To Live, Love and Learn: A Cookworm's Tale
My mother started baking long before I was born, and as I grew up, she taught me how to bake. At first it was all about whisking the eggs or sifting the flour or just licking the batter bowl after she was done. My brother and I were consciously kept away from electrical goods, which meant that the oven was out of bounds. I think everything changed the day my brother and I decided to bake a surprise cake for mother’s birth day. We’d seen for years what temperature cakes were baked at, how long it took and how to check if it was done. We were definitely scared of using the oven, but once we did, there was no returning to life before ovens.
Over the years, my mother and I have bonded over cakes more than anything else. In fact, both of us started experimenting with new kinds of cakes by the time I was 17 years old and could bake a cake in an hour. I think it was while watching Nigella Lawson on TV that we came across upside down cakes. That was, I think, another point of no return. Fresh seasonal fruits and sponge cakes in one seemed like a great dessert idea. The first one we tried was Nigella’s Pineapple Upside Down Cake (without the cherries, because we don’t like cherries much). For the recipe, see http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/pineapple-upside-down-cake-51. Of course, Nigella’s is more colourful due to the cherries, but ours didn’t taste half as bad (understatement! It was pretty good and we couldn’t stop looking out for new recipes!)
The next one we tried was upside down cakes with apples and pears. We sort of tried Martha Stewart‘s Apple-Cinnamon Upside Down Cake first (http://www.marthastewart.com/312862/apple-cinnamon-upside-down-cake), and have been trying out different versions ever since. One example would be https://shreyagoswami7.wordpress.com/2013/08/13/a-mughlai-meal-with-a-very-brit-end/.
Upside Down Pear Cakes were a natural progression after apples. This time, we didn’t look up any recipes. We just went with our instincts and the cake came out fine. With upside down cakes, all it takes is a caramelized fruit layer that goes at the bottom of the baking dish and a plain sponge cake batter goes on top of it. If you know how to bake straight and simple as hell cakes, upside down cakes are just one step further. For those who would still like a recipe, try this one: http://www.marthastewart.com/338821/pear-upside-down-cake.
We had gotten used to baking this way, and it came quite naturally even when my mother was tired after a day’s work or I had other things on my mind. Of course we made mistakes, a lot of them, but the cakes always turned out perfect for family meals. Then, we saw Maggie Beer and her Upside Down Grape Cake with Verjuice on MasterChef Australia. (For the recipe see http://www.maggiebeer.com.au/recipes/upside-down-grape-cake-with-verjuice) I think both my mother and I realized (after the show ended that night and we went off to bed) that we were in fact a little bored with the way we were baking regular upside down cakes. The next morning. we just got up and decided to try out the cake. Of course we didn’t have verjuice, but we had grapes. We went slightly mad with happiness, and I assure you, neither of us could shut up while we were baking!
Of course our first attempt was not perfect. The caramel dried out a bit too much, the grapes looked dehydrated. But we had just restarted our learning process, which I don’t think should ever stop. And luckily enough, there are enough types of cakes in the world, straight, upside down, fruity, nutty, chocolatey, rich, gooey, dry, to keep us going. All you need is the love of cakes and baking!