Saturday, 28 June 2008


Eighteen days without posting. Oh dear.

I've been busy.

First there was Sylvies hen day/night which required more preparation than I might have imagined a hen day/night/event/thing could have ever necessitated. Who knew it was possible to send and receive so many group emails? After what felt like weeks of irrate and desperate planning, Lindsay, Gemma and I finally managed to cobble together a day of hen-shenanigans involving cup cakes, sylvie masks, bright yellow rain ponchos and Edinburgh tour buses. Don't ask. I'll say this much - if you live in a country where the weather is unpredictable to say the least, don't plan a picnic.

PRETTY CUP CAKES WITH CREAM CHEESE FROSTING (cakes adapted from a recipes from Nigella Lawson's How to Eat)
Makes 12

125g self-raising flour
125g unsalted butter - very soft
125g caster sugar
2 eggs
1-2 teaspoons good vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
few tablespoons milk

For the cream cheese frosting:
50g butter - very soft
150g icing sugar - or to taste
200g cream cheese (I used Philadelphia - you could use light if you want but then where's the fun in that?)
a few drops good vanilla extract or 2 tablespoons of juice and the rind of a lemon

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Line a 12 cake tray with paper cases.

Put all the cake ingredients except the milk in a food processor (or you can use an electric whisk), adding a pinch of salt, and blitz furiously.

Pour in 2 tablespoons of milk and process again until you have a smooth flowing cake batter.

Using a spoon and rubber spatula, divide the mixture into the 12 paper cases. There doesn't look like there's going to be enough mixture but there is - remember these will rise.

Cook for 15 - 20 minutes and cool on a wire rack.

While the cakes are cooling, make the cream cheese frosting. Cream the butter and enough of the sugar required to make it pale in colour and light and creamy in texture. I used an electric hand whisk for this.

Add the cream cheese and beat well, adding sugar until you have reached the desired sweetness.

Add the vanilla extract if using. You can add a few drops of hot water loosen the mixture up a bit if it's a little thick. Alernatively, add the lemon rind and lemon juice to loosen the mixture.

When the cakes have cooled, spread the frosting thickly on top using a small spatula or pallet knife.

Decorate however you wish - we used fresh cherries with their stalks still attached - pretty pretty pretty.

I have also been to Denmark and back since I last checked in, where I consumed my body weight in fish, cheese and rye bread. These people know how to eat. Particularly breakfast. Mmmmmmmm.

Then last Wednesday was the day I went to London to be part of the audience on Market Kitchen! It has been pointed out to me that it's not necessarily altogether normal for a young girl (ok, 31 year old girl) to get quite so excited by what is effectively a cookery programme but I say bollocks to that! I love food tv. I once spent three whole days on a sofa with a boy, two bottles of whisky and some cheese, watching nothing but the UKTV Food channel. We didn't even move to go to bed. We just slept right where we were. Oh yes, that is the way to my heart indeed. But that's another story for another time...

I recieved an email from one of Market Kitchens researchers - Andy - on Monday, saying that there would be a nice lady from the W.I on the programme hosting a cake contest, and as such they were looking for someone to bake a Victoria Sponge to be marked and scored.

Now then, I was clearly getting a little bit carried away with myself, because I offered to bake the cake. Why? Who knows. Because I was having fantasies about producing a cake of such majestic beauty; of being such a natural and charismatic force on camera that they'd snap me up and give me my own TV show. I'd be the next Nigella Lawson. Cooking with Carine. I'd beat Gordon Ramsey on The f Word. Ooh - I could co-present Saturday Kitchen with Anthony Worrall Thompson and finally get the chance to tell him we're meant to be together! I'd have a series of cookery books - kitchen bibles if you will which Nigel Slater would render indispensible in his kitchen. Perhaps I could write a column for Olive. I could just see it...

