Unless you have been living under a rock, you will know that the Wimbledon finals were held this weekend that has just passed. I say that as if I’m all-knowing and into these kinds of things, but truth be told I had no idea until I was yanked out from under my rock by The Husdabind and informed that we would be hosting a Wimbledon watching for the men’s finals. OK then.
Now, being the athletically-challenged human that I am, all I really know about Wimbledon is that some people dress in white and hit balls about in England while other people eat strawberries and cream and watch them. I decided that I could totally get on board with two of the three. After instructing our friends to don white attire, I got down to baking a strawberries and cream / Eton mess cake, a total experiment of a confection. I do this from time to time – subject our nearest and dearest to a completely creative, culinary concept that may or may not be a complete disaster, trusting that they love me enough to grin, bear it and stick around no matter the outcome. So far they haven’t run away, they are a very tolerant bunch (you guys rock)!
The mixer had been in place for about 0.003 milliseconds when a whole coffee table was noisily dragged up to the counter and two tiny helpers emerged, ready for the action and a lick of a spatula. If you have ever baked with kids you will know that you need to budget for about 17 times the recommended prep time that the recipe optimistically suggests. Between swatting fingers out of batter, measuring and re-measuring your 2 cups of flour that keep turning into towering mountains that become roughly 37 cups deep the second you turn to grab another spoon, and fishing eggshells out of bowls, you could be there for a while. Our cake was no exception.
Under the watchful eye of The Guy who discovered how to turn the speed dial to create different volumes of “vroom-vroom, Mom” the mixer did its job like an overworked government department worker. I swear, if it had eyes it would have been rolling them as it laboured to mix the ingredients of the most tediously slow cake it has ever mixed – fast then sloooooow, fast then sloooooooooow…. But we got the job done, and I was very relieved to pop the baking pans into the over and despatch my happy helpers into the garden, proudly licking their spatulas, beaters and sticky digits.
The sponge cake recipe that I use is a trusty old faithful, the same recipe that my own mom used to use for our birthday cakes after she acquired it from her friend. It’s delicious and never flops – could there be a more perfect base? That’s as far as my recipe following usually goes, I’m afraid. Once the sponge is done I usually just wing it, throwing ingredients together and hoping for the best – this cake, although admittedly a fairly safe concept, was no exception.
After whipping fresh cream, sugar and vanilla paste together I sandwiched the cake tiers together with strawberry jam (Wimbledon, remember?) and the cream and repeated that on top, adding some crushed meringues and fresh strawberries to the finish it off. At this point our friends had arrived, so the cake’s assembly became a bit of a team effort, with them cheering it on as it threatened to slide everywhere when I realised that jam and cream are mortal enemies, slipping and dripping everywhere. We certainly achieved the ‘mess’ part of the Eton Mess, but pretended that this was exactly the look that we were going for by adding meringues around the base to hide the most eyebrow-raising parts of it and pull it all together with a flourish that we hoped would look intentional.
Although the bakers of Pintrest may disagree, I think we nailed it! It certainly vanished quickly enough while the ball-batters on the TV had at it. You’ll be pleased to hear that I only partially disgraced myself as I tried my best not to ask too many questions about why they count the points in tennis so strangely and supported the one oke purely based on the number of kids he has (four!!). I feel it’s as worthy a reason to lend my support as any – if that guy can survive in that home he certainly deserves a cheer or three!
Unfortunately my guy didn’t win, although I am told it was a close call. Perhaps we should send him a piece of cake to commiserate.