Bake of the week: Scrummy carrot cake
Movie of the week: Thomas & Friends: The Great Race
Book of the week: One Summer: America 1927 by Bill Bryson
I’ve been quiet for a bit. I’ve had a cold, it’s been half term, I haven’t felt like it. You may not have noticed because you were off having half term holiday adventures, or you could have been mostly in the house watching the pissing rain and wishing you had the energy to get up, like me.
Before I came down with the cold, the end of the half term was going pretty well. There was a birthday tea party for the anniversary of the start of choir and I decided to make my scrummy carrot cake. The carrot cake base is from a BBC Food recipe that I printed out years ago and have been making ever since. It’s not an extravagant cake in itself, the original recipe just has a little orange glace icing drizzled on the top, so I decided to jazz it up a bit with some orange cream cheese frosting. I’ve written up the recipe here. As with most carrot cakes, it’s mind-bendingly simple and it only involves stirring so it’s great for making with kids. Make sure you line the tin well and leave an overlap at the top to help with getting it out.
The mixture is extremely runny and if you’ve not made a carrot cake before it can be quite disconcerting, but don’t worry, it will come out lovely! The icing can’t go on until the cake is completely cold, and this takes AGES, so there is no rush. Use full fat cream cheese as if you try and use anything lighter it will just run off the cake. Give it a good beating in a bowl and add the other ingredients. I don’t bother sifting the icing sugar for this one. The frosting will look a little too runny, but trust me, it’s not. As soon as it’s on the cake it will stay put. Once the cake is cold, just spread the frosting thickly on the top and swirl it artistically. Yumtastic.
The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that this month’s movie is not my usual fare. There is a very good reason for this. Although I have successfully infected my children with a love of books, I have continually failed to convince them of the wonder and joy of the cinema. They maintain that they have no wish to go, to the point that even the suggestion that it might be fun produces the sort of protest that should be reserved for, say, a spell of deep sea shark-baiting or at the very least a recreational spelling test. I remain determined that the stubborn little blighters will learn to love going to the movies and endeavored to hatch a plan. That week when he picked up my nephew from his regular day at my house, my brother mentioned that he had taken little T to see a Thomas the Tank Engine movie at the weekend and that he had loved it. Now little T is barely 2 1/2 and if he can manage the cinema then maybe I can persuade D&O to go, or at the very least it should act as emotional blackmail. I checked the listings and Thomas and Friends: The Great Race was on first thing in the morning at the Orpington Odeon, but it wasn’t a kids showing so this would be a distressingly expensive trip. I steeled myself and mentioned it to the children. They shot me down.
Later that day a strange thing happened. O was getting ready for bath and yelled “Daddy! Daddy! Tomorrow we’re going to the cinema to see Thomas!” Well knock me down with a bag of popcorn! We were going. The movie was starting at 9.45 which in term time is practically the afternoon, but during the holidays feels like a terrible imposition, so it wasn’t quite the optimal family environment for introducing kids to something that they are very nervous about. There was a bit too much “do you want to go to see Thomas?! Yes!? Then GET YOUR SHOES ON!”, but let’s face it, that was always going to happen. So instead I bribed them to go in with expensive kids snack trays and got myself a coffee. It didn’t start well. As far as my kids are concerned, trailers are not exciting adverts for films that they may want to enjoy, but actually terrifying harbingers of doom. I ended up covered in coffee whilst attempting to balance a 5-year-old on my lap. However, once the movie itself started they were completely entranced. God knows why, it was terrible drivel. They’re really far too old for Thomas, but it was just the right amount of completely lacking in peril to settle them into the idea that maybe the cinema was actually quite cool and almost fun. Especially when they went round the corner to get the lift and discovered the enormous window that they could spy on all of Orpington from. I was playing a long (but possibly expensive) game. Maybe they’ll let me take them to see Finding Dory – a girl can dream. I think The Great Race would be perfect for 4-year-olds and under, or any older Thomas fans, but a work of genius it is not.
Speaking of works of genius, let’s get on to a book that is at least about some geniuses. I have finally finished the doorstop that I borrowed off my sister. I am only relieved that I didn’t borrow it from anywhere in hardback, because that would have been so heavy and cumbersome that I could probably have committed one of the famous murders featured within it by simply socking someone over the head with it. That said, this is a fascinating book. I think that the 20s must be the mythical boom time in America that Trump must be harking back to when he witters on. The economy was booming thanks to a housing boom financed by an incredible amount of debt (sound familiar anyone?) and hire-purchase had just been invented meaning that there are swish consumer goods everywhere. However crime is through the roof, the Prohibition is causing chaos and the KKK are still a respectable organisation. It seems like a time that would suit Trump down to the ground, apart from all the immigrants everywhere. There are a lot of baseball stats in the book, and these did make me glaze over. However stats by themselves have always had that effect on me, and in combination with baseball, a game I have a rudimentary understanding of at best (most of my knowledge coming from the criminally underrated movie A League of Their Own), had an almost soporific effect. Maybe this is one of the reasons it took me so long to read. That and the fact that it is 600 pages long. There is another 72 after that of bibliography, notes and index. It really was interesting and gave an insight into how a lot of modern American culture originated, but it is not one for the faint-hearted.