Saturday, 25 June 2005

Contemplating Cake

In a coffee and cake shop, almost under the bridges by Borough Market I'm waiting for my friday night drinking companions. Watching the street, people mill about, large raindrops occasionally falling, the air thick and decidedly stormy, though the storm is not quite here.

I'm drinking cappuccino - sharp coffee, topped with frothed milk (nothing quite like the taste of steam-frothed milk) and eating a chocolate cupcake with rich dark icing, decorated with a shaving of white chocolate.

The shelves of the counter are laden with other delectable delicacies, frills of chocolate, flakes and shavings, summer berries glazed or dusted with sugar, a tumble of strawberries, things with a sprig of mint, tarts and gateaux and mousse.

The man next to me gets up to peer through the glass, after his girlfriend exclaims about a strawberry tart, he ponders for a while and then announces his mouth is watering over the Victoria Sponge.

I don't know why, with all the other delicious morsels on offer, anyone would plump for Victoria Sponge. Its a bland cake, often with sponge which is sort of grainy and airy at the same time, insubstantial (which I suppose could also be its appeal) and frequently dry. Its hard to bake a really good Victoria Sponge, its deceptively simple. To be right it requires cake flour, double sifted, and caster sugar. The initial mixture of butter and sugar must be blended really well until the mixture goes light and is almost fluffy, before any other ingredients are added. And filled with good quality raspberry jam (and cream). Generally I'd rather bake something more exciting.

The storm finally comes. A flash like a half firework cracks in the street - so fast it almost wasn't there - must have been a fork of lightning reaching down almost to the street. Low rumbling thunder and the heavy rain. The smell of rain after a long dry spell.

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