Today is my nan's 85th birthday. My nan as well as my grandad are the two most favourite people to me in this whole wide world. To me they are the matriarch of this family and with all their knowledge and history they have between them, I treat them with the upmost respect and fiercely protective of them and love them with every bone in my body. My grandad is a WW2 veteran in the Royal Auxiliary and was apart of the D-Day landing himself, coming abroad on either Sword or Juno beach (I forget) where the British forces landed. He even remembers Field Marshall Montgomery in his tent headquarters, waving the forces onto the beach and into battle. They are full of stories and knowledge from their travels across the world and each moment I spend with them, I’m still amazed at the vibrancy and youth they posses, they are still incredibly active and there is no stopping them!
I was asked to make a cake and I haven’t a clue which of the many recipes out there to use. Cake as we all know comes in variety of flavours, sizes, colours, textures, ingredients, decorations etc.... I wanted to give something a little different and so I came across Nigella Lawson’s Autumnal Birthday Cake. A cake loaded in flavour but simple to achieve... I hoped!
The cake’s main ingredient is maple syrup hence the autumn connection but the cake looked and sounded so good in the book than I decided it would still work! Maple syrup, I shall warn you is now - like honey- EXPENSIVE! For 250g I paid nearly a fiver! So I have done my duty to warn you people, you wont be in for a nasty surprise here the next time you see the stuff and then the price!
The cake calls for a maple meringue icing...something very different to what I’ve made in the past. I had to use the double boiler method (bowl over a hot water filled saucepan)and first whisk it until it becomes fluffy and then to help speed up time (and save my poor wrists!) I put it into a mixer.
The stuff became this wonderful white fluffy icing that held its shape beautifully.
I worked until the end result came together to look something like this...
Impressive no? To get that wonderful ripple in the icing, ditch the spatulars and fancy cake stuff...use a fork!
We went for a family suprise birthday meal at Kitley house, a popular wedding venue on the outskirts of Plymouth as it's a huge georgian (?) mansion in the middle of beautiful countryside. (and indeed when we turned up, there was a wedding there, the grand staircase all lit up in fairylights and the bride waltzing down the stairs slight worst for wear...It was half seven in the evening to be fair!)
The cake tucked away in the boot of the car, despite my insistent demands to have it in my lap, we took the 20 minute drive out to the wild and wet countryside thanks to the impeccable reputation of British weather. And every bump in the road had me biting my hand in the sheer horror of the poor cake being thrown around in the back!
But never mind the cake for a moment...I had no choice but to leave it and head inside to have what was a nice meal to follow, despite the head injury-related migraine I started to get.
To start I had flash fried breast of pigeon on a bed of spicy tomatoes and lentils. I like to order things I don't normally get a chance to eat at home or unusually things. I've had pigeon before and this isn't the best to be honest. The skin on the meat wasnt pleasant and rubbery and I think they could have done with frying it a little longer to crisp it up a bit more or remove it altogether. The tomatoes and lentils were on the other hand, really really nice! I'm not a huge tomato fan but I really enjoyed this, it held the right level of spice and the layers of flavour in it combined with the pigeon worked better than I thought.
I had the steak Sirloin to follow. It was offered in replacement of what was essentially a beef wellington that I would certainly have had if they hadn’t ran out. The gravy sauce was rich and moorish and I would have really enjoyed it more if I was feeling better. It came with the usual vegetables and a really nice potato dauphinoise I enjoyed very much but as the dish as a whole was rich and it unsettled my poor tummy, I couldn’t eat all of it as I wanted.
I mainly avoided dessert but I had to take a snap of the sticky toffee and date pudding other people in my party received...I mean look at the presentation! The biscuit work is amazing!
Remember the cake? By the time we got it to my grandparents it looked like this...
My dad's driving style hasnt helped it a bit! (thanks dad - I'm only joking!) -_-
so "Operation emergency cake-restoration ASAP now!" occured and with a knife I salvaged what I could whilst resisting the temptation to put my head in the oven in the misery of it all!
I even added some handmade real flowers that been sugared, hoping these would maybe detract from the little mess that occured...
...Its like putting make-up on a pig....it just doesnt hide anything!
But in the spirit of things, this is why we are all here...