For various reasons (ostensibly because of “book research” but also because of “boredom”, “procrastination techniques” and “hangovers”) I’ve been watching a lot of food programmes recently which have been fronted by women. These all tend to follow a bit of a pattern – a model-pretty female cook (usually in her mid 20s – early 30s), dressed immaculately in a vintage gown, floats around an urban landscape picking up artisan goodies for a little soirée she is holding for some friends that evening. After a few token shots of her chuckling with a homely shopkeeper and squeezing some ripe fruit with her perfectly manicured fingers, she wafts home to her giant, beautifully attired kitchen where she coos over some cake batter that she’s just whipped up in her hot pink KitchenAid. A few minutes later, and she’s constructed a beautiful multi-layed confection, swathed in picture perfect icing which she will then slice, take a dainty bite of and declare to be “divine!” or “swoonsome!” before she shoves it to one side, lest she be tempted to scoff the whole thing and ruin her perfect figure.
Of course, it’s churlish of me to be annoyed by these kinds of programmes. After all, they’re designed for the sole purpose of escapism – for people like me to lose themselves daydreaming about how they could attain that perfect lifestyle, where the biggest worry a girl can have in a day is whether her local deli is stocking her favourite brand of icing sugar. “But these women are charming!” people tell me. “They’re sweet as buttons and wouldn’t hurt a fly! How could you possibly take offence to them? What’s so wrong about a beautiful woman making cake?”
Well, as a decidedly unbeautiful woman who is quite fond of making cakes, I think I’d quite like to see a bit more realism in my female-orientated food programming. Perhaps, just for once, I’d like to see a show which involves a harassed looking woman (preferably with a face like a frying pan, but it’s TV and I know they can be funny about these kinds of things) running around a Sainsbury’s Local after work desperately wondering how the shitting hell she is going to fit in going for a run, making her tea and getting her Google Reader down to zero before she passes out on the sofa whilst watching Seinfeld. I’d like to see a woman show us how to cook a Sunday Lunch for her extended family whilst wrestling with a force 10 port-acquired hangover and trying not to throw up in the gravy jug. I’d like to see a working woman with kids attempting to figure out how she’s going to cook a decent meal for them on a limited budget after finishing an eight hour shift.
Women aren’t stupid. And whilst there are many of us who enjoy baking, it’s a litle bit patronising to presume that we’ll fall over with joy every time we see a female chef whipping up some “naughty little treats” on TV. So come on production companies, cut us a little slack. Stop treating us like twee little imbeciles. Give us some blood and spice with our sugar.
And on that note, here’s some cake.
CARDAMOM-CINNAMON CRUMB LOAF (Makes one medium sized loaf)
For the loaf cake
- 300g plain flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp vanilla essence
- 200g unsalted butter
- 150g soft brown sugar
- 2 medium eggs
- 200ml single cream
- 75g butter
- 75g soft brown sugar
- 75g plain flour
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- The seeds from 6 cardamom pods, ground in a pestle and mortar
- First, grease a medium sized loaf tin well, and heat your oven up to Gas Mark 4/200 degrees c.
- Sift your plain flour and baking powder together in a medium sized bowl. Add the brown sugar and combine well with a wooden spoon.
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Leave to cool for around five minutes, then add the eggs, vanilla essence and cream.
- Combine the wet ingredients with the flour and sugar mixture until a firm, sticky batter has been formed. If you find the batter to be a bit dry, add a touch more cream. Pour the batter into your loaf tin.
- Now, make your crumb topping. Place the buter, flour, sugar, cinnamon and cardamom in a bowl and combine well with your fingers until rough sticky ‘crumbs’ have been formed. Layer these on top of the loaf cake batter.
- Bake the loaf cake at Gas Mark 4/200 degrees C for around 45 minutes-1 hour. The cake is done when the crumb has become browned and firm, and when a toothpick comes out clear when inserted into the cake.
- Serve with coffee and a side order of misanthropy.