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Taking the cake


I love the fact that there is only one story that has made it to the front page of nearly every British newspaper today; the news that Nadiya Hussain has been crowned winner of the Great British Bake Off.

Every single newspaper except the Times and the Daily Mail put Nadiya on their front pages. The uppercrust Daily Telegraph featured a recipe on how to make millefeuille.  The Daily Mail has one for three-layer banana cake. The Daily Star, which often features naked buns, has one for perfect cupcakes.

An estimated 15 million people tuned in to the final programme last night. And you can’t move on Twitter for tearful tweets about her success. Even judge Mary Berry walked off camera rather than let her stiff upper lip quiver in public.

Nadiya’s win was on News at Ten and she was interviewed on Radio 4’s Today programme (which is more weighty than a 10-tier wedding cake), plus numerous other radio phone-ins. I suspect her show-stopping lemon drizzle cake has got more column inches than David Cameron’s key note speech to the Conservative party conference.

It must seem odd to people outside Britain that we go so mad over a baking competition. But I think it is rather wonderful. Muslims get plenty of appalling press these days. Many of the above newspapers are happy to slag off the ‘swarms’ of Syrian refugees wearily arriving in Europe, and even question a woman’s right to wear the hijab.

There were mutterings at the beginning of the contest that Nadiya’s being on the programme smacked of tokenism and political correctness. They soon stilled. It seems there’s nothing like a gravity defying cheescake to silence racism.

She’s been hailed as an inspiration to British muslims. Dr Omer El-Hamdoon, president of the Muslim Association of Britain, said she “demonstrated the inclusivity of British Muslims in society.”

Nadiya said in one interview at the beginning of the series, “Originally, I was a bit nervous that people would look at me, a Muslim in a headscarf, and wonder if I could bake. But I hope that week by week people have realised that I can bake – and just because I’m not a stereotypical British person, it doesn’t mean that I am not into bunting, cake and tea.”

She began the competition with no confidence and got last place in the technical challenge on week one. But my god, she is a trier. She was cheerful, nervous, funny and determined. Maybe it’s odd that iced buns should cause such a fuss, or that she should cry over madeira cake. Or that half of the country should be yelling at the telly, when she made a bad decision to junk her vol au vents and make some new ones with the clock against her.

But she kept going, and we stayed with her. And when she was awarded her trophy (a cake stand, natch), she said, ‘I’m never gonna put boundaries on myself ever again. I’m never gonna say I can’t do it. I’m never gonna say “maybe”. I’m never gonna say “I don’t think I can”. I can and I will.’

Cake, eh? Who knew?

The Twinkies have landed

twinkie box

I am editing something at the moment that has a bibliography so long it stretches out like the explanation in Star Wars, to some galaxy far far away. I have to check every entry, and so far, on my way to Betelgeuse Minor, I’ve only got to Basingstoke. (Metaphorically speaking, because everybody knows that if you get to Basingstoke, you never get out again).

So naturally, I have turned to cake. Fellow blogger Naptime Thoughts was so astounded by the fact that I didn’t know what a Twinkie was, that she sent me a packet. In return I sent her Cadbury’s mini rolls and Jaffa cakes (which are what God has for his elevenses).

The Twinkies arrived yesterday, after a two-week journey, but there are no worries about them going off because, according to Naptime Thoughts et al, they are:

  • mostly made of plastic;
  • designed to survive Armageddon.

It was a hot day, and we were all in the yard lounging about, drinking tea and watching husband and son-in-law mending bicycles, when Julia the post lady arrived. The parcel caused the kind of excitement not seen, I suspect, since the people on Hawaii looked at Captain Cook, saw past his gaudy wrappings, and thought, hmm, dinner.

Captain Cook

Captain Cook

Everyone watched as I wrestled open the packet and extracted the brightly coloured box (containing 10 individually wrapped golden sponge cakes with a creamy filling). There was writing on the box next to the sell-by date, saying ‘LIES’ and an arrow pointing out the Twinkie cowboy (some kind of cultural icon?) and a note saying, love from America.

The reactions were roughly:

Julia the post lady – ‘What’s a Twinkie? Oh, cake. All the way from New Jersey? That’s a lot to pay for postage. Still, that’s America for you. You’ve got two bills and some junk mail. No. I can’t throw it away before I give it to you.’

Husband (swallowing one whole) – ‘Mmmph. Nice. Bit sweet. Can you put the kettle on?’

Son in law – ‘Nice but they’re not as good as I thought they’d be, considering how people are always going on about them in films. I thought they’d be orgasmic. Like chocolate hob nobs. Is there tea?’

Daughter – ‘The inside is just like a Tunnocks Tea Cake. Do they have Tunnocks tea cakes in America? Shall I put the kettle on?’

Teenage son – ‘This is what they eat in that zombie film.’

Teenage son’s best mate – ‘They’re lovely. I love them… I’d love another one.’

So, thanks, America, (and Naptime Thoughts) and here are my conclusions on the cultural cake exchange:

  • we’re quite familiar with the names of your stuff, but that doesn’t mean we know what it is (Kool aid? Grits? A sedan?);
  • offering to put the kettle on will get you in anywhere;
  • Twinkies are all right, but chocolate hob nobs rule.

And Captain Cook, this advice is probably a bit late, but you’d have been way better off not landing on the beach looking like the Twinkie cowboy.

Twinkie Cowboy

Twinkie Cowboy

Picture of Captain Cook via Creative Commons, courtesy of


Slice of life


I’ve had a lot of trouble with language lately. I told my exercise teacher (well, Sue in the village) that I’d just eaten a jeely piece and she had no idea what I was on about. (She’s Welsh, I’m Scots, and a jp is a jam sandwich).

Fellow blogger Barry wrote a post containing the word schnook. Apparently it means ‘nerd’, and is not the same as ‘schmuck’ which I had no idea (honest, guv) meant penis.

Another fellow blogger, Naptime Thoughts, (from New Jersey) thought I was having her on when I said I thought a Twinkie was a chocolate bar (that’s twinkie, not winkie). And whaddya know, it’s a cake. More on that later, as we are now set to engage in a programme of exchanging fondant fancies in order to further our cultural bonds. Amazing what posting on WordPress can lead to.

And, with the opening of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow today, can I just help out any passing visitors with this vital information: ‘whaur’s the cludgie‘ means where’s the loo, and ‘yer bum’s oot the windie‘ means, you’re wrong.

So, in the meantime, while thinking of something really worthwhile to post about, and waiting for cake to fall from the sky, I post this film, which shows, that no matter how bad we humans are at misunderstanding each other, a computer in a lift can beat us every time.

picture from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chocolate_cake#mediaviewer/File:300x300_choc_rose_cake.jpg via Creative Commons.


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