I made a cake.

"Oh, I'm sorry, I can't talk now! I'm in the middle of baking a cake!"

I had my phone with me in the kitchen and was dying for someone to call so I could say that. (Nobody did.) I don't bake very often. I had been on the sofa finishing up a task, closed my laptop and looked around for something to do. "Go and bake a cake", said Maurizio. Well. That's the first time in our years together that he's ever suggested I go to the kitchen - mostly if I suggest it, he pales and shudders - so I thought I had best act on it.

I stood in the kitchen for a while. A long while, looking at the cupboards. Then I saw a photo of me on the wall, taken years ago in our old apartment - I've got a smudge of flour on my forehead and one on my cheek, and a mixing bowl in my hands. I think this is the last time I baked. It was 2008. (I remember putting the flour on my face so I looked more housewifely.) I opened the cupboards. They were full of stuff. There is a whole baking cupboard, in my kitchen! Bicarbonate of soda is one of those things I buy every month with a view to baking something, and this is where it all goes, apparently. Seven tins of that - alright, good start. Four of baking soda, which I think is the same thing. "All-purpose" flour, which always makes me raise a disbelieving eyebrow. Cocoa - I use that for my cocoa, which has rum in it. And I knew we would have eggs, butter, sugar, and milk, because those things are used to make other foods. Golden syrup we have, because it's only been six months since Pancake Day. We stick to the Old Ways here.

We also have a recipe drawer. I knew that, because I'm in charge of finding recipes. My mother's easiest chocolate cake recipe was in there - on fax paper. Lord. The shame. By this point I was quite fired up by guilt and feelings of inadequacy. A cake must be baked now. My one fear-slash-hope was that we wouldn't have the right cake tin. We did; my mother gave me that, too. Well then.

Stage one, lock the kitchen door. You don't want someone who knows what they're doing interrupting you, and just the thought of their imminent appearance might stop you making the baking attempt. Stage two, get your mother's recipe. Or you can use my mother's. Stage three, check on the availability of at least two baking friends or relatives, who will be your phone-a-friend. Once you reach stage four, which is to lovingly lay out all the ingredients on the countertop, you will get your confidence back. It starts to feel like a cooking show. It's at this stage you can take photos and post them, and you can murmur asides to the camera if you want, or if you're more contemporary, to the producer just out of shot. But then you must make all these ingredients into a cake.

Now, my mother loves me VERY MUCH and she is aware of all my strengths and weakness, so this recipe is probably quite different from any she would give for the same cake to any of my siblings. It's written specifically for an incompetent, feckless, short-cutting person who needs to let seven years of bake-less shame accumulate before pulling this recipe out of its drawer, and furthermore must be bought a cake tin, which is physically placed in her suitcase before she flies back to Oman one summer.

If the same applies to you, I can tell you that even you can make this cake, because I did, and it turned out like it is supposed to, and tasted nice. And even if you can bake, but you have run out of gas, you make this cake in the microwave, and it takes 9 minutes in there! Of course the cake tin is actually plastic - that plastic you can cook, what do you call it? - and is lined with kitchen roll. You'll notice my mother has included a small but accurate diagram of how to cut and arrange it, based on standard sized sheets.

And a couple of points of explanation. My mother recommends using the 750 setting on the microwave. On mine, it's a choice between one, two, or three wavy lines, and I used the middle one, and it worked.  When she says "allow to stand", that means taking it out of the tin and putting it on one of those gridded trays. This is crucial - I think it lets out the radiation or something. Obviously, butter "a little softened" here means butter taken from the fridge and walked at normal speed over to your preparation space. You'll also see that the amount of milk varies on the size of the eggs; that means, more milk for bigger eggs. The usual cartoon-looking eggs you get here take the stated amount of milk, though. Also, use an electric beater that differentiates properly between the button to make it go faster, and the button that releases the whisks from their holes, or one that for safety and hygienic reasons does not allow whisk-release mid-beating. Apologies for the hardened batter on the recipe.

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  1. haha, I love that your mum had to tell you to put ALL the batter into the bowl, I can only assume she thinks you would eat the rest otherwise?!

    1. That's exactly what she thinks. Knows. Whatever. Batter tastes GOOD.

  2. We can use different combination of ingredients for the baking. This will make the cake to your liking. It is necessary to taste such sweetness.