Pull up a seat, and pour yourself a gin and tonic, and let me tell you about the time I made an absolute fail of myself through the use of cake.
I know, I hear you shouting, “But Cara, how can anyone fail when cake is involved?” Well, my friends, this is me you’re talking about, and if there is a will, there is a way, and it inevitably involves a toe curdling dating moment.
Despite the easy, breezy nature I talk about dating on here, it is a well-known fact amongst my friends, that I can occasionally come across as a ‘tad desperate.’ I can’t help it. I am a cess pit of insecurities and very little will power, and once I spot someone I ‘kind of like,’ I completely lose my head. Most of the messages between my friends, go a little like this:
Me: I like this boy
Friends: OK, be cool, just relax, don’t do anything…
Me: I’ve sent him 20 nudes, a photo of a Tiffany ring and changed my surname on Facebook.
It’s a problem. Additionally, I grew up with a mother who is the biggest feeder alive, and taught me (from a young age) that if anyone dares cross the threshold of your home, you better have a full on spread, two freshly baked cakes and enough gin and tonic to fuel the Navy. Basically, I am a ‘bit much.’
This brings me to the dating disaster which was the lovely Danny. Danny was the first guy I dated after my long-term relationship broke down. He was a little older, funny, bearded, employed and hot as fuck. Sure he was recently single after a messy separation with the wife and in full swing of a brutal custody battle, but ‘this girl’ likes a challenge/victim/emotional mess.
Now Danny, like most men who are emotionally stunted by the loss of their wives, was adamant he wanted a relationship and despite all the subtle clues he gave off during every date (the sad puppy dog eyes, the crushing sense of a broken man, the tears), I was convinced that he could be my next ‘the one’.
Fast forward a couple of weeks later, and Danny has to go into hospital for an operation and it’s his birthday and I am popping round we have a date scheduled not long after. So I text my friends and ask their advice; what do you do when the boy you’ve been dating for a matter of days is sick and older and should I buy him a god damn birthday present? I text and I text and the same response is given over and over,
“Cara, do not buy him anything, you absolute lunatic”.
But I am not overtly keen on that response. Because it is his birthday, and on your birthday you need cake, my Mum has taught me so. Obviously, during our conversations about ourselves, I have subtly let on that I can bake on one or ten occasions (dating is about self promotion and what a great Step Mom I would make after all) and Danny told me his favourite cake was the superbly complicated Battenberg. So I muted my messages and got down to making the pink and yellow chessboard cake, before sending all the photos to my friends. Sure they told me not to do it but I compromised by taking off the birthday candles and sparklers, before I headed off, cake tin in hand, very smug at what a great ‘girlfriend’ I was.
I arrived at his house, beaming at him as he opened the door, him looking a little bemused at this overly cheery, relative stranger at his door.
“I MADE CAKE”
I practically shouted in his face. “Oh…thanks…wow”
We settled down, we ate cake, and chatted and I rolled my eyes at all the ‘poo pooing’ my friends had done beforehand. Until it came to leave and then the realisation came that I had bought the cake in a tin that I kind of wanted back. Sure I could wait until next time I saw him, except we hadn’t really agreed there would be a next time and it was way too early on to presume we would. So he grasped a spatula and we peeled the gooey marzipan from the tin and he slapped it (ungraciously) on a plate for later and I scrambled out of his house, empty tin and marzipan scraps in hand. Awkward.
Inevitably, a couple of weeks later, the dreaded text came through, he wasn’t ready, it was too much too soon and YOU MADE HIM A CAKE AFTER ONLY KNOWING HIM A COUPLE OF WEEKS, you weirdo. The usual break up text.
On reflection, I can probably (maybe) see that it was a ‘tad too much’ and I try very hard now to suppress my inner feeder/rescuer/crazy girlfriend when dating. However, I have to fuel this energy (desperate need for approval) somewhere and if I can’t emotionally blackmail men through the production of cake, then I have to trial this technique on my friends instead.
One way to ingratiate yourself in any social event when you are horrifically socially awkward is to bring cake. Even better is to bring cake and booze. No one can dislike ‘that guy’ at a party. Unlike ‘boyfriends’, general friends are always appreciative of free stuff and strangers will absolutely make conversations with you about how much you remind them of Nigella (dickheads will say Delia, but we don’t need that type of negativity in our lives).
If you’re looking for a recipe to win you friends, then below is my favourite boozy/cake mix for Gin and Tonic cupcakes. I have used a recipe from Good House Keeping with a few little tweaks. The Gin and Tonic is the classy girls ways of getting wasted so you can keep up appearances and these little bundles of boozyness include pure gin and tonic in the buttercream and syrup. If you’re making them for friends, there will be plenty of left over gin for more drinks at a party, and certainly will increase your popularity. If you’re making them for a date, put the gin down, back away from the kitchen and hide your favourite cake tin, it’s not worth it babes, not worth it.
Gin and Tonic Cupcakes
Makes 12 generous sized cupcakes
- 200g unsalted butter (room temperature)
- 200g caster sugar
- 4 medium eggs
- 200g self-raising flour
- Finely grated zest 1 lime
For the syrup:
- 50g caster sugar
- 50ml of tonic water
- 3tbsp gin
For the buttercream:
- 200g unsalted butter (room temperature)
- 450g icing sugar
- 3tbsp gin
- Finely grated zest of 1 lime
- squeeze of lime juice
- 2 limes, cut in half through their length and sliced into half moons
1. Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan) mark 4. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with cupcake cases. In a large bowl beat butter and sugar (ideally with an electric whisk, or with a lot of upper body strength if you’re using a wooden spoon) until light and fluffy. Gradually add eggs, beating well after each addition (if the mixture begins to curdle, add a little of the flour until it stiffens up)
2. Fold in flour and lime zest and then spoon into cases and bake for 25-30min until light brown. The sponge should be springy and ‘bounce back’ when you tap it.
3. Whilst they cook make the syrup (think lemon drizzle cake here): gently heat the caster sugar and tonic water in a small pan, stirring often, until the sugar dissolves. Turn up heat and boil for 1min. Stir in gin.
4. As soon as the cakes come out of the oven, poke holes into the top with a skewer and brush over the gin syrup. Leave to cool for 15min in the tin then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
5. To make the buttercream. Beat the butter until very soft with an electric whisk (I tend to beat the butter for 5 – 10 minutes, it should look a very pale yellow, almost cream coloured) then beat in the icing sugar until smooth and creamy. Add the lime zest and then pour in the gin and lime juice until the mixture has slackened but not runny. The icing should stick to a spoon and have to be shaken off (dancing whilst doing this is optional – and watch the walls!) Pipe onto the cooled cupcakes. I use the Wilton 2D (*af) piping tip to pipe roses and then decorate with a half-moon of lime.
So there you have it, your gift to your friends, if not for your ‘boyfriend’. Enjoy, drink gin and let me know how your baking bribery attempts go, in the comments.
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