Let them eat cake?

IN an effort to modestly debase my own skills (and ingratiate myself to readers) I’ve decided to lift the lid on a few culinary disasters to have befallen me. Please don’t chuckle. This takes a lot of pride-swallowing to do, you know.
The greatest and most public of these culinary catastrophes was the Christmas Cake Kerfuffle. I was 18 at the time, and had eagerly grabbed the job of icing the family Xmas cake. (The mother-parent was the icing queen in our house, but she was bored of her yearly forage into fruit cake, and had passed the chore to me.)
Because I’m a dirty cheat, I decided to eschew the washing-up bowl full of dried fruit that was my mum’s recipe, and instead opted for a Marks and Spencer’s Luxury Fruit Cake. No slouch, I’d realised that the money shot when it comes to Xmas cakes are the finishing touches, the icing, the piping, the little plastic Santa Claus sat atop a mound of sugar snow. That’s where the glory lies, I believed – (and besides, Marks’ makes better fruit cake than any man could ever manage.)
Well, I went to town. First came a thick layer of marzipan. Next, a flawless Paris icing, as canvas to the main event. Then the icing – and boy, did I ice. Ricocco swirls, ornate filligree patterns and snowflakes soon adorned the masterpiece. I even popped a hedge of fake grass on there, all the better to show off my rotund little Santa Claus as he posed open armed, almost in awe at the creation upon which he stood.
The final product looked, even if I say so myself, fantabulous. It took me over two weeks, all in all. Goodness knows how long it would have taken if I’d done what I told everyone I’d done, and baked and booze-basted the actual fruit-cake myself. But that little short-cut was between me, Mr Marks and Mr Spencer.
Or was it?
Of course, after Xmas dinner, no one wants to even breathe too heavily, let alone eat Xmas cake. But I persisted in coralling the family round the table to witness the cutting of the cake.
The first cut went well. Oh yes, the first cut was near perfect. I swear I even heard a gasp as the knife plunged through virgin icing at precisely 6 ‘o’ clock on the cake face.
It was the second cut that caused the problems.
As I tried to slide out the huge triangle of cake, I realised something was stuck. The icing was shifting. Santa began to wobble, as a cake-quake shook the very foundations of his new home. The icing was sliding off, the marzipan too! This wasn’t supposed to happen, was it?
It wouldn’t have happened of course, had I thought to remove the near-invisible layer of grease-proof paper in which Mssrs Marks and Spencer had clad their creation. Between their cake, and my icing, lay this paper layer. Within seconds of cutting the cake, I had a pile of icing, a pile of marzipan, a now pristine fruit cake, and one very confused Santa ornament.
Oh, and I also had a family in stitches, laughing like drunken drains at my fruit-cake subterfuge.
Moral to the story: Don’t cheat at cooking. (And certainly don’t cheat at Christmas – it will become THE family story that gets retold every year, for, oooh, TEN YEARS OR SO.)
Let them eat cake? Let them eat casseroles, more like.


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