Tag Archives: Pride and Prejudice

Cake for Helen and Carl

Cake for Helen and Carl

I am still reading The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Baurmeister. I am super excited reading about this novel. There is a recipe hidden in every chapter. Thinking about how this novel is making me happy, I am also happy that my favourite novel, Pride and Prejudice didn’t have any cooking descriptions. I would have taken ages to finish reading that classic.

At this point in the novel, Lillian, the protagonist and the master chef of the novel, is teaching her class how to bake a cake. As you must have understood from my previous blog about the choco-coffee, Lillian doesn’t believe in handing out recipes to her students and asks them to cook or bake using their senses. This time too, there is no written recipe for the cake. But here among her students, we have an old couple, who got married without a traditional wedding cake, and still are going strong despite ups and downs, and even an affair. Lillian dedicates this cake to Helen and Carl, the couple who believe in love. And I, like the last time, am giving you the detailed report of how my cake turned out as per her instructions. Given below are the instructions taken directly from the book. So they are not exactly instructions, but are parts of conversations and narration.

Lillian’s Instructions for the Cake

My Cake

Separate egg whites from yolks. I did this later in the process.
Lillian put the butter into the bowl and turned on the mixer. I used about 125g of unsalted butter and softened it manually using a spoon instead of putting into a mixer.
Slowly, in an impossibly thin waterfall of white, she let the sugar drift into the bowl. I used about 100g of fine sugar powder and blended it with the softened and now air-filled butter.
Finally, when the butter and sugar reached the cloudlike consistency of whipped cream, she turned off the motor. Since I was manually blending and air-filling the butter and sugar, it took me longer time.
So, now we add the egg yolks, bit by bit, letting the air rise into them as well. Separating and placing yolks and whites of 2 eggs in separate bowls, I whipped the egg yolks well enough to make a yellow coloured free flowing liquid and then slowly added it to the butter-sugar mixture while stirring.
She remarked lifting out a scoopful and letting it fall through the sifter in a fluttering snow shower into a large measuring cup. I sifted about 200g of all-purpose flour (maida) and set it aside.
Lillian began adding some of the flour to the batter, the milk alternatively. I used about 200-250ml of cold milk and added to the batter alternatively with the sifted flour.
If you mix the flour with the other ingredients for too long, you will have a flat, hard cake. I didn’t set a timer to know for how long I was stirring the batter to blend the flour and avoid lump formation.
Lillian beat the egg whites into foam, adding just a bit of sugar at the end, as the class watched it turn into soft then stiff peak. I beat the egg whites and added sugar to it in the end. Maybe it’s because of the manual blending, no stiff peaks were formed.
When it was done, Lillian carefully folded the frothy cumulus clouds into the batter, a third at a time. Well, I did just that.
The frosting was a thick butter-cream. Since I was in no mood for frosting, I skipped this last step. If I do this, I will surely update.

There are a few things you need to know here.

  • In the novel, Lillian brings out eggs, milk, butter, flour, sugar and baking soda and places on the table. But while baking, she doesn’t use baking soda. So, I just added about 2g of baking soda to the flour and sifted both together.
  • Lillian doesn’t use any flavouring agent, either natural or artificial while baking. You may add it if you want.
  • She doesn’t mention pouring the batter into the cake mould or anything. So please use your commonsense and pour the batter into aluminium cake mould or tray, and then place it in the oven. The mould or tray should be greased and dusted before pouring the batter into it. Otherwise, half of your cake will be stuck to the mould itself.
  • About the baking temperature, I baked the cake at 180°C for 40 minutes. Preheat the oven at the same temperature for 5 minutes before placing the tray inside it.
Freshly baked cake for Helen and Carl. Just out of oven.

Freshly baked cake for Helen and Carl. Just out of oven.

The cake came out fine. Honestly, it was way more delicious than the ones baked following a proper recipe. But I am not a professional baker. I guess Lillian is right. Food turns out to be better when you follow your mood and sense than a recipe. The yellow colour of the cake is due to butter and egg yolk. Most of the recipes out there don’t recommend using egg yolks and only mention egg whites. If you decide to bake as per Lillian, do let me know what you think of it when compared to “recipe” cakes.

