12 September 2008

No Presents For Old Men


Overheard in our kitchen:

Me: I can make you a birthday cake! Anything you want!
Tim: Oka-
Me: I'll get you all my Nigella books! She has a whole chocolate cake chapter in Feast! I can make anything! Or if you just want to describe an idea and I can make it up! Choose one! CAKE!

Above: Oscar "helping" by promptly falling asleep on my cookbook. I guess if he can doze quite comfortably with his face buried in a duvet, what's a few papercuts?

Yesterday, being Tim's 22nd birthday, I was presented with a prime opportunity for a little altruistic cake-bakery. Although technically I kind of forced the whole cake idea upon him...I'll be honest, I wasn't looking forward to the birthday itself, partly because I was working all day and I flatter myself that my very presence improves Tim's life somewhat, but also because I was having massive issues finding him a present. In spite of his sincere protestations that he didn't want anything, well of course I had to get something. And he'd had the temerity to buy me a thoughtful, not-too-extravagant-but-really-nice birthday present back in April, which set way too high a precedent. Everything that I looked at was either too boring, too impersonal or too expensive. And we have so much stuff already! What was I going to get him? An elephant? A fully-functioning roller coaster? His body weight in ham? On Wednesday night I rather desperately purchased a box of 20 Double Brown and a DVD of Beowulf, which luckily Tim was over the moon about. Funnily enough though, I had a look for the No Country For Old Men DVD, after it has haunted my mind for so long, and it is nigh-on impossible to find in non-Blu Ray format. Go figure.

Mercifully, after all that disintegration of my sanity, dinner was pretty fabulous and Tim loved it. Inspired by Nigella's intensely delicious Cambodian Steak Salad from How To Eat, I fashioned a kind of Italian cousin to it, with a dressing made from extra virgin olive oil, excellent balsamic vinegar, (that Tim had got me for my 21st...sigh) roasted garlic, the pan juices from the steak which I'd deglazed with dry sherry...Nigella forgive me for buying a wan, anemic tomato out of season but it's the one and only time I've bought a one that's not in a can since summer. I padded the sliced steak out with fluffy, voluminous fancy salad leaves, tossed it all together and served it with potato wedges that I'd dusted with lemony, red sumac. Hot damn, it was a good meal. Elegant, flavoursome, meaty, more or less healthy...It had been forever since I'd eaten steak and I had forgotten just how ridiculously, beefily juicily delicious it is.

But the cake was undeniably the real star.

Tim initially, without hesitation, chose the Chocolate Guinness Cake, but after I hinted subtly that I'd like to try something new, he opted for the Butterscotch Cream Sponge from Nigella's delicious baking book How To Be A Domestic Goddess. It's a variation on her basic Victoria Sponge, with significant proportions of caramel sauce. For added birthday-ness, I sprinkled the edge of the cake with chopped up crunchie bar (and fear ye not, Tim was armed with extra insulin.) It was incredibly delicious, and despite looking intimidatingly rich, was beyond easy on the palate.

Butterscotch Cream Sponge

Adapted from How To Be A Domestic Goddess

For the caramel, dissolve 250g caster sugar in 125mls water over a low heat. Never stir, if you must do something then pick up the pot and give it a swirl. Once it has dissolved, turn up the heat for about ten minutes till it turns a deep golden. I think I may have sliiightly over-heated mine but it gave the caramel a pleasing complexity of flavour. (Not a burnt taste). Pour in 250mls cream, slowly, whisking all the while. Don't freak out if it whooshes up and siezes, because you are going to put it back on the low heat and stir till it's smooth. Leave to cool.


250g very soft butter
100g brown sugar
150g caster sugar
250g flour
4 eggs
2 T cream
2 t baking powder

Whizz the whole lot to a creamy pulp in the food processor (or make by hand, which is what I did, armed with my trusty wooden spoon). Bake in two 20cm, lined springform tins for 25mins at 180 C. Cool.

Finally, beat 400g cream cheese till soft, fold in 250 mls of the caramel, and use this to sandwich and ice the two cakes. Drizzle the rest of the caramel over liberally.

Et voila! Dentists across the nation weep with joy.

