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National Cupcake Week a few moments back. Did you notice? As our Olympic heroes wiped the sweat from their shiny brows, packed away their shiny medals and peeled off their shiny lycra; as the dreary summer trickled to a damp close; did you dream of cupcakes and feel a resurgence of patriotic energy? Were the dying embers of your exhausted British pride rekindled when National Cupcake Week hove into view? Did your flat spirits lift and rise like a well creamed sponge? Did your whisk wrist flex in gleeful anticipation? Or, did you say to yourself “National? Cupcake? Er, just remind me which Continent I’m on?” Worse, were you entirely blind to events of countrywide importance because you were too busy watching The Great British Bake Off and yelling vigorously at the telly “Noooooo! Not the bain marie for the rum babas!” and other helpful advice of that nature?
Sheepishly, I admit that National Cupcake Week did almost pass me by. And I also confess to not minding terribly that a bored panel of biscuit-munching quangocrats (or similar) has earmarked an entire week to celebrate a sponge – whether it be a grown-up cake or merely a cakelet – without proper regard to its country of origin. After all, the British are supremely talented at embracing other people’s baking and making it their own (with a hint in their manner of ‘now watch how it should be done’). Brits especially like doing this with upstart American food. Possibly out of irritation that Americans wilfully refuse to make a decent cup of tea (which dates right back to them taking the hump about tea tax and chucking the entire Empire’s tea supplies into the Boston harbour in 1773. Surely that’s too long to hold a grudge?)
My point is this: while in principle cupcakes are OK to adopt for a week as a national treasure, actually what saved the nation from post-Olympic blues is that far far far classier bastion of baking: The Great British Bake Off. This programme is as quintessentially British as telly ever gets – it is the very definition and essence of Britishness: charmingly eccentric people baking under pressure. Competitively.
And – as all mothers will tell you – the single most competitive baking arena is the Primary School Bake-Sale Fundraiser. Thus, when my youngest son came home with a note informing me that for National Cupcake Week I was permitted to send home-baked cupcakes to school to be sold at snack time, the dormant Olympian in me awoke, arose, rolled up her sleeves, donned her lycra – I mean apron – and set to with gusto. And in the spirit of British fair play, I shall share with you the protocol of competitive baking. (Though anyone who has primary school children and/or watches The Great British Bake Off will have absorbed these rules already.)
1. Research your recipe; decide on something simple yet stunning. Artistic yet achievable.
2. Form a mental image, or even sketch out, the final product.
3. Will yourself into achieving that image: picture yourself on the metaphorical touchline (or, say, at the school gates), with your cake box proudly borne aloft.
4. Preheat the oven to the desired temperature.
5. Dash to the supermarket because you haven’t got any cocoa left.
6. Dash back. Measure out the flour, sugar and butter. Try to remember if you started in imperial or metric.
7. Dash to the supermarket for eggs.
8. Dash back, but walk the dog when you get home because it hasn’t been done yet.
9. Do the ironing, ditto.
10. Re-start baking. Continue steadily to the end, focused, without distraction. (Unless the phone rings, in which case you’d better answer as it could be important, even though it’s only ever insurance sales people who ring at this time.)
11. Stop baking. Cast a critical eye, in turn, at: the finished result, the clock, the mess of the kitchen, the finished result. Have a bath and go to bed.
12. Decide it’s not that bad; it’ll be fine covered in chocolate.
13. Cover it in chocolate.
15. Cover it in Smarties.
16. Resolve to be better prepared next time… and incidentally, what is that funny smell…?
17. .... ooooo, and turn the oven off.
Finally – this is vital – mercilessly quiz your primary-aged child after the event and smile magnanimously when
he/she reports that other mothers use chocolate spread to ice their cupcakes rather than real chocolate. So unBritish.
This is so funny! We’re holding a bake sale this week to raise money for an Ectopic Pregnancy charity! I’m sure
these tips will be handy
By Suzanne on 26-Jun-13
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