Bake Off!

Every Tuesday at the office there is an event known as Tasty Tuesday. Basically a number of people volunteer to cook cake and then flog it to the other people at the office for what is commonly known as a ‘gold coin donation’ (one and two dollar coins in Australian currency are gold). The plates of fare get put out, there is a sound of clinking metal followed by an ugly feeding frenzy and the total amount collected gets locked away in a box towards the end of year function. Basically they are selling eachother food to buy eachother food.

This week, it was my team’s turn to cook and we wanted to ensure we put up a decent spread. I have a lemon cake recipe which I make which is hugely popular, so that was a given, but I wanted to do something else as well. I was tossing up whether to to an orange cake or coffee and walnut cupcakes, so of course I took the idiot’s way out and did both. 

Because they were all sponges, I wanted them to be as fresh as possible and because I was picking my brother up at the airport in the morning, I needed to deliver them to a colleague that evening so she could take them into work.

I got home from work and got straight into it. Lucy’s delight in seeing me quickly turned into a hard stare as she realised that all the activity in the kitchen was centred around butter, eggs and sugar and not getting her lead. I felt bad, but I had a lot of baking to do and a limited window. 

The coffee and walnut cakes were the first on my list. I had to finish these with a coffee-flavoured marscapone cream that I had seen on Delia Smith’s website and the cakes would have to be cold before I applied it, so they were first in. I was a little unsure of the recipe but I tasted the batter and it tasted good, so I filled 12 cup cake holders with the brown mixture and slid them into the oven.

My husband came home, having been delayed at work to find me moving about behind a cloud of flour. I was on to cake two.

This was the lemon cake, and I could practically cook this blindfold so was good for number two. I zested the lemons, mixed the batter and poured it into a tin just in time for the oven as the cupcakes came out. In fact I had not remembered hearing the timer go off, I had been distracted by my husband leaving with the dogs who trotted thankfully out of the door without giving me a backwards glance. I lined the cakes up on a wire rack to cool and looked at the third recipe, the orange cake.

This was also a recipe for a lemon cake, but a different one with yoghurt and made with oil not butter. My cunning plan was to substitute the lemons for oranges. ‘Why?’ I hear you scream. ‘Why do that? Why not just use the exact same recipe that you use for the lemon cake – the one you can do blindfold – and substitute oranges in that one?’

Reader, I have no idea, other than perhaps it was madness beginning to descend.

I mixed the weird globby batter and poured it hopefully into a tin. It was very wet, but I have seen that before so was not too worried. The lemon cake went out and the orange cake went in. Time to ice the cup cakes. 

Before I did, I thought I might just check one to make sure it was ok. It was OK. The texture was fine and the sponge was light but it just tasted of… sugar. Maybe my sugar free diet was rendering me unable to tell the difference right now – I had been tasting all night – so I asked my husband for his verdict. I asked him to identify the flavour. He could not. Disaster.

So I made the decision to remake the batch of cakes. I suspect that I had over cooked them a tad, had heard the timer go off but then being distracted by the lemons and left them in a tad too long. Who knows? This time I crushed the walnuts rather than pulverized them into a fine dust to give them a fighting chance and I put a pinch of cocoa in with the coffee. I do admit, I was getting so crazy by now that I did look at the kalhua bottle sitting on the shelf before thinking better of it. It was a work do, after all.

While the second batch was baking I made the orange syrup which was OK, but not quite as sticky as I had hoped. This is what you get for using an untried recipe on the internet sponsored by a supermarket, although to be fair, their recipe for lumberjack cake worked out fine. 

Finally I had the lemon cake looking perfect as always, the orange cake looking frankly dubious and twelve more coffee and walnut cups cakes cooling on a rack in my garden. Thank god for winter. I wrapped the two large sponges up, put the marscapone mixture in a plastic tub and twelve chocolate dipped walnuts in another, then put the cooled cakes in a tub to and the whole lot in a carry bag.

My colleague was in her PJs when she opened the door. Lucky cow, I thought, I wish I had made sausage rolls. Hers had been sitting in the fridge since the weekend and she looked calm and relaxed. I looked like a manic and I suspect that there was enough sugar in my hair to suggest Cameron Diaz’s in There’s Something About Mary.

I am sure you will be delighted to hear that my brother arrived safely, the cakes all got eaten – even the orange one – and I feel quite immune from wanting cake again for the foreseeable future. 

Next time, I am doing cheese and pineapple cocktail sticks and a dip. 

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