Above: Make a wish! (it better have been a good one)

A whole gang of us are going to Genghis Khan tonight to further celebrate Tim's day o' birth, it's an all you can eat place where you can consume all the stir-fry noodles your arteries can handle. Like Homer Simpson, I do appreciate a decent AYCE joint. I shall spend this weekend researching The Clash for a presentation for Media, and perhaps waiting for Tim to finish watching Beowulf so I can catch Idina Menzel's song in the credits...and no, that's not the reason I bought the DVD...it's one of Tim's favourite movies. Far too violent for mine eyes!

And finally, a very sincere-to-the-point-of-earnest thank you to those who took the time to read my post on RENT and comment. I know musical theatre isn't everyone's thing, (don't even get me started on ballet) and that this is supposed to be a food blog, so your generosity of spirit was most appreciated! But really, the day I start only talking about food, plain and straightforwardly - because it's not just the end result that matters, it's the getting there too - is the day that I have ceased to have interest in this blog. As you can see by all the self-indulgent chatter today, that isn't going to happen any time soon...


  1. Happy Birthday Tim - Hope you had a good day. What a cake with which to celebrate it.

  2. That has got to be one of the most amazing cakes I've ever seen! Dentists weep indeed.

  3. That cake is amazing! Very inspiring! It's very amusing that oscar can fall asleep in the middle of a Nigella book!

    PS, I have a feeling Rent will be back!

  4. Happy Birthday Tim! What a cake! And your salad sounds like a very good thing to have before the cake too.

  5. Dear, this look amazing and yummy!!! Love it! xGloria

    Happy birthday Tim!!

  6. Laura that cake is stunning- and you have either got your new camera working again or got the hang of your old one because the photos are fabulous!!!!

  7. Lol at anaemic tomoatoes, totally the perfect description of crappy New World glasshouse toms.
    lovely seeing you friday! x

    PS i am SO cut after seeing the photos of that cake!!!

  8. How good does that cake look?!??!?! I want a slice NOW. Lucky Tim - glad he's got his insulin on hand.

    PS - I've commented on your Rent post a bit late - sorry!!

  9. Mum: :) So good to see you this weekend!
    Anna: Nice to see you again! LOL it was a dentists' delight...
    HayleyB: I certainly couldn't fall asleep while reading Nigella - he's one weird kitty...
    Foodycat: Yes, salad before cake evens things out nicely!
    Gloria: Cheers!
    Linda: You've hit the nail on the head - got the proper camera back!
    Scott: Twas FAB to see you on Friday...and you know all you have to do is show up here and you can have all the cake you want!
    Glossy: You should give the cake a go! And thanks for the comments on my RENT post :):):)

  10. So I get my computer fixed, and am greeted with probably the most decadent cake I've ever seen :) Beyond awesome, Laura.

    Tell Tim that his future chiropractor says Happy Birthday, and I hope you guys stuffed yourself at the AYCE. I find it more and more rare to find a actually GOOD buffet place.

    Oh, and I couldn't agree more about stories and chatter in a food blog about non-food stuff. People come to hear stories, laugh, and escape for awhile. That's our job :)

  11. You are a regular 'cake goddess' Laura. THe b'day cake you made for your mum was delicious also - darkly chocolately - and yet not too rich.
    Have just sent off an assignment so am feeling good, only one more to go before the final exam.

  12. wow, that cake looks incredible! The perfect end to a birthday dinner. I've passed on a blog award to you, you can pick it up at my site http://food-baby.blogspot.com

  13. Belated b'day wishes to Tim. Cake looks awesome.

  14. This is the steak and cake I was talking about in the other comment. Working my way backward and forward and all around getting caught up on posts I've missed.

    And Happy birthday to Tim!

  15. How naughty is that cake.....gorgeous!!!

  16. wow that looks insanely delicious. Thats truly a sticky gooey creamy chewy type cake. Man I am truly salivating here.

    Happy Birthday!

  17. Don't know if there is a god or a heaven. But HOLY GOD IN HEAVEN - that CAKE!!! Did you immediately schedule bypass surgery afterward?

    OH LAURA! You know this is right UP my alley! DROOLING, just salivating over here.

  18. Oh my god that cake looks amazing!!! I've made this before, only once though and looking at your picture makes me want to make it today! :)

  19. Oh my god Laura. This cake is sinfully good!! I LOVE IT