One of the titles I toyed with for this blog was the one that appears as the title of this piece – Cake in the Country. In the end I decided against it, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I didn’t want to imply that my lifestyle bears any comparison with the antics of the Sex In The City girls; it really really doesn’t, except perhaps to form a very sharp and ironic contrast. Neither did I want to suggest that my life before I moved here was anything like Carrie Bradshaw’s either; that prior to my exile to the countryside to eat cake I was tripping through the streets of London in expensive shoes after unattainable men, being professionally thin and flaky. That would be wildly inaccurate too. My urban life was, at best, Snacks in the City; more accurately, Long Hours of Work in the City with the Occasional Sandwich and Maybe a Coffee.
But nevertheless, Cake in the Country was a serious contender. Because cake, in all its many forms, is utterly essential to life around here. No social occasion can be arranged without first identifying who is going to bring the cake. Often, the eating of cake is, indisputably, the highlight of a given day. You think I’m exaggerating? I am, if anything, understating the importance of cake. These days, I even keep a little Tupperware box full of cake by my bed just so I can get up in the morning.
Now you may think that you know all about cake. You’ve eaten cake, you’ve probably baked cakes, you may even be able to sustain a conversation about cake. (Though could you manage an entire blog about it? Well I’m giving it a go… wish me luck.)
But what you may not know is this: just as the Victorians had a secret language of flowers, and fans, so in the country messages are communicated to guests via the secret language of cake. Here is a guide to help you understand the messages your host/ess is sending via their choice of cake, and maybe even start communicating some yourself:
CHOCOLATE CAKE – I am on a diet. When you are here, I will cut a tiny sliver for myself and a huge slice for you. I will then pick up every last crumb from my plate with a wet fingertip before wrapping the rest carefully in silver foil and putting it in the cupboard; when the children have gone to bed, I will get it out again, eat the entire cake and then shove the plate quickly in the dishwasher.
MR KIPLING’S VIENNESE WHIRLS – these were BOGOF in Sainsburys. Let’s hope you like them, because you’re going to be eating them all week, everywhere you go.
LOPSIDED AND SLIGHTLY BURNT FAIRY CAKES WITH RICE PAPER PICTURES OF THOMAS THE TANK ENGINE ON TOP – I am still quite a new parent, and therefore haven’t realised that making cakes with my child is a laughably bad idea. I don’t want to eat these, mainly because they are inedible but also because I watched while they were made. You can’t really say no, though, hahaha. Try not to think about what those black specks are. It’s for the best.
FRENCH FANCIES/JAM TARTS – I am a bit common. If you open my cupboards you will find quite a lot of Supernoodles and Monster Munch, not in a clever retro way but because I really like them; I hide them behind packets of couscous and risotto though, because I’m deeply ashamed. I pretend to like mayonnaise and olives but I really like Heinz salad cream and silverskin pickled onions. I should definitely get over myself and stop pretending, because really, no-one cares.
HOMEMADE LEMON DRIZZLE CAKE – I am a domestic goddess of the highest order. (I hope you’re reading this, Mars…)
LEFT-OVER HELLO KITTY BIRTHDAY CAKE, SLIGHTLY STALE – I hate you. I honestly cannot stand the sight of you. I never want you to come to my house again. I have tried to hint before but seriously, if this terrible cake doesn’t do the trick I am going to try answering the door naked to see if that will stop you visiting.
FANCY CUPCAKES – I just went to a fete and someone made me buy some of these. THEY WERE A WHOLE BLOODY POUND EACH and they give me indigestion and toothache. Please please eat them, please I beg you.
WHOLE SEED AND ORGANIC GRAIN VEGAN BITES (HIGH FIBRE) – I want you to think that I am very serious about nutrition, and be a little in awe of my parenting skills and smug green credentials. After you’ve gone, I am going to drive for about 15 miles to a town the other side of the valley where no one knows me and I am going to eat a Big Mac, large fries and one of those deep fried apple pies with the molten filling that burns the inside of your mouth.
So there you are – the secret language of cake, unveiled.
NEXT TIME – WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER ASK FOR HERBAL TEA IN THE COUNTRY.
(SPOILER: BECAUSE THEY WILL LAUGH AT YOU. AND, POSSIBLY, PEE IN IT.)