Saturday, 2 August 2014

Annie Lyons: My Not Quite Perfect Baking Life

To celebrate the paperback release of her bestselling debut novel, Not Quite Perfect, Annie Lyons is taking over my blog for the day with a few reminiscences of not-quite-perfect moments from her baking career.

I can certainly sympathise, I've had more than my fair share of complete disasters in the kitchen! But it's the thought that counts... right?

Over to Annie:

I love baking. Absolutely love it. I love cakes, biscuits, pies and tarts. I love the Great British Bake-Off and I REALLY love Mary Berry. She is a perfect baking goddess. I on the other hand am not a perfect baking goddess, but by golly I’m a trier. Here are my top five not-quite-perfect baking moments:

My daughter's 1st birthday cake

I was determined to do this properly. It was my first-born’s 1st birthday after all. I went to a cake shop. I hired a tin. It was shaped like a dog. Quite a large dog actually. My mum (who is a bit like Mary Berry but with a south-east London twang) came over to help. We seemed to need a huge quantity of ingredients but it looked okay when it came out of the oven. When we tried to turn it out of the tin it became what it was; a huge wet dog. The dog’s head fell off. I cried. My Mum went out to buy more margarine.

My son's 1st birthday cake

For some reason I decided that what my one-year-old son really wanted for his first birthday was a 3D Red Dinosaur cake. He seemed to go RAAAR whenever he saw a dinosaur so that was evidence enough for me. I scoured the internet and found some truly amazing works of art and with my customary optimism I thought, "How hard can it be?" Okay, so I think we all know the answer to that question. The ‘triceratops’ I produced looked quite like a hedgehog but my Mum, three-year-old daughter and I boldly covered it in buttercream icing the colour of innards. The photos of my daughter holding her hands up for inspection following this exercise make my blood run cold even today. She looks like a tiny murderer.

My husband's Jaffa Cake birthday cake

Jaffa Cakes are my husband’s favourite biscuit or cake. I know they’re called cakes but they look like biscuits but I’m not getting into that debate again. Last time I did that I ended up having a spat with an Eccles cake-fancier and we all know how vicious they can be. So I decided that I would make him an actual Jaffa Cake and there is an excellent recipe on the BBC Food website if you want to try it. It involves doing clever things with egg whites, orange jelly and chocolate. What’s not to like, right? Anyway, I was actually quite pleased at how this turned out. It basically looked like a giant Jaffa Cake and as we sliced it, the layers of biscuit, jelly and chocolate appeared reassuringly familiar. We tasted it and paused. "Tastes exactly like the ones you get in the packets," remarked my six-year-old son. I think it was a compliment but I had possibly hoped for more.

My mum's birthday sponge

My mum makes the best Victoria sandwich in the world (sorry Mary but she just does) so I thought I would return the compliment one year by making her a special one filled with strawberries, passion fruit and cream. The result? Raw sponge but delicious fresh fruit and cream. I am a legend.

The real rock cakes

I’m good at burning things. It’s something of a specialist field for me. This recipe was given to me by my beloved mum. The cakes should be moist and teeming with delicious sultanas and other assorted dried fruits. They should be craggy on the outside, like delectable cakey boulders topped with crunchy Demerara sugar. They should not be actual cakey boulders which could happily double up as small but lethal weapons. I would like to blame the oven but can only blame myself. I forgot they were in there and went off to do something else. For a bit too long.

Annie Lyons is the best-selling author of Not Quite Perfect (now available in paperback) and Not Quite Perfect Christmas (A Short Story). Her new novel Dear Lizzie is published by Carina and is available as an eBook. Catch up with Annie on Facebook or Twitter.


Rachel said...

Just think how dull life would be if you didn't keep trying, though!

Jenny Woolf said...

I've rarely had a cooking disaster I just can't rescue but I think the loaf of bread I made recently without putting in any yeast was an exception to this :)

mypixieblog said...

LOL, and this is why I hate baking. So many things can go wrong! I'm sure your family members appreciated all of the effort you put into making their cakes :)

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