They say pride comes before a fall and I have discovered that is definitely true, in the world of ‘free from’ baking. After the success of the flapjacks earlier in the week, I decided the time had come to try and create some dairy free, gluten free fairy cakes for the school jubilee party.
Even though I am not very good at making cakes, my confidence was up as a result of my recent triumphs. The rock cakes, brownies and flapjacks were all so easy and I have to admit I did enjoy making them. The kids loved them and they had already vanished, so I decided to branch out and try something more complicated and suitable for a jubilee tea party. Fatal error. The first in a series of mistakes.
My biggest mistake was deciding to try and do two things at once. I had decided to make some fairy cakes and a Victoria sponge. Perhaps I got the recipes mixed up or missed something out because I didn’t have enough batter to fill the two cake tins for the sponge. And when I started on the mix for the fairy cakes, I measured out my sugar and then the flour and then combined the two! I wasn’t concentrating. I was supposed to add the butter first and cream them together. So I had to dump the sugary flour mix and start again.
That was when I realised I didn’t have enough caster sugar for another attempt. So I decided to improvise by topping up with a bit of ‘ordinary sugar’ and some light brown sugar. I was also low on Pure ‘sunflower’ spread and used some coconut oil instead. I am not really sure what happened but when I added the eggs and eventually the flour and milk it all started to look rather curdled and nasty.
I suppose you just cannot substitute the butter and the flour and the sugar and expect a good result. Too many changes at once. I am not sure what went wrong but the mix was very thin and watery and starting to separate a bit.
So I decided to pour it all into one of the sandwich tins as it looked like it would not hold inside the flimsy fairy cake cases. I thought I could then stick the two cooked sponges together and they could be my Victoria sandwich.
I decided I could make the fairy cakes later on, once I had run to the supermarket for more ingredients. I hoped that the cakes would not look too bad when they came out of the oven and I would be able to pretty them up with a bit of icing, some sprinkles and chocolate drops. I had even decided to swap out the jam for some dairy free chocolate spread. This would be my take on the Victoria sponge – mine would be filled with chocolate and topped with chocolate and forever after known as the Elizabeth sponge.
The plan was a good one at least. But the reality was not so good. The cakes looked good and smelled good. They came out of the sandwich tins very easily. I decided to make ‘mini’ sponges, by using cookie cutters to get the perfect little discs. Impressed by my spontaneous creativity, I pushed down with the cookie cutter on the first sponge, I could feel the sponge bounce back – but not in a good way! As I pressed down into the other sponge I didn’t even manage to cut through. Oh dear.
I had created a sponge but the sort of sponge you could clean your car with. You know it will absorb water, you could also squeeze it out and it would probably bounce back to its original shape. The inside was rather yellow too. So I have decided to blame the eggs. I was supposed to use medium sized, but had used ‘extra large’. That was all I had left in my fridge! Anyway, I took a bite of one of the sponges and it had a nice flavour but it was chewy and after a few seconds I realised it was actually pretty inedible!!! So I spat it out and threw it all away. Annoying, a waste of time and money but I was now left with a bigger problem. I still needed to make something for Zac to take to the jubilee party.
I decided to have one last stock take of my cupboards and see if I had enough ingredients left to knock up a handful of rock cakes at least, and that is when I discovered my saviour. Hiding behind a packet of not yet tried bread flour, was a Hale & Hearty branded, dairy free, gluten free chocolate chip cookie packet mix. http://www.halenhearty.co.uk/our_range/products/chocolate_chip_cookie_mix/
I was saved. All I had to do was put the mix in a bowl add my last scrape of Pure spread and add an egg. It all created a lovely cookie dough in no time at all and a few minutes later I had ten perfect little cookies baking in the oven. 15 minutes later the warm little cookies were cooling down and one was missing! Well I thought I should make sure they were ok and they were perfect.
So what did I learn today? Many things really. Definitely don’t try and run before you can walk. I am a novice baker and the world of ‘free from’ baking is actually a bit more complicated than normal baking, so I should have known better. I should also remember to always check the cupboards and fridge before I start, to make sure I have enough ingredients to make the thing, and have plenty in reserve for when I make mistakes and need to start again!
And the most important lesson of all is that it is ok to use packet mixes and sometimes taking a few short cuts isn’t so bad. If it weren’t for the clever people at Hale & Hearty, Zac would have had nothing to take to the jubilee party today. And that is the point, when you have an intolerant child you will do anything for them to be able to feel ‘normal’ at kids parties – even if that means spending all day making a mess and not much else in the kitchen!
So what if all the other kids are eating fabulous artisan standard cupcakes made from scratch by an extremely talented Mummy. My little boy thinks my cakes and cookies are the best in the world and he doesn’t know how they were made or where they came from, all he knows is that I gave them to him and they were made ‘specially’ for him.