Cake: Shop Bought v. Home Made

Well, I was going to regale you with tales of the P-bone (plastic trombone) that has taken up temporary residence in our house, and how the cat is absolutely bloody terrified of it. I think she thinks it is some primeval, possibly dinosaur version of a cat, calling across the plains. It’s certainly going to eat all her biscuits, anyway.

Instead I have been thinking about cake.

I had a shocker of a migraine yesterday, the new sort which announces itself as something else and then bashes me in the face until I whimper and want to gouge my own eye out. The sort that doesn’t let me sleep and which makes me pace and howl, and curl up in the bottom of the shower.

After these delightful episodes I am always starving, like hangover starving. Generally I crave Coca Cola. Yesterday, when it finally went away I wolfed down scrambled egg with lashings of tomato sauce (I usually hate tomato sauce) and a great deal of panettone left over from Christmas.

This morning, still feeling tremendously fragile, I have dined on panettone again.

I like shop bought panettone. It’s brilliant. I was musing, on my way back from school, about the difference between shop bought and home made cake. There are some cakes that are meant to be made at home, cakes like Victoria sponge, and really excellent chocolate cake. Then there are cakes that come from shops and are factory processed, and which you shouldn’t really like, but you can’t help loving, and which you cannot replicate at home for love nor money.

I am thinking here of the marvels of the McVitie’s Jamaica ginger cake in particular. It has the look of a particularly troublesome house brick and weighs roughly the same, but in a dense, soft and entirely soggy way. Like the classic Soreen malt loaf, it can, if squeezed in the hand, be rendered down to about 1/2oth of its shop bought size and turned into a kind of strange, gingerish paste, which is, nevertheless absolutely fine to eat. It is entirely peculiar and has a taste all of its own. I suspect it is made with some kind of petroleum by product and the population of Jamaica would be horrified to be associated with it, and yet it is a great delight to me, and there have been times in my life when I have eaten an entire ginger cake all to myself in one sitting.

Special mention must be given here to the Soreen malt loaf. This is a cake of my childhood. My mother used to do a baking day once a week, and would produce all manner of biscuit, cake, tart etc, to last us through the week. The Soreen malt loaf however, was never replicated at home, and yet was a regular fixture on our tea table.  It always came in a waxed packet that made it look a bit like a loaf, but not. Small, squishy and troublingly brown, it would be served in thick slices, liberally coated in butter. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it. I don’t dislike it. It’s just a thing that is very Seventies Childhood, along with trifle with hundreds and thousands and yellow and green glace cherries on, and Corona cherryade.

Next up, the angel cake. I used to love angel cake. If no chocolate cake were available, angel cake was my cake of choice. For those not in the know, it is a layer cake made of pale pink, weird white and luminous yellow slabs of sponge, all of which taste identical. These would be layered together with the thinnest layers of butter cream and sold much like Madeira cake, in unadorned plastic wrapping. It is the most exciting of what I think of as the utilitarian cakes. It is sometimes mixed up with Battenberg cake, which has all the same sponge but with the addition of bright yellow marzipan to hold it together. I find this hideous. Angel cake though, despite tasting of nothing much, and surely being chemically troubling, is still a joy to my palate and every now and again I will buy one.

Mr Kipling’s French Fancies. These are the creme de la creme of shop bought cakes. I defy you not to like them. I despise any other type of Mr. Kipling product. I hate fruit pies, and particularly individual ones in foil. I weep at what they have done to the classic Viennese whirl, and I worry about the density of their butter cream, but a French Fancy cannot be beaten in my book. I remember a particularly good birthday where Jason took me to a boutique hotel. I spent my birthday afternoon in a bathtub you could sink ships in, watching films and hoying an entire packet of French Fancies into my mouth one after the other. I love to peel off all the icing, and then eat the blob of buttercream before attacking the sponge. I have had other, posh French Fancies (Betty’s tea room in Harrogate do them). They just don’t match up. It has to be Mr. Kipling.

Other shop bought food products which I shouldn’t like but do, and which cannot be replicated at home are: butterscotch Angel Delight, Heinz Tomato Ketchup and Heinz Tomato Soup (for when you are right poorly. To be served with toast made from processed white bread, and a pint of Lucozade).




3 responses to “Cake: Shop Bought v. Home Made

  1. Love this post…

    That said, we’ll have to agree to disagree on Battenberg. I find it rather tasty. French Fancies…for years, I’d bite into them expecting jam (I hate jam) and was always relieved when there was no jam to be found. Give me a good old Madeira cake any day. Glad you’re migraine-free.

  2. Butterscotch Angel Delight … mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!

  3. I LOVE Soreens Malt Loaf with no chance of getting it here in France.. you are absolutely right about the 70’s aspect of the rest.. I can live without them all.. but what about those little pink iced biscuits?

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