It started with a simple lemon drizzle. I bought a few ingredients, threw them into a mixer and marvelled at the simplicity of it all. If there’s one way of garnering instant gratification with colleagues and loved ones alike, it’s presenting them with a homebaked cake.
And so began The Great Baking Obsession of 2012. I went from having never baked a cake in my life, to attempting several creations in one night alone.
For several months last year, this cake-making frenzy escalated to worrying heights. Most evenings saw me careering manically around the kitchen, head-to-toe in flour, with one hawk-like eye fixed permanently on the oven.
When The Husband arrived home from work, and tentatively enquired as to where his dinner might be, I would yell: ‘Dinner?! Can’t you see I’m up to my EYEBALLS here!’, whilst furiously whisking eggs like a deranged Mary Berry.
Carrot cake, banana nut, raspberry and passionfruit… my great bake-off continued to be met with glee by both my workmates in the staff room, and the husband’s cake-loving colleagues.
I was, what women’s magazines would dub, an ‘office feeder’: taking some sort of perverse pleasure in fattening up my fellow teachers with cal-horrific muffins, yet eschewing the cakes myself and smugly pecking on my porridge. As the compliments rolled in, I would mutter modestly, ‘It was nothing, really. I just threw a few ingredients together and… voila!’ – all said with a sanctimonious bat of the hand.
I was flying high on waves of gratitude, ever-hungry for appreciation of my newest creation. I thought I was the new Nigella.
Then one morning, I left my latest offering on the staff room table unattended. When I came down a little late for break time, some of my gluttonous colleagues had already helped themselves, wolfing down the coffee and walnut cake without so much as a crumb-spluttering mumble of thanks.
My cakes were no longer being appreciated.
Worse still, it was The Husband’s birthday the following day, and with it the expectation from his workmates that I would be creating ‘something special’. He had already put in a request for a Victoria Sponge, his favourite.
Wearily, I trudged down to Waitrose to procure the necessary ingredients. It had been a long day. The cake obsession was beginning to wane. Just as I was reaching down to pick up a bag of flour, I spotted it: a perfectly-formed Victoria Sponge, winking at me from behind the glass counter. Resistance was futile.
Arriving home, I removed it from its pink Waitrose packaging, poked at it a bit to give it more of a ‘home-baked’ look, and packed birthday boy off to work with it the very next day, passing it off as my own creation.
His workmates declared it ‘delicious’… ‘the best yet’, no less!
It was nothing really, I claimed. (No, really – just a simple drive up the road to the supermarket).
They wanted more but it was already too late. Overnight, the baking obsession had ended, leaving me with a couple of extra inches on the waist line, a burnt out blender, and a ludicrous amount of cake tins.
Let them eat cake.
But next time, I’m going to Waitrose.