This is my special place. This is the place where I retreat when it all gets too much for me. This is the place to which I withdraw when I look for answers to that conundrum of torment we call ‘life’. I rarely find the answers I’m looking for – but that’s okay, because there’s always cookies and cupcakes and other sweet treats to be found here, and they help me to forget my troubles… if only for a little while.
This is a blog about baking, among other things……
Often I am approached by people in the street who say to me, “Hey, baldy! What’s with all this baking lark? Why don’t you do something more manly like motorbikes or rugby or headbutting a pumpkin?” I smile back at them indulgently and then I reply, “Ah, but don’t you see my friend? Baking is one of the manliest things that a man can do. There is nothing surer to win the admiration and affection of a beautiful lady than a slice of a lovingly handmade chocolate fudge gateaux. It is more potent than a magnum of Lambrini and a Barry White album…”. “Oh yeah?” they invariably retort with a disdainful snort. “If that’s true then why are you still single? You loser!” Then they throw a large pumpkin at my face and chortle at my pain as they swagger away.
But unfortunately I was never really that good at maths, and I have found out the hard way that things in life are rarely, if ever, as straightforward as we might wish.
Let me take you back to when I was boy, which was a long, long time ago. I didn’t have much luck with girls; they would never look at me twice, and they would seldom even look at me once… that is unless I was eating a cake. I would often eat cake back then because cake was my only friend.
Whenever I had cake, girls would come up and talk to me. They would ask me questions: Where did I get the cake? How much was the cake? Was there any cake left? Could they have a bite of my cake? It was nice to have the attention while it lasted; but inevitably once the cake was gone, so were the girls.
It didn’t take me long to deduce that there was a connection between cake and girls. But cake cost money, and my piggy bank was malnourished. Then I found myself pondering, what if I could make my own cake? Then I could have as much cake as I wanted as often as I wanted and the girls would never leave me.
But how did one make a cake? Today you can find out the answer to that question quite easily. All you need to do is go on the Internet, have a quick Google and you can learn the recipe for a Victoria sponge faster than you can say ‘Nigella’s big bouncy Battenberg’.
But sadly I was living in Olden Times, and in those days the Internet was still merely a fevered nugget of unfulfilled dreams in the mind of its inventor, Kanye West. In those days if you wanted to find out answers to things you didn’t know, you either had to go to a place we called a ‘Library’, (I’ll tell you about those someday), or you set out into the big wide world and embarked upon a perilous quest for knowledge, from which you would be unlikely to return alive. My library card had just expired, so I had no choice but to opt for the latter.
My quest took me westward to the rolling valleys of Wales. For I had heard tell of a man, a mad Welsh baker named Dai Kneading. In ancient times, long before even I was born, this man had written a book. It was a terrible tome spoken of only in fearful whispers, a cook book of monstrously calorific cake recipes penned in the dark days before Weight Watchers and Davina McCall’s Zumba Workout Fever. It was no less than the dreaded Crumbranomicon: The Baking Book of Doom! I resolved that the devilish knowledge contained within this book would be mine. I would become the Dark Lord of all cakes and at last I would be loved.
I wandered far, I roamed for months, walked until my feet bled, because I had lost my bus pass and no one would give me a lift. I tried hitching a ride, but people would just speed right past and throw pumpkins at me, as usual. There were so many pumpkins, but at least I always had something to eat.
In time I crossed paths with a wizened old man who wore a long white beard and hobbled about with the aid of a tall hazel wood staff… But then I realised that it wasn’t an old man after all but rather an old lady, a hunchbacked crone with a wart on her nose – perhaps a witch… But then I realised that it wasn’t a witch either, but instead a hundred foot tall purple mushroom with yellow spots and with the S Club 7 dancing on top of it performing a comeback concert of all their greatest hits. It was at this point I suspected that all those pumpkins hitting me on the head might have given me a bit of a concussion, so I found a nice comfy ditch and rested there until I felt more like my old self.
At last I arrived at the border with Whitney-on-Wye, only to have my quest temporarily frustrated. I saw that all the bits of string that usually held Wales securely tied to the rest of the United Kingdom had been unpicked and the entire Welsh landmass was gone!
The residual delusion of Rachel Stevens informed me that this was the doing of those unruly Welsh sheep. They had taken Wales off for a joyride around the Atlantic last night while everybody’s backs were turned. So I had no choice but to sit down with my feet dangling over the precipice and wait.
Five days later the sheep returned, bleary-eyed and with traffic cones on their heads and a collection of ladies’ knickers dangling off the pointy bits of Pembrokeshire. Once they got all the bits of string tied back together (which took a while because they were all terribly hung-over) I was able to continue with my expedition.
I will not tell you of what transpired once I stepped over the border and commenced in earnest my century-long hunt for that most profane of all cookery books, for it is an epic and frightful and harrowing tale. Perhaps one day I will tell you all about it… but not today. You are not ready. Suffice it to say, my pursuit bore fruit and I am now, for better or worse, burdened as the fated keeper of the Crumbranomicon.
In this blog I plan to reveal to you glimpses – only fleeting glimpses, mind – of the many bone chilling and waistband widening recipes that I have managed to decipher from this vile volume of kitchen alchemy. But be warned, for though my quest was ultimately successful and I am now a baker of unparalleled magnificence, there lurks a cruel twist.
You see it is true; ladies do love cakes, but ladies hate to be fat. I make the cakes that make the ladies fat, and despite my best efforts to reassure them that there’s nothing wrong with a bit of extra cushion for the pushin’, once the ladies discover that they can no longer fit into their favourite skinny jeans, they curse me and my cakes and spurn me until the end of time.
So, now I have had time to return to my chalkboard of sadness to rework the equation, it is looks increasingly likely that the calculus of love actually resolves itself as follows:
Or to put it another way, I am going to die alone.
So my bright young seeker of truth, go now and use my knowledge. Perhaps you will have better luck with it than I did. But have a care; you may end up with less than you bargained for…