The last few days have seen some exciting action in the kitchen!
With the 21st birthday of someone very special to celebrate (i.e. bake for!), and yet only one day between this and returning friends home after my own 21st celebrations, I was baking under a time-limit. Which meant no sitting and playing with icing for hours. It simply meant making a really tasty cake.
The inspiration came to me at random – I remembered a very popular cake made by my pastry chef boss and friend, which is called a ‘Hummingbird Cake‘. The recipe is packed with fruit and nuts, resulting in a deliciously moist combination of banana, pineapple, walnuts, pecans, cinnamon, mango and passion fruit. Ah. Herein lay the problem. Passion fruit. The Cotswolds. Need I say more?
Well the plan was: trip to Cheltenham to buy presents, wrapping paper and ingredients in the morning, bake during the afternoon, and leave for London to go to Seb’s at 4pm. For some reason, at the time this didn’t look like a ridiculous plan. And everything was indeed going rather well until I realised that neither Tesco, nor Marks and Spencer, seemed to stock passion fruit. So as time was looking OK, I made an extra detour to the huge out-of-town Waitrose on the other side of Cheltenham and finally found the two golf-ball sized fruits that I needed, and carried on home – the quickest route I could find to avoid the town centre. And managed to get lost.
So by 1pm I was in the kitchen, ready to make my hummingbird cake, and a batch of macaroons of two different colours, or macarons as the French say, since this was supposed to be part of the present as well.
By 2pm, the cake was in the oven, the macarons were drying out ready to bake.
By 3pm I was icing the cake at light-speed, deciding on a simple chocolate decoration, and putting the macarons in the oven, rather conscious of the fact that I had two batches to cook, cool and fill, and needed to pack and leave in about an hour.
By 4pm I was running around like a headless chicken, with a ganache that hadn’t set, decanting it into boxes to take with me and finish when I arrived, a huge cake happily tucked into a tin (yes… cakes can be happy), throwing clothes towards a rucksack, and launching myself at anyone who got in my way, while the rest of the family were in a full-blown argument about something else-or-other.
By 4.10pm, had to drive back to get oyster card as left it in my room by mistake. Fortunately dad ran to the end of the road and threw it in the car window for me.
By 4.45pm arrived at the station (train leaving at 5) to find that it closes at midday, so had to frantically ring National Rail who told me you can apparently buy tickets once on the train after all.
By 5.05pm, happily sat on the train, panic over, drawing, cutting and sticking a birthday card, and wrapping the presents, having taken over a whole table that someone else had reserved, but found rather entertaining when I told them that I nearly missed the train due to making macaroons.
By 7.30pm, arrived in East London with cakes and macarons intact, the picture of serenity and organisation, all I needed to do was to sandwich them together and present them in their little box.
And despite the odd crack in the top from travelling, and the fact that “mango, mashed” is apparently an oxymoron, both the macarons and the cake went down like a storm amongst three brothers. But my favourite part of all, was when Seb took a slice of his three-tiered cake which was the equivalent of about a quarter of any normal-sized cake. That’s the true judge of quality. And as for macarons? I enjoyed making them so much, I’m making another batch right now. Rose. Mmmm…