Be it chocolate, carrot, coffee or fruit, cake is one of those foods that we all have in common. They can be gluten-free, sugar-free, but, sadly, never calorie-free and perhaps that’s the point. When we eat cake we often do so together, united in a momentary act of gluttony, ditching the diet and our own self-imposed ‘rules’ and treating ourselves to something we perhaps wouldn’t normally indulge in.
There are times, of course, when cake is compulsory and I can think of many defining moments in my life where cake has been a constant – achievements marked by a hastily bought tray bake from the local supermarket, milestones celebrated with a professionally-made and beautifully decorated vanilla sponge, festive occasions filled with thick slices of homemade fruit and marzipan (and the odd Swiss roll!). Even in sadder times, cake, like tea, can be a comfort and as we grow older we often look back fondly on the recipes made in childhood, on our gran’s Viennese fingers, our mum’s chocolate crunch.
Any office is brightened by an impromptu trip to the local bakery and in my experience the cake stand at any summer fete always has the longest queue. The sugary delights I used to make at primary school, carried home carefully in a washed-out margarine tub, used to fill me with pride as a child and I can vividly remember how pleased I was to present it to my parents, with little concern as to whether the contents were edible or not. And, speaking of edible (or inedible), the memory of my dad using a hammer and chisel to remove the overcooked flapjack I’d made as a teenager from one of my mum’s baking trays will probably stay with me for the rest of my life!
Cake, and all its sugary goodness, is often part of our most treasured experiences, but whether it’s a slice or two with friends over coffee or the most beautifully crafted ten tier wedding cake you’ve ever seen, there are (in my opinion) a few rules when comes to actually eating it.
Buy it from a local bakery or café. Of course, if you wanted to you could cook your cake yourself, but if you’re anything like me then you’ll have eaten half of the mixture before it’s reached the oven and by the time you come to actually cutting yourself a slice, you’ll suffer from a vague queasiness that, in all likelihood, will make you think twice about putting anything sweet in your stomach ever again.
Needless to say, if I want to avoid the tummy ache (and inevitable self-loathing) that gorging on uncooked cake mixture can bring, it’s best to have someone else make my cake for me. Also, whilst I like to think of myself as a young Mary Berry, I’m pretty sure my family or anyone else who has ever encountered one of my edible creations would be unlikely to agree (see flapjack story above!). Therefore, I try where possible to buy my cake from a local bakery or café and I have to be honest I take great pleasure in (not literally) salivating over the range of enticing cakes on offer.
Choose the perfect accompanying beverage. In my opinion, there are two rules when it comes to ordering a drink to go with your cake:
#1 – you can’t buy a drink that contains more or a similar number of calories than the cake itself. I’m saying this not because I’m a big calorie counter, but because if you did what my mother did a couple of months ago and order a LARGE hot chocolate WITH marshmallows AND a huge piece of carrot cake (!!!) then at some point that same day you will suffer from the world’s biggest ever sugar crash. Believe me when I say, it’s best to stick to drinks that aren’t going to contribute to an afternoon shaking on the sofa.
#2 – it has to be hot. Tea, coffee, any drinks that have to be sipped will stop you from wolfing your chosen slice down in less than a minute and instead make the whole experience less about sustenance and more about relaxation.
Eat it with friends. Because food is a social thing, right? Eating cake with friends immediately eliminates any potential calories (don’t ask me why, but in my head it does) and it also opens up the option of sharing (not sharing the one slice, you understand, that would be crazy, but having several different types of cake to sample in one go). It’s also a nice topic of conversation and a good way of sussing out which cakes to avoid (as if there are any…).
Savour it. This might be tricky if, like me, you tend to hoover your cake up in seconds, but trust me when I say you’ll enjoy the whole experience a lot more if you actually take some time over it. This way you can answer honestly when someone asks you if your cake is ‘moist’ (because they will ask) and it’ll stop you from immediately buying a second slice. (See tip above on purchasing a hot drink to slow you down!)
Wait at least a week before you eat the same cake again. Because unless it’s the best lemon drizzle cake on the planet, why on earth would you buy the same cake twice in one week?! There are so many delicious cake recipes out there and if you’re as happy as I am to be an unofficial taste tester for the entire cake-making industry, then why limit yourself? Also, you may think that that lemon drizzle cake was the bees knees, but two days later you might find a slice of coffee and walnut that’s just as good, if not better, and you’d never have known about it if you’d kept running back to lemon drizzle! Variety is the spice of life, people!