Sunday, July 4, 2010

It's Cake Time!: Happy Fourth of July!

Two years ago, I was invited to a 4th of July party held by John's American then-boss, at his sprawling (by English standards) home in Gerrards Cross.  "I'll make some cupcakes!" I said enthusiastically to John, when he said I could come along.  "Err ... great!" he said, trying to sound positive.  But he and I both knew the truth - the closest I'd come to an oven was watching him lift a roast dinner out from my position on the couch.

Who was I kidding?  I didn't know how to bake.  I bought a cake mix from Tesco and some icing sugar, plus some cute marzipan toppings.  Then I went back to my flat and "baked" the mixture.  It turned out like cornbread.  Undeterred, I added the icing sugar on top (which resembled a glaze as it melted) and pushed a tiny marzipan froggy's face into the top.  Satisfied with my creations, I put them in a tupperware container and brought them to the party.  My confidence was knocked when I saw the counter lined with Krispy Kreme donuts and homemade pies - and to add insult to injury, my cupcakes never even made it to the dessert table outside.  At the end of the night, I collected them before leaving, still intact in their tupperware containers - the little marzipan faces staring up at me.  I waited until East London to burst into tears as John tried to comfort me and I ended up throwing them in the trash, even though he insisted on stuffing 2 or 3 in his mouth and saying, "Mmm ... these are so good!" in a way only the kind and generous John could - anyone else would have ... well, subtly but purposefully omitted them from their dessert table.


Behold my creation above.  It wasn't for a 4th of July party - a friend of John's, actually, was hosting a cake and tea party for her belated birthday celebrations.  When I saw the words, "make", "bring", and "cake", I knew this was my chance (though only personal to me ... no one else at that party could have possibly known the emotional element my red, white and blue masterpiece held) to restore my baking self-confidence (yes, you read that correctly - I used, no, hijacked, someone else's party for my own selfish motives).

Again, I went to Tesco, but this time for raw ingredients, rather than a cake mix.  Blueberries and strawberries were expensive, for some reason, so I opted for the cheaper raspberries instead (they ended up working better on my small round cake anyways).  And for once, my icing was stiff and spread well, unlike the other times I've made it.  All was well in the land of cake preparation.  Now all it had to do was pass the taste test. 

I'm always nervous when making cakes for people I don't know, because I can't cut myself a slice and make sure it doesn't taste awful.  So I was really pleased to receive compliments about the cake at the party, with one guest asking me for the recipe before I left. 

I'll never make those picture-perfect, gorgeous cakes you see in books and they'll never taste gourmet - but at least they (hopefully) won't go unnoticed or ignored on someone's kitchen counter again.

Happy Fourth, everybody.


  1. It looks yummy, light (in texture and calories), pretty, perfect (in placing the fruits in a straight line and between equal distance) and most of all, patriotic. You've come a long way, baby! Happy fourth to an ANGLOYANK!

  2. Yummy it twas, but light in calories it was not!

  3. It looks adorable! I've coming on to 6 years in London and this is the first 4th of July that I haven't celebrated. Made me a little sad. Seeing this cake just cheered up me!

  4. Oh no, Abby! That's so sad, though I don't usually celebrate 4th of July here (just kind of can't be bothered to do a BBQ or go to one, etc.) but I miss the festivities back home. If I'm still here next year, then I will bake the same cake and you'll have to come over and have some! :)


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