Sunday, 8 August 2010

Cake-related catch-up

In which I bring you, the reader, up to speed with developments in sweet office-based treats.

Just as the eskimos reputedly have a whole dictionary of words for snow (OK, it is not that big a dictionary), the Scots have a whole arsenal of words for 'impending diabetic coma'.

One of them is Macaroon.

Not the dinky, pastel confections that you might linger over choosing in Harrods, while your teeny-tiny dog defecates in the bottom of your £3,000 handbag. Not the chewy blonde coconut biscuit, but this:

As far as my palate was able to deduce (and admittedly, my palate is not 'exceptional', unlike Lisa Faulkner's on Celebrity Masterchef, just because she once managed to identify the flavour of sage), this is a hybrid of Kendal mint cake, Bounty and some other ingredients that each provide an additional helping of sweetness.

It reminds me of some farcical Neighbours plot strand, where no one thinks anyone's added any chilli powder to the stew that's bubbling away in the kitchen of the coffee shop, so everyone who passes by adds some, leading to red-faced, water-chugging hilarity, and Harold Bishop vexedly opening and closing his mouth several times and saying, 'BAH!'

But with sugar.

In the Macaroon factory, countless conscientious workers are tipping sacks of sugar into a giant vat, congratulating themselves on rectifying the perceived deficiencies of their colleagues.

2) The first mince pies of the season. Is there a horn that sounds at the start of the hunting season? Maybe there is just a horn at the start of every hunt. I'm kind of behind with my blood sports. Anyway. There should be a sound that rings out to mark the first mince pie of the season. Or, rather, the day when food companies start sending out samples of their festive comestibles to magazine offices, which is what we're really dealing with here. It should take the form of a long, loud melliflous belch, to herald the festive excess that will take place between now and Christmas.

I performed a taste test, comparing and contrasting two mince pies with Viennese stylings, one from a well-known high-street pasty parlour. The other is from Betty's, the Yorkshire Valhalla of cake and bake craft (also available by mail order). Here they are, side by side. Can you guess which is which?

You know how sometimes in women's magazines you might read a feature which, through a rigorous process of independent testing on actual, real women who don't work in the beauty industry and have no interest in appeasing valuable advertisers, reveals that a cheap high-street moisturiser is every bit as nourishing and lost-youth-lassoing as something twenty times as expensive, hand-blended in a Swiss laboratory by butterflies using tiny gossamer balloon whisks?

This is nothing like that.

The high-street mince pie was a bit sawdusty and I immediately regretted wasting a portion of pudding on it.

The Betty's mince pie was four mouthfuls of ambrosia, where ambrosia is made, not just of mincemeat and pastry, but also of apple and marzipan.

Were I Gregg Wallace, I would be feeling somewhat sticky in the trouser area just as a result of eating it.

Luckily I'm not. And sorry for the above.

c) My first whoopie pie.

Whoopie pies are the new cupcakes. Everyone knows that, even Marks & Spencer – and as dearly as I love them, they're hardly the sharpest tools in the box. We had some in the office a few weeks ago. Whoopie pies, not tools. According to Wikipedia my extensive research, Whoopie pies got their name from their origins in the Amish community. Wives would slip one into the lunch boxes of their field-working husbands. Come lunchtime, the famished, sweet-toothed menfolk would open their lunchboxes and be so thrilled at the sight of two small pieces of slightly dried-out sponge stuck together with buttercream that they would shout 'Whoopie!' I wasn't aware that the Amish were especially known for their spontaneous and vocal outbursts of emotion. But then I'm basing this on having seen Witness about 15 years ago and not really being able to remember any of it.

I enjoyed my Whoopie pie - despite an excess of buttercream, which seems to be the patisserie crime de nos jours. It is a bit like finding an Oreo at the back of the cupboard that has been left out of the packet and is also a few weeks past its sell-by date. Which, for me, is in no way a deterrent.


Alison Cross said...

I'm very partial to a bit of macaroon....most cakes actually.

Not sure about that Whoopie. It reminds me more of a Woopsie (think 1970s. Think Frank Spencer and The Cat)

Love Masterchef. PML at your Gregg Wallace comments!

Ali x

legend in his own lunchtime said...

I was just wiping the tea spray off the laptop screen and thought, "I know of another cake fiend who would love this post", But she has just beat me to it.
Ali, Miss Jones, You are both amazing.

Miss Jones said...


Anonymous said...

Do you remember when little curling up your hand to make a fist shape and then using your thumb to make said shape talk? Some people even drew eyes on the forefinger for extra amusement. You might of course not have a clue what I am talking about (I did just try and google it to try and find out the correct name for it to explain myself better, but ended up with Google suggesting I search for 'Fist up the Bum' so left it there). Anyhow, I think there is a remarkable resemblance between said hand puppet and Greg Wallace's head. Rich finds it very amusing (well, mildly amusing anyway, well probably a bit annoying), when I turn in to a ventriloquist during Masterchef and use my hand in this way to copy everything Greg Wallace says. I agree, with the above comment by the way - your blog is amazing. My colleagues all now read it, and I can hear them giggling away during lunchbreaks. Hope to see you soon x

JAD said...

Betty's do courses that sound amazing. Ms D of Horsforth recently did their day course on cooking with chocolate and learned loads, despite being a worthy court princess to your baking carnival queen.

Just seen a trailer for the Great British Bake Off. (Or something.) Will you be competing?

Miss Jones said...

Jen, hahahaha, now I will always think of the Gregg Wallace fist puppet when Masterchef is on.

JAD, I will not be competing. I don't like the publicity. But the boyfriend of one of my choir friends had planned to enter. I must find out if he ever did...!