I don’t know what has happened to the last few weeks. They seem to have whirled by in a blur of grey skies, tremendously monotonous rain and an intensively all-consuming course that finished with a two-hour oral exam where I had to get 80% to pass. It was stressful. And in between all this we’re trying to buy a flat – which no matter how romanticised my idea of it is, it is just plain painful. A welcome reprieve to all this – was having a houseguest move in ten days ago. She is also buying a flat and due to ‘unforseen’ delays (namely that the seller’s solicitor will only communicate via post) she’s been left with couple of weeks between flats.
It was her birthday this last weekend – and so this cake is for her. Although rather gaudy, it’s a fun cake of decadently rich chocolate sponge, smothered in a white chocolate, vanilla and sour cream ganache – and finished with a light marshmallow meringue frosting (in various shades of pink).
I don’t know where the last two months have disappeared to, but I sit here with my fingers hovering over the keyboard unsure what to type in sheer embarrassment of lack of posts over the festive season. The list of recipes I intended posting lies on the kitchen counter as a constant reminder – and does nothing but grow as I add delectable ideas to it. So my apologies. December saw family visiting, a wedding – and my first attempt at a wedding cake – followed by a rather rushed dash to the southern tip of Africa to spend a few glorious weeks in the dry heat interspersed with road trips, big blue skies, quiet glasses of chilled wine at dusk, quality time with my favourite nephew, glorious sunsets, endless beaches and radiant sunshine. And then back to dreary London I trudged, braced to face the wintery weather and a new year of work.
2 November 2011. A year of Tuesdays has passed since the last 2 November – and each one marked with a lifetime’s worth of sadness, grief and loss. Today is a year since my Dad died. A year since I ran out of the office into the anonymity of Waterloo Station, fighting back tears. Not knowing what to do I bought a poppy – a remembrance poppy. I had the poppy in my hand, willing my Dad to be okay when the news came from the hot Karoo town near the southern tip of Africa that he wasn’t. The poppy crumpled in my hand as I bent over double struggling to breathe.
The gugelhupf, I can say with certainty, was my Dad’s favourite anytime cake. This cake has featured in my life as far back as I can remember, and it has been known to be eaten not only for afternoon tea or dessert with a dollop of whipped cream, but also on occasion for breakfast with a mug of steaming coffee.
These are pure indulgence. Perfect. Usually I struggle to follow a recipe exactly – spotting gaps to tweak ingredients and instructions here and there in an attempt to improve it. And in so doing make it my own. However with this recipe I couldn’t find a single adjustment I wanted to make. It sounds like a mouthful, but what could possibly be taken away from, or added to swirling, gooey, chocolate-cherry-cheesecake-brownie? The dark richness of the chocolate brownie is perfectly balanced by the fruity cherry and light vanilla cheesecake to produce something wickedly indulgent.
Yesterday I did what I do best – procrastinate writing – in order to do what I love most – cook, buy cookbooks and peruse nurseries. I contemplate ways of sneaking my three new hardcover purchases into the cookbook collection in the said tiny kitchen without my other half noticing.
So now I finally sit down to write in the sweltering London heat, perched laptop on knee on the couch in front of the big open sash windows in an attempt to get whatever breathless gasps of breeze exist into the overheated apartment. Out of the corner of my eye I can see the bright shades of pink pelargonium and cosmos and lilac lavender, which I acquired whilst procrastinating, stirring in the breeze on the window sill. I smile.
Despite the unusual heat this week I have had an insatiable need to recreate my absolute favourite coffee time treat – the chocolate twist. I’ve been eyeing them up for weeks trying to work out exactly how they’re constructed. Whether right or not, my conclusion is that they’re made of a delicate croissant like pastry, laced with crème pâtissière, sprinkled with bitter-sweet chocolate bits and then twisted into strips of deliciousness which are baked and then finished off with a dusting of icing sugar.