Thursday, June 26, 2014

Old Fashioned Sand Cake....

This is a cake of my childhood. It's about to become a cake of The Divas childhood too as she is gluten intolerant and this cake is GLUTEN FREE and doesn't taste nasty for being so.
My Mum and my Nanna used to make Sand Cake for special occasions. No, it doesn't contain sand and it doesn't look like sand either. I think it's descriptive and refers to the texture of the inside of the cake which is somewhere between a butter cake and a sponge. Delicious and light with a perfect 'crumb' as they say.
I found this particular recipe in our city's Lady Mayoress Cookbook, circa 1938. The book I found at an antique store for just $1. It also has advertisements for stainless steel sinks and electric jugs and jock straps. Funny as!
Apparently that particular council regime were dumped due to corrupt activity. But I'm sure Her Excellency (is that what they're called??) was unaware of the shenanigans as she was too busy making Cream Tarts, Tongue Salad, and Sand Cake. Bless her. Her husband, the Lord Mayor...well we can only speculate.
So here's the recipe, typed exactly as it appears in the book.
Sand Cake
Quarter pound butter, 1/4lb sugar, 1/4lb arrowroot, 2 eggs, essence vanilla. Beat all together for 20 minutes (no electric beaters back then, remember) and just before time is up, add 1 teaspoon baking powder. Bake about 3/4 hour in a moderate oven. Use tin with hole in centre. Ice with a little lemon juice or tartaric acid in the icing to give a tart flavour.
I got off to a bad start converting the measurements to metric, even though I grew up in the old Imperial measurement era. I incorrectly recalled 1/4 of a pound (abbreviated as lb. for reasons no-one could ever fathom), as 250gms. It's not, is it. No. It's 125 gms. So there I had measured out 250gms each of butter, cornflour which I was using instead of Arrowroot...same-same...and sugar, added 2 eggs and a teaspoon of baking powder and even though I was mixing it with electric beaters, the darned thing was jolly stiff and thick. So I was feeling really sad for Nanna and Mum as they would have, of course, beaten it by hand.
Well, I popped it into the Kugelhopf tin which was the closest thing I have to a ring tin....which is another must...Sand cake is ALWAYS cooked in a ring tin...and stuck it in the oven. About 2 minutes later, I realised my error, and whipped it back out. I tipped the batter back in to a mixing bowl, added two more eggs and another teaspoon of baking powder and beat the heck out of it again.
I liberally greased and floured the tin again, and poured the batter back in.
Back in the oven it went, and by now I was mighty grateful for my Kugelhopf tin as this was one Mother of a cake thanks to my inadvertent doubling of the ingredients. Mine took an hour and ten minutes to cook. It was a bit difficult to judge because it's not springy like a normal cake. It's more delicate. But it was pulling away from the edges of the tin, and Mum and Nanna always used that as much as the 'springy in the middle' method to judge when a cake was ready.
Lacking any instructions on whether to turn it out of the tin hot, or wait till it cooled, I plumped for something in the middle, waited five minutes or so, then held my breath and flipped it over onto a cake plate. With a barely perceptible 'plop' it was released from the tin, and a more perfect thing I could not imagine, given it's hair raising start.
I tinted my glace` icing palest pink as when Mum or Nanna made it, it only EVER had palest pink glace` icing. I couldn't possibly contemplate Sand Cake without baby pink glace` icing. It just wouldn't be right. I didn't flavour mine with lemon as my memories don't include lemon icing. But apparently it's traditional.
Try it. You'll love it as much as we do.
By request, here it is in modern day metric...
125gms butter, 125gms sugar, 125gms non wheaten cornflour or arrowroot, 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon essence vanilla. Beat all together for 20 minutes (no electric beaters back then, remember) and just before time is up, add 1 teaspoon baking powder. Bake about 3/4 hour in an oven preheated to 170C fan forced. Use a ring tin, Bundt tin or Kugelhopf tin. Ice with pale pink glace` icing, made with a cup of sifted icing sugar, and enough water to make a runny mixture. Pour the icing over the cake to get a drizzled effect.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Keep Calm and....

