Duck Eggs

duck eggs

Duck eggs are absolutely beautiful.  They have this almost translucent shell which looks so fragile and yet is very tough.  Harder to crack, I think, than a hen’s egg.  Moreover, they have an elegance to them which is captivating.  Rather like the difference between DIY store and Farrow & Ball paint.  And, being that little bit larger than a hen’s egg, they fit into the palm of my hand beautifully.

Not so good on toast though.

The reason why I occasionally buy them is because I love how they transform a run of the mill, everyday victoria sponge cake into something slightly more luxurious.  There is a depth of taste there that you just don’t get when you bake with hen’s eggs.   Which is what I was looking for this weekend as I spent Saturday afternoon hanging out with two fabulous women, discussing very important things.  Well, important to us.  And in my world, it is crucial to have good cake when beginning something that will change yours, and other people’s children’s future.

However, baking with the duck egg is not without it’s hazards.  I have not yet made a victoria sponge where the sponge hasn’t verged on the descent into oblivion, otherwise known as a biscuit.  Moreover, I still seem to be having difficulty with the heat of my not so new to me now, electric oven.  Work in progress I think.

So here we are on Mother’s Day, again.  The speed at which days are flying by is frightening.  It only seems like yesterday that we were bunking down for the festive season and now we are opening up for spring, and the endless conversations about not having enough time to clean.  Or is that just me?

I always try and spend some time on Mother’s Day reflecting on the beauty of both life and death.  Inevitably, the wee boy and I have a conversation about death, my favourite of which was not today, but very recently.

Wee boy:  Mummy, when you die do you want to be buried or cremated?

Me:  I want to be cremated and my ashes planted with a seed which will grow to be a tree

Wee boy:  When I die, I want to buried under your tree

 

 

 

 

 

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Pinata Cake

pinata cake

At last our self imposed ban on sugar is over.  In the days leading up to it we have discussed the various options of where to go from here, and came to the conclusion that we would do natural sugars only.  Fruit, maple syrup, honey etc.

Meanwhile, I was recently very kindly bought a pinata cake tin, and thought it would be a fabulous idea to make one for the Easter weekend, filled with mini eggs.  A pinata, as I’m sure you know, is a container often made of papier-mâché, pottery, cloth or, more recently, cake.  It is decorated and filled with small toys, sweets, or both, and then broken as part of a ceremony or celebration.

This cake tin is round with a semi circular mould placed inside the tin whilst it cooks to create a space (once you make two cakes and stick them together) which can be filled with whatever you fancy.  I made two Victoria sponges and filled half with mini eggs.  So far so good.

A little jam and buttercream later, the top half was carefully attached to the bottom half.

And then, very slowly, almost elegantly, the whole cake began to work with gravity and, as if being filmed in slow motion, fell apart.  Not completely, but it is safe to say the the structure fundamentally changed.

Not one to be defeated, I called on the troops to hold it all together whilst I whipped up some more buttercream and began voraciously, to patch together the ever increasing pieces of a ball-shaped cake.

However, there comes a point in every optimists life, where eventually you have to admit that what you started out making has turned into something else.  Thanks to my inspired big sister, it turns out I had, in fact, made an Easter Mess Cake – catchy, I know.

Of course the other thing about Easter is the ginormous amount of chocolate that fills your life.  Normally for 24 hours only, but still, for that short amount of time it feels as though it may never end.  Although you know the point of chocolate saturation is close when the wee ones begin to offer you their stash.  Which is also the point where all your resolve for ‘natural sugars only’ gets chucked out the window and you gorge with the rest of them.

And then of course, there’s the Easter egg hunt.  This year, thanks to son #1 and my fabulous eldest niece, we had TWO Easter egg hunts, both of which were absolutely wonderful, both of which produced yet more chocolate.

Just between you and me, what with the cake and the chocolate mountain, we’ve probably eaten about six weeks worth of sugar in around six hours…

Victoria Sponge

photo (40)

 

I am popping over to see a lovely friend today and have decided to make a Victoria Sponge.  One of my favourite cakes, which always goes down a treat.  Especially with one of my adorable nieces, Madeleine, who doesn’t like chocolate cake.  I know.  Shocking.

So, I begin by creaming the butter and castor sugar.  Now here’s a thing.  I have stopped using actual butter made from milk, and have started using Flora buttery made from vegetable oils in the main, or one of it’s many offspring.  And the reason is, that, be it my oven or not I don’t know, but the cakes when made with butter were coming out ‘heavy’.  Which is not at all what a Victoria Sponge should be.

So, although usually a great advocate of butter, I have converted to what we used to call margarine.  I remember as a child, margarine became the saviour of the human waistline, so all families began using it for something.  However, when spreading margarine onto toast I have memories of thinking, ‘whoa, food from space’.  The colour, the texture, everything looked as though it had been made from albino tyres.  Anyway.

Obviously, as the queen of multi-tasking, I then decide, whilst adding the eggs, to look up the origins of the name, so that I can, with confidence, declare it’s affinity to Queen Victoria.  And indeed, my suspicions are right.

Then two things happen.  Firstly, I cannot for the life of me remember exactly how many eggs I’ve put into the mixture, as I was always taught to add one at a time, so add another for good luck. And secondly, I find this piece of hilarity:

“…the earliest attested sponge cake recipe in English is found in the 1615 book of English poet and author Gervase MarkhamThe English Huswife, Containing the Inward and Outward Virtues Which Ought to Be in a Complete Woman”.

Here we pause to reflect on how far we, as a society, have come.  Or not.

I do have a smirk to myself about the word Huswife though.

Back to the sponge.  After 30 minutes, I tentatively open the oven door, and my heart, along with the cake, sinks.  Buggar.  And then I have an ingenious plan.  I am going to make mini Victoria Sponges out of the large Victoria Sponge.  With the left over sponge, I decide to make trifle over the weekend.

No-one will know.