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Cakes and Loaves, Sweet

So this is the new year: fear of flying and a Victoria Sponge lookalike

When does it start being too late to say Happy New Year? I don’ think I actually said it to anyone this time, apart perhaps from my parents, so when I got back to work on 4 January, and popped into the warehouse room to say hi to my colleagues, I felt a little puzzled to be welcomed with a joyous “Happy New Year!”.

This new year is looking too much like the old one. I’m glad I never make any resolutions, because I’d probably have failed at one or two of them already during these first two weeks. If I had been the “resolution” kind of person, I might have resolved to get rid of my fear of flying, for a start. Can you imagine how many places in the world I would like to visit, and how many of them are too far for my 2-hour limited autonomy? Well, my first flight of 2012 was an absolute nightmare. Later on, I was told that England was undergoing a sort of tropical storm, and I have no doubts about it, if I go by the hellish turbulences I experienced on the plane.

That reminded me of what I hate the most about flying alone: when something happens, if something happens, there’s no one to hold your hand, or hug you close, or tell you that everything is going to be alright. Which is exactly what I needed that day, as I seriously thought I would die – if not because of the storm, because of my own anxious cries, that I tried to hold back all along, only managing to turn them into deep breaths and desperate, still-too-loud sighs. I must have looked really frightened, since the guy sitting beside me felt compelled to ask me if I was alright. And I, who usually reply everything’s fine, thank you, even when I obviously look distressed, said something like no, and then went on to explain that I’ve done this so many times, and I still can’t believe that these things can safely land. You wanted to go to London, honey? Tough luck, you’re doomed to fly. In my next life, I’ll choose anywhere else I can reach by train.

No, I’ve got no resolutions for this year – certainly not becoming a better person (what does that even mean?), or losing weight (who, me?), and not even learning Spanish, which I had taken up last year, and then abandoned because I had no time: now I have even less. The only thing I’ll seriously try to stick to is writing. I’d love, for once, not to fail. I resumed carrying around my notebook, for a start. That seems to work, judging from the fragments I jot down while in the tube, glad that my efforts to keep hold of my passing thoughts throughout the day are rewarded by at least a few lines every day. However, everything still looks so messed up, so “work in progress”, so precarious: nothing that justifies my pride, for the moment, nothing that I’ve never done before. Those fragments need a thread, and it’d better be a strong one. My resolution, then, would be to find it. And yes, I’m always up for an improbable challenge, if you ask.

Speaking of way less improbable challenges, instead, let me show you what I baked last week.

Victoria Sponge Lookalike

(8 large or 12 small servings)

This recipe comes from my Indisputable Baking Bible, that is to say a huge (and, alas, too heavy for a Ryanair checked-in baggage) cookbook that had been on sale at my town’s biggest library for a couple of months a few years ago. I had been ostensibly perusing it quite a few times, hoping that someone would notice my interest –  and then, the following December, I found it nicely wrapped under the Christmas tree, together with an enormous box full of kitchen utensils. My mom, who had been plotting the present for weeks, joked “see, now you’ve got the theory, and the tools to practice!”. Isn’t she lovely?

My cookbook collection has been getting bigger and bigger over the years, but this one is still my favourite. I’m still trying to figure out how to bring it over from Italy; in the meantime, while at home for holidays, I made do with some photocopies. This cake was the first one on the “to bake” list.

Although it looks like a Victoria Sponge, it is not – mainly because there is no butter, and because I haven’t used raspberry jam, which I didn’t have at home. And it does look like an Angel Food cake too, but there are far less eggs than in the original recipe, and egg yolks need to be used as well. So, what shall we call it? Angel Sponge? Victoria Food Cake? Whichever you prefer, what really matters is the taste!

Ingredients

  • 60g plain flour;
  • 60g self-raising flour;
  • 4 eggs;
  • 160g sugar,
  • 4 tablespoons blackcurrant jam;
  • 125ml whipped cream.

Recipe

  • Sift all the flour twice.
  • In a bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff.
  • Gradually add the sugar, until it melts with the egg whites, forming a thick and soft cream.
  • Add the egg yolks, and continue beating for around 20 seconds, then gradually fold in the flour.
  • Pour the batter in a greased cake tin. Pre-heat the oven to 180°, and bake for 20 minutes, until soft and golden brown.
  • Leave aside for 5 minutes, then remove the cake from the tin, and let it cool down.
  • Cut the cake in two halves, lengthways, then fill it. Spread the jam on one half, then spread the whipped cream on top. Cover with the second half, and sprinkle with icing sugar before serving.
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