There are few requests which fill me with as much dread as “Can we make cakes mummy?” I can usually fob them off for a while by telling them we don’t have the ingredients but sometimes the guilt gets to me. As I remember making cakes with my own mum, I feel duty bound to provide the same memories, albeit with slightly more under-the-breath swearing, for my own children.
I am not a natural baker. Creaming, whisking, folding – it’s all just stirring to me. Therefore, after googling cake recipes with ‘easy’ in the title, I need time to read and understand each step of the process to be sure I’m not getting it wrong. Not as easy as it sounds when my children are more from the ‘chuck it all in’ school of bakery.
Usually, it starts well enough. Seizing the opportunity to have something truthful to write in his reading log, I encourage William to read out the ingredients and we weigh and measure them out each into their own small bowl just like a TV cooking show. Apart from my cortisol levels steadily rising as Scarlett measures the raisins out one by one, we are doing well. Until we get to the flour.
Whoever’s turn it is to measure, puts their spoon into the flour, then moves it precariously towards the mixing bowl. Slowly, slowly, so unbearably slowly the spoon travels the 14cm between the flour bag and the bowl. Nearly there . . . nearly there . . . and it’s all over the table.
Eggs are just as problematic. There seem to be only two modes of egg cracking. The first ineffectually soft, the second so heavy handed that it takes three separate attempts before we get a yolk that lands anywhere near the inside of the bowl.
It’s also impossible to keep the children from licking their fingers, the spoon or anything else coated in cake mixture. I may as well add ‘saliva’ to the list of ingredients; there’s more of that in there than there is baking powder.
I have learned from experience that when they are stirring the mixture (folding, beating, whatever) you need to keep an iron grip on that bowl if you don’t want to use the cake mixture as an alternative floor covering. Even when holding the bowl as if your life depended on it, you can’t avoid the slippage, flickage and drippage which ensues. Cue me barking out adverbs like a deranged English Language instructor: “Carefully!”, “Slowly!”, “Gently!”
Finally the mixture with added egg shell and child spit is ready to put into the oven and I am left to clean up the carnage of sticky bowls, spilt sugar and phlegmy egg traces whilst the miniature chefs retire to the sitting room, taking turns to appear at the kitchen door every 3 minutes to ask, “Is it ready yet?”
However stressful the experience has been, I am left with a warm glow of wholesomeness that I have baked a cake with my children. I have momentarily transformed myself into a traditional aproned mother-figure, spending quality time with her children. And, even better than that, every time we produce a cake, my guilt levels are reset and I can spend at least another month fobbing them off before we have to make another one.