Searching for a chocolate cake recipe which didn't require seventeen ingredients including 625g of sugar I turned to my trusty Good Housekeeping Cookery Compendium (first published in 1950) and found this recipe, simple yet rich enough for a birthday cake. Blimmin' easy to make too. I iced it with chocolate buttercream which brought the sugar total to around 335g. Then I added an entire box of Maltesers, so, yeah, more sugar. It hit the spot though, celebratory but not excessive. It's called rich chocolate cake but compared with modern recipes it is far from rich.
There's a lot to like about my old 1960 edition of The Good Housekeeping Cookery Compendium. The recipes are straightforward, well written and well tested. Ingredients are few, familiar and easy to buy. My mum has a well worn copy and as a child I used to pore over the pictures of cakes (there are lots) for hours thinking how beautiful they were.
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But they aren't beautiful are they? They're terrible. Pick up any baking book published today or read any baking blog (I mean a proper baking blog, not this one) and you will see how the standard of cake decoration has soared. I don't just mean in terms of design and artistic taste but in skill too. The snowman cake below is clearly botched and the marzipan fruit dreadful. But I love them for their rubbish decoration, they're attainable aren't they? Yep, I could definitely make a snowman cake like that.
We are constantly being told perfection is what we should be striving for, and I don't just mean in our cakes but in our homes, our bodies, our faces, our hair, our lives. But how do we know what is perfect? Who is making the rules?
Maybe bloggers are helping make those rules. Maybe the little snippets of their lives that they choose to show on their blogs create an impression of a perfect life being lived in a perfect world. I once had an email from a reader who said I was everything she wanted to be. Flipping heck! I thought, or words to that effect. But perhaps she meant she wanted to be imperfect, that she didn't want to be made to feel her house, her cooking, her family had to be perfect and that I was showing her that it was ok to be a jolly nice chocolate cake rather than a perfect chocolate cake. I hope so.
Talking of perfection, my cherry tree is taking its time to reach it, I was clearly over optimistic when I said it would be in full bloom by the end of last week. Maybe it too has decided that jolly nice will be just fine.