A crumbling relic: 10th-16th March

posted Mar 21, 2012, 3:10 AM by Dinner Lady   [ updated May 29, 2012, 3:49 AM ]
Eight eggs, a deluge of flour, a mountain of butter, an avalanche of sugar and a fountain of chocolate. When your shopping list starts with these items, you know that it is the unavoidable birthday party shop.  Exciting, expensive and energy zapping. This time for The Naughty Knight, who was turning four.   Party rings, iced in that awful pink and purple, jammy faced biscuits, strawberry jelly cubes, frankfurters and baps were flung in next. A brief stop at the more healthy aisles (hummus, taramasalata, grapes) but I passed by quickly, because I have done enough parties to know that these tend to be left behind.  As the saying goes, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.  And at this stage I am not worrying about the children's alcohol consumption at parties, so overindulgence in salt, sugar and fat once in a while actually seem rather innocuous.  

Last Friday night's supper was a simple affair, and thankfully Mrs Doubtfire stepped in to help, because I had more pressing important and delicate matters to deal with: the cake.  This seems to be the centre piece of any party table and, being a poor baker and decorator, with unpredictable results, the cake is the part of the party that makes me most anxious. Generally, I have just about got away with it by buying a ready made cake, making a very simple Victoria Sponge or a carrot cake using a fool proof recipe my friend passed on to me years ago.   

When The Naughty Knight requested a Knights, Princesses and Castles party, I was more than happy to oblige. I was even excited by organising jousting competitions up and down the corridor and playing pin the tail on the knight's trusted steed. When he requested a castle cake, my heart fluttered a little, but thought I could adapt my simple round Victoria Sponge into a rectangle, cut little squares out the top for the crenellation, and balance a few of his knight figures on top.  And then we went to his friend's party which was along the same theme. The stakes were raised when a strong fortress appeared, with turrets, a portcullis and all. I prayed they had bought it or had it made by a professional, but that mothers' "I want only the best for my child" spirit started there.  I saw their castle cake and raised it with four decorated fairy tale towers and a gallon of shimmering silver glitter spray. 
And so there I was late on Friday night, wine in hand, covered in icing sugar, getting stickier by the second as I painstakingly wrapped chunks of chocolate sponge cake in white icing.  Oh I can laugh about it now. But how frustrating it was was as the four swiss rolls I bought to be the towers kept drooping inwards and the upside down ice cream cones fell off.  How irritating that the red strawberry jam glue kept seeping and oozing and discolouring my virgin white icing.  

Mrs Doubtfire, my sage, reminded me that The Naughty Knight would love his castle however ramshackle it was. But when it comes to The Birthday Cake, all rational thoughts disappear in a puff of icing sugar.   However hard I tried, the result was more crumbling fairy tale Loire Chateaux than tough reinforced Norman castle.  My cake looked nothing like the pictures of castle cakes I saw on the internet.  And when I crept down in the morning to survey my creation, I was faced with a relic as it had collapsed in on its self.  A big hug from Mrs Doubtfire, lots of sticky icing and many deep breaths restored it to a look that English Heritage might consider intact.  

rotten or gone off - 1/4 banana - was too brown, and I saw the tiniest bit of green fur...time for the bin, very shameful; 2 piggies of orange that the children insisted were "rotten", and I had no energy to argue with that

left on our plates - 4 tbsp TNK's breakfast cereal (crusts are now being eaten up thanks to my "one quarter at a time" policy for bread and toast); plus a few bits and bobs off PB's plate but less than in previous weeks as her appetite seems to be more predictable 

left overs I have forgotten to use up - 10 tbsp pasta, Mrs D cooked far too much on Weds and despite reheating it several times, it headed binwards, as he said he was "tired of old pasta".  There in lies the dilemma: do I continue to let Mrs D cook the rice, pasta and vegetables and accept the inevitable waste that goes with it, or become a control freak in the kitchen and insist I do this myself...?; off cuts of icing and 4 ice cream cones from the castle cake


Carry forward          £ 226.61
Butcher                £ 15
Local Supermarket      £ 27.30
Veggie box             £ 19.40
Total March so far     £288.31