Shwetha H S

Conversationalists and Me

“Do you watch Game of Thrones?”

“No.”

“What do you with your free time then?”

“I read books.”

“Then you must have read the book version of Game of Thrones?”

“No.”

Perplexed conversationalist asks, “But why?”

I put down my book and say, “I am waiting for George R R Martin to die so that he stops writing any more books in the series. Then, I will start reading them all back-to-back in peace.”

Conversationalist, now petrified, leaves me to my book.

This conversation has happened over and over, but each time with a different person, because it is difficult to have a conversation with me since I don’t watch TV series, I don’t read anything mainstream and I haven’t watched any movies lately. People need to understand that I am reading a book doesn’t mean I am in want of a company. I am already in a good company; it is just a matter of perspective.

People ask me how I came to love books so much. I would thank my mom for that and all those conversationalists would blame her. I think it started with her getting the library cards to get access to the books in the mobile library bus used to come to our locality every Wednesday, way back when I was in second or third grade. Back in my school days, State Central Library of Karnataka used to run mobile library services too, that had blue coloured buses carry books to each locality and serve their purpose. My mother was a voracious reader herself (though now she has fallen prey to soap operas) and the maximum number of library cards per person i.e. three cards and one book per card, were not enough for her. So, she got three cards in my name too. She used my three cards too to get books for her while I was busy with my school assignments. But my summer holidays were a curse to her. It so happened that I accompanied her to the mobile library. Unfortunately for my mother, I found Richie Rich comics. I grabbed one and waved it at my mother. She, being a good woman, didn’t know that I would one day ask for my cards back. And that day came too soon, like next week. I started with comics like Orson’s Farm, Archie and Friends, Richie Rich and Garfield, and slowly moved to Famous Five series, Princess Diaries series, Malory Towers series and Nancy Drew series. Yes, series. Series that people had started writing and finished, and probably dead already not to write anymore. There was no wait to read the next book. They all were there. My mom was back to her three books, thanks to me. Week after week, I went to get new books, practically old ones, from the mobile library, even if my mom didn’t come along. Then, the summer holidays ended. By the time I finished reading all the series and stand alone books that I could understand in the mobile library, four years had passed. Eventually we moved to a different locality and there were no mobile libraries visiting us. Unable to tolerate my nagging, my father got me a set of “Easy to Read English Classics” that contained Robinson Crusoe, Tom Sawyer, The Invisible Man, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Volume 1 of My Experiments With Truth and five more books, all for Rs.100! One of my cousins lost my first copy of Robinson Crusoe and I still hate him for that. I once found a copy of The Hound of Baskervilles in my school library, but stupid people would lend it only for a day. I was lazy to get it reissued every day, so didn’t bother.

Years passed. My brother grew up and I refused to. One day, say about 10 years ago, we were at the airport when he got up from where our family was seated and roamed around talking over the cell phone to his then girlfriend and now wife. I dogged him wherever he went. He, by mistake went into a bookstore and I gratefully followed. Unable to dodge me anymore, he bought me the first volume of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. That’s it! It was like I was hit in the head again. Once I finished reading it, of course not then and there because it took me few weeks, I spent next few months looking for volume two. Back then, Amazon and Flipkart were not in scene yet, and I had to look inside brick and mortar shops. I finally found a copy of the volume two in Bangalore Book Fair which was, and still is, an annual event. I was ecstatic! I don’t remember how many times I have read those two volumes; I simply have lost the count. And then came along Pride and Prejudice. The love of my life. By then I had read too many classics, I even survived Wuthering Heights. But Pride and Prejudice…there is something about it, not only just Fitzwilliam Darcy. The way Jane Austen writes, they way she tells you something about life through each character without you knowing that you are completely agreeing with her, well she is the woman and I admire and worship her. I have obviously read many more after reading Jane Austen’s works, but she will always remain on the pedestal. Of course, conversationalists don’t even recognise Pride and Prejudice, even after it being made into a movie so many times for heaven’s sake! I understand the plight of the conversationalists, but I can’t help it.