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I arranged to meet my best friend Willie for tea on Wednesday night. I've known Willie since his show biz days when he used to do magic shows and hypnotism and all that malarkey.
I had not seen him for quite some time, work and various other activities taking up most of my time, relatives staying with me being the biggest nuisance of all.
I had heard from young Tosser, a mutual friend of Willie and myself, that Willie had lost over three stones in weight on some new-fangled diet that was sweeping our fat country.
I was shocked, in fact even annoyed to hear that something so wonderful could happen to someone so close to me. Right there and then I decided that, like any good caring friend, I would do all that I could to get Willie back on the straight and not too narrow path. So on that Monday night, sitting happily with my cognac next to a warm fire, I planned my shock-and-awe tactics on Willie’s sad getting-thinner resolve.
Next morning I visited Mr. Peebles’ grocery shop. I bought all that I needed: flour (plain and self-raising), eggs (small, medium, and extra-large), butter, syrup, almonds, walnuts, cherries, chocolate and various other cooky delights. I then popped into the little bookshop on the corner and purchased a delicious little book entitled It’s Fun To Bake. I rushed home knowing I had a busy night ahead of me.
You see, I know that Willie, like myself, has a huge sweet tooth. Like myself, he could never open a packet of custard creams, eat just one and leave the rest, no, no!
Who in this world can really take just one? Nelson Mandela? No way. Robert De Niro? See, no one.
That night I opened the book, I read about flour, about Be-Ro plain and Weetabix Perfect plain, I read about Frenlite plain and super-sifted plain — and I wanted to bake, to bake like I had never baked before, wild and free. Tonight I was going to rattle some pots and pans!
This is more of a cheeky tea-bread than a cake. It is meant to be served sliced and buttered. It keeps well and is at its best two or three days after baking. Do not skimp on the spice! Willie won’t know what’s hit him when he sinks his plump teeth into this.
Sift the flour, salt and spice into a bowl. Beat down the fat and rub into the flour until fine. Stir in the sugar, fruit and peel. Beat up the egg and mix thoroughly with the bicarbonate of soda and the two tablespoons of milk. Pour into the cake mixture and fold in using a nylon spatula or the edge of a metal tablespoon to cut through the mixture. If necessary add a little more milk to produce a medium dropping consistency. Spread in a greased small loaf tin. Bake in the centre of a moderate oven 185°C (gas mark 4-5) for the first 30 minutes. Reduce to 170-175°C (gas mark 3) for the rest of the cooking time: 1 to 1½ hours in all. Test with a skewer and cool on a rack.
And that’s exactly what I did.
I was off on a baking odyssey. Gingerbread followed, next a selection of small fancies. As one thing was baking in the oven, I would quickly move on to start another new and wonderful treat: brandy snaps, florentines, truffles, doughnuts, Swiss tarts, yumyums, empire biscuits, macaroons, chocolate and coffee cakes, not to mention strawberry and lemon tarts.
All night I slaved over a hot stove. As the sun came up I gazed upon the table before me and realized I had achieved my culinary goal.
I tidied the kitchen, went upstairs, ran a bath. I slipped into the relaxing water and closed my weary eyes. I smiled smugly to myself.