Bake of the week: Gin and tonic cake
Movie of the week: Philomena
Book of the week: One Summer: America 1927 by Bill Bryson
I have been wanting to try this cake for ages. I think I found the recipe by chance one day over a year ago and bookmarked it, waiting for a suitable occasion. The main problem that I foresaw was that it shouldn’t be eaten by children as it contains a quantity of gin. Keeping cake and children apart is never easy. However, in the course of making the cake I discovered that the reek of gin coming off it should deter all but the most determined (or alcoholic) of children!
The cake itself is a basic pound cake recipe with extra gin and lemons. It’s from the Pudding Lane Bakery website, and can be found here. I did have one minor disaster during baking – I discovered that my bag of granulated sugar was actually an annoying small bag of flour. This meant that I didn’t get a lovely crust of sugar on the top, but I think it was still a very tasty cake. The texture was slightly dense for me, but that is quite normal for pound cake. I may have to try and find a way of making it a little lighter for next time, and judging by it’s reception, there will definitely be a next time.
I thought that the perfect occasion for this recipe was choir rehersal since there are no children involved and I have noticed a few choir members having an interest in a gin and tonic in the past. It’s pretty simple to make using the creaming method and stirring in the extra bits.
There was quite a bit of disagreement about the quantity of alcohol involved. I thought it was really just a touch – there was 4 shots of gin in the recipe and another 4 shots in the drizzle. I cut the cake into roughly 24 bits, so there was an absolute maximum of 1/3 of a shot a slice, assuming that none of the alcohol evaporated during the baking of the cake.
I’m sure that the cake could take more gin if you’re having an evening in – it seems to just soak it up happily. It got disappeared into people very quickly and I’m sure that everyone sang much sweeter as a result.
HO has been on holiday from work this week and dealing with various things around the house including deciding that it was his manly duty to rebuild the deck in the garden himself. For a man who spends most of his time in front of a computer screen, I have to admit he does have a certain amount of practical application. He also left the house for the evening at one point and I planned to watch a movie in his absense. Typically, that was the night that my telly decided to update and all the apps stopped working. I ended up having to resort to the DVR and a movie that I had recorded over Christmas – Philomena.
Philomena is an excellent little movie. It’s pretty much a 2-hander, though the hands in question belong to Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, so there’s not much to complain about there. It’s based on the true story of Philomena Lee who became pregnant and went into one of the now infamous Magdalene laundries in Ireland in 1952. At the end of her 3 year term, her baby Anthony was taken from her and adopted by a rich American Catholic family in exchange for a hefty fee paid to the nuns. Although she has tried to find her son over the years, Phil has always been told by the nuns that they have no idea where Anthony went as they lost all their records in a fire. She was moved to England when her family wanted nothing more to do with her and ended up training as a nurse and having a family of her own, but she has never spoken to anyone about Anthony until the start of the movie when she hands her daughter a picture of a serious-looking little boy and starts to tell her story. The flashback story is interspersed with the present day action most of the way through. Steve Coogan plays Martin Sixsmith, an ex-journalist and spin doctor for Tony Blair’s government, who finds himself suddenly unemployed when he is used as the fall guy for a political scandal. Trying to get himself out of a slump he is commissioned to write a human interest story about Philomena, something which he obviously considers beneath him. Together, they follow the trail to America.
Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope’s screenplay for this movie has been rightly celebrated and the leads are magnificent. I read some concerns that all the laughs in the movie are at the expense of Philomena, but the sublty of Coogan’s performance means that while we are encouraged to laugh at Phil’s fascination with romance novels and some of the folksy things she says, at the same time this attitude is part of Sixsmith’s pomposity and Philomena is a lot more sophisticated than she appears. I missed the original story when it came out, I’ve since looked it up and it seems that it was around the time that I entered the wilds of parenthood, so that’s not terribly surprising, but happily that meant that I didn’t know what was going to happen, and to borrow one of Phil’s phrases, “I didn’t see that coming. Not in a million years!” Unlike some other films that deal with the same subject matter, The Magdalene Sisters for example, this is not a particularly angry film, it is more one of quiet personal tragedy. This makes it poignant and moving rather than harrowing, particularly in Philomena’s quiet conviction that everything that happened was her fault for the sin that she committed.
Book-wise this week, I am ploughing through a huge doorstop of a thing. I shall have to report back at a later date!