On a nondescript day in February 2016 I stood in some woods with two sniffing couples and watched a tiny coffin being lowered into the ground. The previous afternoon I’d sat on my own in a hospital room holding, in one hand, a small, fragile, fledging-like boy. Perfect, to me, but not perfect enough to make it. I felt suffused with love that day in the hospital and the next day in the woods I felt full of huge, wordless, serrated sadness. People told me that at least I had Bert and that that should be a comfort. But while I knew what they meant, it wasn’t a comfort – because this was a different child, wasn’t it? And I wanted him with me too. For the next two weeks I slept with the small, knitted square the hospital had given me clutched to my stomach.
The fledgling boy came and went and what I got instead of him was a mixed up mess of grief and objectless love and the odd feeling that I’m wiser, even though I couldn’t really tell you a single thing I’m wiser about.
Today me and Bert made a 17th birthday cake for Bert’s older half-brother, Ben. Bert did the measuring and egg breaking and mixing, and decided that we didn’t need to sieve the icing sugar. It’s a wonky muddle of lopsided cake and lumpy icing. But it’s beautiful to me.
Makes a 20cm cake
For the cake:
300g self raising flour
300g golden caster sugar
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
Half a teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
225g softened butter
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
225ml sour cream
100g good quality white chocolate, bashed to splinters with a rolling pin
For the icing:
175g good quality orange dark chocolate
300g icing sugar
1 tablespoon golden syrup
125ml sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Beat all the ingredients for the cake together, folding in the chocolate at the last minute. If you’re a better woman than I am, do it the proper way, beating together the butter and sugar, gradually adding the eggs and then the flour. I bung it all in a food mixer.
Divide between two greased and lined 20cm tins and bake at 180 (gas mark 4) for 35-45 minutes, till golden and springy to the touch.
For the icing, melt together the butter and chocolate, add the vanilla, cream and syrup and then sieve in the sugar and beat to combine. Ice the cake when it’s cold and the icing has cooled.