The Act of Baking a Cake

There is an ongoing joke among some of my friends: ‘the cake without passion’. Years ago, mere second year students in a picturesque seaside town, my friends and I had decided to spend the day baking a cake. Yet after a day of hanging out and shopping, no one really felt like it and so to my horror, the act that should have been enjoyable was rushed as a chore. Noticing my upset, my friends enquired what the problem was and I cried out: “The cake has no passion in it!” Cue bemused faces and years of teasing reminders.

I wish I had these - by Danbo Brothers via madlyinlovewithlife @Flickr
I wish I had these – by Danbo Brothers via madlyinlovewithlife @Flickr

Last Tuesday, whilst preparing for our first writing workshop, I had to think of this. The couple of days before had been stressful and though by Tuesday morning, the feeling of physical nausea had shrunk to mere nervousness: I still had to fill the hours until the start of the workshop. I decided to make a cake and picked a recipe that was easy but hopefully liked by the majority: lemon drizzle cake.

I shopped for the ingredients and was even given a discount on the lemons by my local greengrocer. Washing the lemons and grating the rind, I wished that everyone would turn up. While I was beating the butter and sugar together, I wished that our workshop would fit their objectives. Cracking the eggs, whisking them in one by one, I wished that everyone would be open-minded and kind to us and each other. Sifting the flour into the mixture, I wished that my friend and I would work well together as facilitators.  Stirring in the zest and lemon juice, I wished that everyone would enjoy the experience. Pouring the batter into the tin, I wished that this first workshop would be the start of something exciting.

I put the cake into the oven and packed my stuff. 45-50min later, as was described in the recipe, the cake was still liquid in the middle. Panicked I looked at the recipe again and the comments below the line mentioned the exact same problem. I had to be patient and wait, I turned the oven a bit lower as the top was done and texted my friend that our pre-workshop talk was delayed. Then I realised there wouldn’t be time for the lemon syrup to drizzle on top…

Leaving it to the very last minute, I pulled the cake out of the oven again: skewer came out dry – just. Wrapping the cake in a clean cloth and a plastic bag, I ran for the bus. Once on my way, I looked out of the window and watched the never-ending bustle of London; holding the warm cake in my lap, I knew that it might not be perfect but it would be alright.

Musical chairs

Over the weekend, someone shared a metaphor with me:

“Turning 30 is a bit like musical chairs… At 29, the music is playing and everyone is dancing; at 30, the music stops and everyone sits down. Not even on the most comfortable or prettiest chair but on the most convenient one – everyone sits down and holds on for dear life. And there is always one person left, standing in the middle of the room, looking at all the others clinging to their chairs, thinking: “WTF just happened?””

Don't settle! (Pic by Daveynin Flickr)
Don’t settle! (Pic by Daveynin Flickr)

2014 has just started but in my circle of lovely friends, two babies are (to be) born this year and the e-invite for the now near annual hennight has just come through, in preparation for a near annual wedding later this year. Less cynical than the metaphor though, I do like to think that my friends have made their moves as conscious choices; smoothly moonwalking to that 2-person Chesterfield sofa as the music enters the final chorus…

Not even on the most comfortable or prettiest chair but on the most convenient one; at 30, everyone sits down and holds on for dear life.

Yes, as we enter month two of year 30, it’s possible that the one person still dancing in the room might well be me. I’m not sure what happened to my track but I seem to be playing the Baz Luhrmann extended version. Still bopping away, while my friends happily wave their baby’s hand to me (hand still attached to the child, of course!) from their comfy seats. Those moments are still unreal to me, the idea of a third person where there first were two.

At times I get tired of dancing and I envy my friends happily stretched out on the faux-leather sofa but you can’t stop until the music stops – those are the rules! As for settling for the wonky old kitchen stool for one: never. Though tempting at times, even I can see in my weariness that it will only be a temporary comfort until it breaks.

Dancing among the toddlers is not really how I imagined my life to be but then again, I never saw much further than 21 and that was overrated. So as I am slowly being pushed one generation along, I like to think I am embodying the spirit of this crazily American but still kind of cute video for all the new additions on their first days here: “There’s plenty of reasons to dance, you just got to look for ‘m.”