Quote: “Honestly, I don’t really like that buttercream icing, it’s too sweet and sickly.”
These days with allergies, intolerances and health reasons cooking for others is a brain boggling minefield. I have to include myself. I like a skinny cappuccino, with a sweetener. I can hear the health nuts shouting ‘a sweetener, an artificial sweetener’; and potentially, ‘dairy, really?’ And definitely, ‘Skinny? Why skinny when you eat cake?’ As a person with a love of food I need to cut the calorie intake where I can. I also fall into another category, one which people hate. I don’t eat red meat (which includes pork, before you ask). My reason: I don’t really like it; I don’t feel I need it and I DON’T WANT TO EAT IT. So anyone cooking for me, sorry, I feel your annoyance, but I can guarantee that you will be a pain to cook for too.
I had family over, so I needed to accommodate my lactose intolerant sister in-law, my veg and fruit avoidant brother, my two year old niece and me. I had no time for a coffee before they arrived so with a Quottage pie (Quorn) in the oven (cooked by the Partner) and cakes baked, I waited for both their arrival and the arrival of the caffeine addict’s headache.
Rewind to the day before. I missed a call from Partner, he was asking what to do about the mash potato and how to mash it without any milk or butter. Good question. He decided to attack it as it was and placed it on top. He already had a list from me of dos and don’ts: don’t add salt and pepper, do cut up all veg small and remember to strain the gravy (all for my lovely, gorgeous niece). Completed, it was ready to re-heat the following day.
“Under seasoned” Partner grumbles.
“It will be fine, they always eat with a small child so they must be used to under-seasoned food.”
An under seasoned main course was one thing, but I wanted to make cupcakes. How, without butter or milk? I bake a lot so knew it must be possible. Also, I had to abandon the delish buttercream and use only icing sugar. I hate compromise! Now with a challenge to make great cakes without cake mix in my head I trawled the net. A dairy free orange cake sprung up. Half way through I got the fear. What if she hates orange? I hoped they would be polite enough to say they’re lovely, but this is family coming up so that’s never going to happen. I had a brief moment of genius: make the icing with freshly squeezed orange juice for an extra zesty taste and make some mini ones too, then my niece can have some without the massive sugar high. Keep the parents happy whilst keeping the child happy too. Go me!
I filled the cases carefully. I wanted them to be the same height: just below the top of the case so the icing could be put on top. No such luck. They started expanding and expanding. It looked like something from a hideously bad horror film I saw years ago called The Stuff. Cooked and spongy looking it’s time for the taste test. The outer crust was just that: crustier and the inside was light and airy. It’s a slightly chewy version of a cupcake sponge. Partner liked them. Phew! I iced the top with gooey orange icing and waited for them to set before the final taste.
“These are good.”
“Yes, they’re not too sweet”
“I want them to look nice.”
“No, I want them to look like proper cupcakes with lovely swirly buttercream icing on top.”
“Honestly, I don’t really like that buttercream icing, it’s too sweet and sickly.”
Pleased and befuddled with that confession I try to analyse the lactose free cakes. I like them, not love, just like. They may be a different texture and have different icing but different is sometimes good, right?
Family arrive, questions are raised by the avid meat eaters about the meat free pie, but it is eaten by all and enjoyed by all. My sister in-law actually said, ‘I never knew vegetarian food could taste so good.’ And my niece, who, when out, doesn’t eat that well, munched her way through it mumbling ‘mmmm’ and ‘nice’. Ha! I don’t know why people think vegetarian food is so bland. I am a real foodie so why would I eat bland food?
I get to use my cake stand again, yeah! Loaded with orange cakes I explain that they are essentially cake free. My niece doesn’t care she has the look I get on my face when I see cake. She stuffs it in and gobbles it up with more ‘mmmms’ and another ‘nice’. Everyone seems to like them. How do I know? Because people go back for more, including me, and without butter you can eat guilt free (almost).
“Let’s go for a walk,” I suggested.
Everyone thinks it’s a good idea.
“Why don’t we get a coffee first?” I said casually.
“Ahhh” my brother said. “Is that the reason you dragged us out?”
Well, surely I deserved it?