I write regularly for a money saving website.
In recent discussions, someone said (most flatteringly), 'we should have a poster that says Keep Calm and Think Like Mimi' could I resist?
Why is it that in times of crisis, some of us lose our heads, and some 'keep calm'.
Perhaps it's the first born child thing. As the eldest, I've always been the fixer, the person who makes things happen. My siblings would be running around like the proverbial headless chickens, as was the case when our Mum became terminally ill, and I would be the one going 'okay, what needs to be done', and then ensuring that it WAS done. That sort of thing certainly builds what is euphemistically termed 'character'.
Is it the self assurance that comes with having seen some difficult times in my own life, and just knowing that whatever happens, I will prevail? Perhaps.
Is it the mentality that whatever the crisis is, that this too, shall pass, as someone famously said...I forget who.
Maybe it's just that I'm the impatient type that can't stand sitting around talking about a thing for too long. I just need to DO something.
Whatever it is, it's certainly made me resilient.
I was talking to my 14 year old daughter about resilience this morning. Within that discussion, the topic of self esteem arose. She has a girl in her life at school, who we lovingly (?!) call her Nemesis. This is a person who seeks to tear her down whenever and as often as possible for no reason that we can ascertain, other than she finds it amusing to do so. Some days The Diva climbs into the car seat next to me and spends the whole 15 minute trip home, ranting about what the Nemesis did and said today. I listen, nod, and refrain from commenting until she's exhausted her narrative.
Then I ask if she feels better. She usually does.
Then we discuss some very acerbic comebacks that she could employ to stop the Nemesis in her tracks. We know however, that we won't use them, as my number one piece of advice is always 'do not stoop to their level'. But it gives us both a laugh and lightens the mood.
This morning the subject was more about the things people say that can hurt us and why they hurt us.
 We discussed what goes on in our own heads when someone says something hurtful. We can either have a questioning, self doubting narrative in our head like this 'why did she say that, she doesn't like me, maybe other people don't like me, maybe she is better at everything than I am, maybe I'm just kidding myself, maybe other people think like she does, maybe I'm not pretty and I am clumsy' and so on. Or we can have a self affirming narrative that goes more like this 'Gosh poor thing. She must have a really low self esteem to feel like she has to keep picking on me to make herself feel good. Lucky me, I've got so many good things in my life that I don't feel the need to do that. In fact I don't even feel the need to retaliate because what she's saying is so freakin' ridiculous that it's not worthy of a response. Hahahaha. I'd really like to say something back to her, but I won't give her the pleasure of even acknowledging her because that's what she wants. Gosh I've got an awesome Mum...'
Well...okay I didn't tell her to say the bit about the awesome Mum for real, but it made her laugh.
It's called positive self talk. It's also been called making lemonade from lemons. It could also be called building resilience. It's a really valuable skill. For all of us.
How resilient are your kids? How resilient are you? Could you do with having a few more positive conversations with yourself? It makes a difference. Really it does.
Try it. You'll see.
And if that fails, Keep Calm and Think Like!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Living luxuriously the car

I try to incorporate a little luxury in my day in as many ways as I can.
Now, that doesn't mean I go out spending up big on designer handbags and what not.
Rather, I try to surround myself with little indulgences that add to my quality of life in small ways.
One way I do this is by having a few favourite luxuries in my car console.
Our cars often become a dumping ground for shopping dockets, ticket stubs, used tissues, lists, empty water bottles and goodness only knows what else.
Not good for the soul.
Here's my console. It contains the following items...
My favourite mints
A purse size bottle of one of my favourite fragrances
Hand cream
A jewelled compact
Palmers cocoa butter Lip balm
A pen with a favourite designer logo
A nail file and miniature bottle of nail polish for touch-ups (out of view)
I have a thing for hand creams especially in the dry Winter months here, and have them everywhere. Lavender is always my first choice and this is one that came in a little gift set from my son for Mothers Day.
The compact is a vintage item found at a market, but I see similar ones being sold for around the $5 mark by the Asian vendors in the centre of the aisles at the shopping centres all the time.
The pen is one I designed with Vistaprint and I ordered several for personal use and to give as gifts with beautiful stationery and personalised postcards.
And the perfume, well, my car always smells glorious :)
This is such a little thing, but having my little luxuries there next to me really adds to my day and puts a smile on my face.
Make the effort to put some beautiful things in your car console. I bet it makes you smile too.