However my plans of TV stardom had one tiny flaw: my last attempt at baking a Victoria Sponge was not great to say the least. Lemon drizzle cake? Yep, can do those. Flourless chocolate cake? Check. Coffee and Walnut cake? Hell yeah. But Victoria Sponge? Not so good. Regardless, I put myself forward like a lamb for slaughter. Later in the afternoon Andy got back to me to say that someone else had already offered to bake the cake. My TV career seemed to be disappearing before my eyes when he said that if I'd like to make a back-up cake - 'just in case' - that would be great. It was fate!

And so it was that at ohmygoditstooearlyoclock on Tuesday morning, I dragged myself out of bed to buy the ingredients required for a Victora Sponge. Two Victoria Sponges in fact - just in case. Several hours later, my kitchen resembling the scene of a first year Home Economics class, out of the oven came four layers of what can only be described as Bricktoria Sandwich rather than anything resembling the light fluffy sponges produced by the W.I, or anyone else who bakes. This was an unmitigated, though if honest not enitrely unexpected, disaster.

The notion of dragging either of these over-sized biscuits to London with me, to potentially have them seen - nevermind tasted - by anyone at Market Kitchen was not good. I know they were just supposed to be stand by cakes, understudies to the role of leading cake, but frankly they would be unable to appear. I made the selfless desicion to sacrifice my burgeoning career as the new Delia and do all at Market Kitchen a service by sparing them the horror of them.

I sent Andy an email apologising profusely for any inconvenience my lack of a Victoria Sponge would cause. I was sure the lady baking the main attraction would turn up with a beautiful sponge worthy of ooohs and aaahs and there would be no need for a 'just in case' cake. I'd be happy to sit in the background quietly mortified and jealous. Oh - what if her cake was so good they offered her a permanent slot?

And so on Tuesday afternoon, slightly frazzled, I got in the car and drove the four hundred odd miles to London where I met Carrie in Islington. After a very welcome bowl of pasta we did our usual and blethered until 2am when we conceded that sleep would be wise given that we needed to be up at 6am to get to the studio for 8.20am as it seems to take at least an hour to get anywhere in London.

If you've done your maths, those who know me will at this point know exactly what's coming. Four hours sleep? It might've been all Margaret Thatcher needed to run the country (that might just explain things...) but for me - try at least seven. Seven and a half is better. Eight is just dandy thanks. Oh yes, I need my sleep. Not enough sleep makes Carine a very tired girl.

Another disaster. I'd never be spotted as the next Jamie Oliver looking like I was about to drift off.

And that I was. After arriving at the studio and meeting Matthew Fort and Tom Parker-Bowles, the exhaustion quickly set in. Once the initial excitement of being on set (just like it is on the TV, but smaller), and the prospect of all the lovely food to come had dissipated, I can honestly say that my prevailing memory of the day is feeling well and truly knackered. If you watch Market Kitchen on Monday 7th July, I'm the girl in the red and blue checkered dress with match sticks keeping her eyes propped open, next to the beautiful blonde girl looking like she's not sure why she's there but is enjoying Paul Rankins Raspberry and Elderflower Trifle. Sorry Carrie. However, if you are approached for TV stardom I will never speak to you again.

Still, the food was tasty and it was interesting to see them make a TV programme. Tamasin Day Lewis made a delicious dish stewing chicken thighs with summer vegetables which I'll definitely make at home and I'll post the recipe when I do so. It's true what they say - there's a lot of standing around and waiting but they really looked after us and kept us supplied with plenty of refreshments. If you're a food programme geek like me, I'd recommend going along.

Needless to say, the lady who did bake the Victora Sponge, produced a marvellous specimen worthy of winning first prize as it did. Then one of the shows producers told me I should have brought along my disasterous cake to use as an example of 'what not to do'.......... gasp! The cheek of it. Can you imagine Nigella doing that?


Michelle said...

I LOVE your cupcakes. So sweet and simple yet so pretty.

Carrie said...

Eh who is this beautiful blonde girl? And why is she eating my trifle? xxx

Haley said...

We would like to feature your cupcakes on our blog. Please email if interested. Thanks :)


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