Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Cake, according to Alice ( and Mary)

I have just put my Christmas cake in the oven. Usually, I manage to make it during the last week of October, but life has been busy since we got back to Hebden Bridge, and I missed my normal deadline.

Alice, one of the Overgate Hospice shop volunteers made this apron......the fabric is exactly the same as a duvet cover I had when I was a student ( bought from Stockport market in 1974 ). As Christmas cake making evokes so many memories for me, it seems appropriate to wear this when baking )

Since we returned from France, I have been working at the Hospice shop for 3 days a week, and have enjoyed seeing how the new Furniture and Vintage shop has been developing. It has been lovely to see staff, volunteers and some of my favourite customers again. 

Not a very good photo due to reflections....but this is Rita, a brilliant Overgate volunteer, with a dolls house....that sold very quickly after being put in the window.

What with working, seeing children and grandchildren, a few reflexology sessions, an attempt to declutter our crazily overstuffed Hebden Bridge house, a couple of concerts and some cinema trips.....well, the cake sort of got forgotten.

a quick phone snap of me with 3 of the munchkins

Anyway...it is now 40 minutes into its 4 hours 45 minute cook, so fingers are crossed all will be well.

Whenever I make my Christmas cake I am transported back to my first ever attempt. I was 39, Jess was 3, and Jodie was 13, and asked if she could help me make it. I panicked. I had never made one before, I wanted to please Jodie, but I was anxious not to upset my grandmother, Alice, who had always made my cake before. How would she take to being told her cake making skills were not required ?

I am sure I have posted about this before, but as I go through these memories on an annual basis, I have decided to post anyway.

Our compromise was that I remained on the phone to grandmother Alice throughout the whole cake making process. Each step was spoken to me over the phone, from north London, to Huddersfield. Even after it went in the oven, we had frequent checking phone calls.....and then the final removal from the oven was undertaken only when Alice was convinced my cake tester had gone into the cake and had come out again, completely clean.

Alice later admitted that she had been really relieved not to have been required to make the cake....she was 85, and had been concerned that it would have been a little too much effort and responsibility that particular year.

The cake was great, Alice helped eat it as she visited us over Christmas....and I have been in charge of Christmas cakes ever since.

However, since Alice died......another grand lady has helped me. This year, as has happened for about the last 5 or 6, Mary Berry has accompanied me through the process.

( I always wonder, if I left out that one tablespoonful of black treacle....would the cake be a disaster ? It seems so crazy, to buy a tin each year, just for that one spoonful. I always forget it's in the cupboard when I make other fruit cakes, and never remember from one Christmas to the next, where I put last year's tin )

Jodie is 35 next year...Jess will be 25.....I wonder when I will hand over the reigns.