Bake of the week: Raspberry and prosecco cupcakes
Movie of the week: Say When
Book of the week: The Woman Who Fell In Love For a Week by Fiona Walker
I remember writing at the beginning of this blog that I was going to do it weekly with a caveat that this could be a slightly ambitious goal. I’ve been volunteering more at the kids school and in consequence have lost an entire day to helping walk Y3 kids to swimming class and processing new books for the school library. Having been reduced to 3 school days to myself, I have time to bake and read, but little time for kicking back and writing about it. I have finally made time, so here goes.
As you have probably noticed, the last few years have seen a massive upsurge in the consumption of prosecco in this country, to the point that last summer saw some excellent scare stories about it actually running out due to Britain’s sudden love affair with Italian bubbly. I have been thinking for some time about how to get prosecco into cakes and the success of my gin and tonic cake made me think that choir was the place and those were the people to use as my guinea pigs. It was the choir leader’s birthday on rehearsal day and she has been known to enjoy a glass or two of the fizzy, so I started some proper research! A rootle around the internet yielded a few ideas, mostly of white wine or prosecco cupcakes, so I thought I’d start there. I had made some gin and tonic cupcakes for my mother-in-law for Christmas which involved brushing the gin onto normal cupcakes, so I made some cupcake bases and had a go with some drizzling. This was a massive disappointment. What I got was damp and rather tasteless cakes. Back to the drawing board.
So I had a little think, and think that I was thinking was that I needed some flavour. Strawberries have always been an accompaniment to prosecco, but whenever I’ve tried to put strawberries in cakes I’ve found the results rather bland, which is I guess why people usually use strawberry jam instead. On the other hand I have always been fond of raspberries and I’ve used them in baking before, so a new plan formed – raspberry cakes with prosecco buttercream – yay!
The cakes I decided to try were from a raspberry and white chocolate recipe and seemed to be normal cupcakes but with a bit of added raspberry. I followed the recipe, but it still didn’t really taste of much, so in a “what the hell” moment I squished the rest of the raspberries and marbled them though in an attempt to stop the cakes getting too wet.
This is where I get a bit vague on the proportions as I was making 24 cupcakes, so I’ve done the best I can with the recipe I’ve written up, if you give it a try then please let me know how it goes. The prosecco buttercream was pretty easy really in comparison, just normal buttercream but with prosecco as the liquid rather than milk or any other flavouring. I had to add an extra tablespoon of prosecco as I thought they weren’t quite strong enough, that make it dodgy to pipe, but they set well.
Transported them to choir rehearsal and labelled them up there. I will say with a bucketful of false modesty that they were fairly well received. Or, as one choir member said, “you may as well have written raspberry and crack cakes”.
I have watched a fuck-tonne of movies over the past few weeks. At least a dozen. While some were dire (The Change-Up), some were worthy (The Big Short – still confused. If someone could explain to me why whoever it was paid loads of money for the big short position at the end I would be very grateful), some were sweet (What If) and a couple will always be a bit hazy because I had too much wine (10 Years), the one I’m focussing on here is Say When. Mostly because it surprised me, and I enjoy being surprised by movies, especially if the main surprise is that it was much better than I thought it was going to be.
Say When is a movie with a fairly simple premise. Megan (Keira Knightley) is nearing 30 and her gang from high school are settling down, getting pregnant and opening restaurants while she is avoiding starting a career and living with her high school boyfriend. When the boyfriend proposes on the dancefloor at one of the gang’s wedding, Megan freaks out and does a runner, finding herself buying alcohol for some teenagers and hanging out with them for the rest of the night. The next day, while pretending to go to a career seminar to discover her inner animal, she gets her new 16-year-old friend Annika (Chloe Grace Moretz) to smuggle her into her house where she lives with her single dad, Craig (Sam Rockwell). This unlikely story really only succeeds because of the performances. Megan could be terribly annoying, but Keira Knightly manages to sell her crisis as genuine and her actions innocently panicky rather than cruel. Her relationship with Annika feels real without ignoring the age gap between them. The other age gap in the movie is that between Megan and Craig, which is the same size in the other direction. If Annika represents a simpler past to Megan, then Craig is presumably the complicated future – there to tell her that no one ever feels ‘grown up’, even with a career, a kid and a divorce. The relationship between them feels unforced despite being completely contrived. Although the ending is classic romcom silliness, managing to imply that really all Megan needed was the right man and she could side-step ever having to find her own place in the world by simply hitching her wagon to Craig’s apparently fully adult existence. There seem to be quite a lot of these stories about trying to find a place for yourself in the world around at the moment, and although you could argue that they always have been stories about not wanting to grow up (Diner, Beautiful Girls, about a hundred others), I do think that there has been a bit of a change of tone to them. Whereas they used to be a last fling before knuckling down and getting on with the adult world, the movies in the last few years seem to be more about trying to come to terms with a less stable adult world that isn’t necessarily going to be waiting for you when you decide to join it. People nearing 30 now are those who went to uni in droves believing in better job prospects only to find themselves graduating into a massive recession and debt or started on a career ladder and bought houses as investments only to find that their house is now not worth what they paid for it and they will never retire on the fat pensions that their parents could look forward to, while having constant access to picture perfect versions of other people’s lives with which to compare your own. It’s not surprising that characters could appear drifty and vague about themselves when their world has become so fractured and uncertain.
So to the book. The one I’ve chosen this week, is The Woman Who Fell in Love for a Week by Fiona Walker. After the weighty tome that was Summer of 1927 I felt I needed a bit of fun and light reading. This didn’t disappoint. I think I may have read one of Fiona Walker’s previous books a good few years ago, but to be brutally honest, this one has a pool on the front, a quote calling it “A perfect summer read” and a hopeful sounding plot with promises of seduction and secrets. How could I resist? I didn’t. Obviously.
Jenny is divorced with 2 grown-up kids and during her summer holidays from teaching she likes to house-sit, enjoying other people’s beautiful houses and seemingly perfect lives. There is, of course, a sexy and mysterious man waiting for her, and when it seems that you know exactly how the plot is going to unfold it develops an unexpected depth and sucks you into it. I barreled through this one in a few days and was a little sad when it ended. The book had just the right mix of comedy, sex and soppiness and was just the fix I needed.