Sunday 2 October 2022

Birthday cake

is unlikely to feature in today's celebrations for Middle Cat's birthday. We are not really a cake eating sort of family.  

I am not sure when I last made cake. It was some time ago, some considerable time ago. My mother made cake occasionally - usually to take to a meeting of her church guild - where the women were expected to take it in turns to provide afternoon tea.

My paternal grandmother made cake occasionally too. It would be made for afternoon tea if visitors were expected. My grandfather liked the occasional piece of fruit cake but "a good scone with cheese" was more to his liking. 

My maternal grandmother was entirely different. She baked every week. There were sponge cakes, jam tarts, apple cakes, plum cakes, "afternoon tea" cakes with cinnamon on top, "Swiss" rolls, rich chocolate cakes and "marble" cakes. For birthdays she would produce cakes like trains and dolls. 

We children did not appreciate them. Mum didn't make cake and it should have been a treat but somehow it never was.  If "Nanna" (as we were expected to call her) had made cake from ice cream we would have been much happier.  

In the main we were "good" children. We didn't say, "I don't want any". We were not rude about it. We would say, "thank you" and even "it's very nice" although we didn't care for it. One piece of cake however was enough. I remember Nanna saying to our mother, "I don't know what's wrong. They don't eat much do they?"

Mum was diplomatic. She would say something like, "I think they want to make it last."

The cake would usually appear again later - drowned in custard as a sort of pudding for dessert.  We ate it dutifully and because there was nothing else. 

A friend of mine had a birthday recently. Her family went to a bakery for "high tea". There was cake of course, birthday cake. She told me it was "absolutely delicious". I saw a picture. Yes, it looked nice - if you like that sort of thing. I certainly would not attempt to make anything like that even though, if you examined it closely, it was simple.  

It reminded me though of the description the cook, Marmaduke Scarlet, gives young Maria Merryweather in the "Little White Horse". He is suddenly providing afternoon tea for many more people than expected, many of them also male. The list includes, plum cake, saffron cake, cherry cake, iced fairy cakes and eclairs. There are meringues, almond fingers and  rock cakes. Marmaduke Scarlet has also made gingerbread, chocolate drops, parkin, cream horns, Devonshire splits and Cornish pasty. Jam sandwiches and lemon-curd sandwiches appear alongside lettuce sandwiches. Cinnamon toast and honey toast are also mentioned.

What interests me now is that almost everything on that list is sweet. I wonder what we kittens would have made of that afternoon tea for a birthday? 


No comments: