I have been absent for quite some time but I do have the fair excuse that I’ve been busy. Busy starting a new temping role, busy gadding about Cornwall before that, busy drinking tea. Perhaps the latter isn’t entirely a fair excuse but sometimes, we all have patches where drinking tea and flapping around the house moving things from one room to the next and so on is a great way to spend the days. Also we’ve had this wonderful patch of sunshine which has been so lovely when you have a park on your doorstep as we do. We also have a garden but it doesn’t get much sun so we consider the park to be our garden.
Recently, we’ve spent a lot of time sitting in the ‘garden’ (see aforementioned park) barbecueing sausages and reading books. The other week, I was sat there enjoying the sunshine, with the heaps of blankets and cushions I drag across the road from the house to make life a bit more comfortable, and I was shoe-horned out of my peaceful corner by a bunch of young people being cool and having lots of fun. It was a bit hard to read with their happy chatter in the background. As I moved around the park, I thought did this make me a bitter old person but I hope not, I’ve just come to realise that there is a much younger generation now and having lived in Liverpool for nearly ten years, I’m not the 21 year old I often think I am.
Age has been bobbing about in my head a lot recently. For one thing, I’ve managed that horribly depressing stage of just before a birthday when you consider yourself to be the age you’re about to turn and not the age you actually are. So for the last couple of months, I’ve been wandering about telling people I’m 28. I’m not, I’m 27 and just a bit forgetful. I’ve started having to turn to friends to ask how old I am. And it turns out I’m not the only one. Talking to my friends the other night, all younger and of fresher minds than I, and they do the same. But as I hurtle towards 28, and ultimately (spoken of only in hushed tones) 30, I’ve realised a certain peace and quiet. That frenetic panic of early 20s, being where you think you should be, going out because other people want you to, making decisions because you think they might be right rather than they make you happy, seems to have silently and slowly retired. And I’ve reached this place, where not always happy, I have found a certain quietness and learned what I want and what I’d like from life. People tell me, probably as a balm to the increasing years, that your thirties are the best decade and despite not having quite reached there yet, I’m inclined to agree. Everyone tells you that you’re at your most confident, you know what you want and you have the skills and experience to achieve it and, whilst I’d love to be 20 again, albeit with a little more wisdom, I’m rather looking forward to it.
I am so lucky to have friends from all walks of life and of many different ages and one of my dearest friends is Christine, she is also my landlady. I’ve been lucky to live in the same house for the last six years and during this time, Christine has taught me so much about myself and about life. She’s an amazing person to turn to for advice but also has this wonderful way of slowly building your confidence and making you realise what you’re good at. Last week, I had the chance to teach Christine something. Nothing as soul-searching as self confidence or inner peace, but one of my favourite things, baking.
There was a competition at her office to bake a cake and Christine came home last week and asked if I had a recipe for carrot cake, I nipped downstairs and came running back with six cookbooks and a host of ideas. Eventually, we settled on a round cake, and went for a 20cm wide and 10 cm deep tin which we decided would help to keep it moist. I can’t find where we get the recipe from but it was online somewhere. Christine returned from work with the ingredients and we went to work.
It’s a truly lovely cake, deep and dense with plenty of flavour and a lovely moistness, and also really easy to make. The frosting is lovely and we added lots of orange juice to give it a freshness, decorated it to look like rose petals with a palette knife and presented it on a cake plate topped with walnut halves. And, all this hard work paid off! Christine won the prize for the tastiest cake and came second in the best presentation. I keep saying ‘we’ but really I only lent equipment and kept a watchful eye, and I couldn’t be more proud if I’d made it myself so here’s the recipe for Christine’s award-winning cake and the beginnings of our assault on all baking competitions world over!!
Christine’s Award Winning Carrot Cake
you will need a 20cm round, 10cm deep tin
- 300g plain flour
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 200g soft brown sugar
- 4 eggs
- 250ml oil
- 1 orange, zested 1
- lemon, zested
- 200g carrots, finely grated
- 150g walnuts, chopped
- tsp of cinnamon, ginger, ground cloves and nutmeg
for the frosting:
- 250g cream cheese
- 50g icing sugar
- 125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1. Heat the oven to 150C/fan 130C/gas 2. Line a 20cm, 10cm deep cake tin. Sift the flour, cinnamon, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda together and stir in the sugar. Beat the eggs with the oil and citrus zests. Stir in the carrots and fold everything into the flour mixture. Fold in the walnuts and spices. Spoon the mixture into the tin and bake for 1 hour 20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool.
2. For the frosting, beat the butter and icing sugar together until soft and then beat in the cream cheese. Chill the mixture until it’s thick but spreadable. Spread a thick layer on top of the cake, making sure the side of the icing is flat and continues upwards from the side of the cake.
Then lick the frosting from the palette knife in happy bliss.