', "I want to give my children all the cake in the world". In an age of austerity and prohibition, there was psychologically a huge need for such cake. In hard times a little indulgence lifts the spirits.

I see you have been indulging in a rather fine orange and lemon cheesecake yourself (page 129). Obviously proud of your achievement you say "today i made  cheesecake that turned out to be one of those perfect recipes that you have been after all your life..." I am pleased to see you use digestive biscuits - oatmeal may be traditional but it tastes like something you would give a horse. The filling is both fudgy and creamy with its cream cheese and mascarpone mix. I think i might try making this one as i like the mixed tang of St. Clements.

Searching for a new cake to experiment with, i come across a recipe for East Anglian Vinegar cake. This is a kind of light fruit cake which uses bicarbonate of soda and vinegar instead of the more traditional eggs and baking powder to give a rise to the mixture. As Alison Walker says in her book 'A Country Cook's Kitchen', this recipe was usually made during the winter when hens lay less eggs (or pure breeds like ours used to give up entirely and put out placards saying they were on strike - probably in support of the turkeys).

A friend was coming to lunch and needed a bit of TLC, so i reached for my favourite cookbook of the moment for inspiration. Mum had sent me back with armfulls of this year's Rhubarb and it was twitching to be used. I found a wonderful recipe for a rhubarb custard and crumble tart that fitted the bill perfectly. It is basically a sweet  tart base filled with a mixture of pre-roasted rhubarb and freshly made real custard, and topped with a shortbread crumble. I took the cheats route,as suggested, and bashed up a packet of good bought shortbread for the top. The result was wonderful, creamy and fresh. The recipe is in the 'popina book of baking' by Isidora popovic - a book i can't praise too highly.

In the end, one friend turned spontaneously into five. Sometimes group therapy and laughter is a better medicine for the blues.

High street shops are closing like nine pins in our town. There is now a clear divide between the 'nice' shops in the beautifully preserved Cavandish arcade, where the tourists like to potter, and the seventies mall of high street chain shops with its empty glass windows where the likes of Millets, Subway and Game used to be. It's not that i miss some of these shops but there is something of a ghost town when you go down Spring Gardens (they always have such enticing names, don't they?) and your gaze pitches from one charity shop to another. At the other end of the scale there is supposed to be go-ahead now on the start of the scheme to transform the Crescent from a dosser's paradise to a swanky Spa Hotel alla Bath, or something like it. We'll see...People in this town have seen the planners' promises come and go, hitches, funding given and taken away again. They hold the power to make or break this town. I remember going to school here in the mid - 70's when it was a dark, dirty town and the fine architecture was completely ignored. There are some lovely bits, but also some squalor - a microcosm of most towns and cities these days, i suppose. In good times things thrive and develop; in bad, even the good is left to tarnish and neglected.

Let's you and i eat cake instead and look forward to better times,


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