Alone in the kitchen, botched cakes, cheesy leeks and other things

Everyone else in the house is tucked up in bed and I am sat in a partially-lit kitchen listening to bluesy music and enjoying the peace of having the downstairs to myself. It is such a rare occasion, that I am tempted not to go to bed. Ever. But to savour this moment free of the reverberations and demands of other people, for as long as I can. My children are three and nearly six and I have recently become conscious that we are a proper family now, with all its idiosyncrasies, instead of two bigger people looking after two smaller people, which on reflection was less complicated, I suppose.
Much though I long for silence and solitude, the odd thing about being a mum, for me, is that when I get it, the enjoyment is fleeting. In the still of the house, I feel bereft almost and like I want to wake everyone up and check they’re ok. But then if they did actually get out of bed, the spell would be broken. Is it part and parcel of being a mum that you never feel you are quite in the right place?

Tonight’s blog was supposed to be about the triumph of my eldest’s birthday cake. It is her party on Saturday and she asked for one of those hideous Barbie cakes, where the doll’s torso emerges from a Victoria Sponge skirt. They are completely revolting and, perhaps I am projecting, but they remind me of naff loo roll holders from the 1980s. Found at the homes of people who had those floral china signs on the bathroom door – saying bathroom, in case the presence of the bath hadn’t reassured you. The Barbie cake is also a bugger to make. Or so I have found. I bought the right bell-shaped mould, but it all looks too small, too wonky, a bit burnt and rather forlorn. I am not making another one, at this juncture I’m going to see if I can ice my way out of it. As long as it looks good to a six-year-old’s eyes, it doesn’t matter what it tastes like, as no one eats birthday cake anyway. Many is the time I have fished some out of the bottom of my handbag, weeks after a party, squashed and with the indentation of my car keys in the Peppa Pig napkin.
Of course, I could waste this time in the house on my own, cracking the Barbie cake code, just so I have something to blog about, but I’m not that devoted and I know that you all are secretly hankering after a recipe for leeks. You’re in luck. This one is foolproof, quick and easy, so I’m just going to write it. No lists or recipe as such. All you do is take one leek per person, slice it into coin shapes, put it in a pan with a splash of water and a knob of butter and semi-braise it until the leeks are soft. You could, I suppose, use chicken stock, if you have some to hand. Make sure the leeks don’t brown. Burnt leeks are bitter. Take it off the heat and stir in about a dessert spoon of cream cheese per person (by cream cheese, I mean Philadelphia-type stuff, but buy own-brand, it is half the price), season with salt and pepper, maybe sprinkle with grated Parmesan and eat. This is good in jacket potatoes, but works well with lamb or any roasted meat.
Now, excuse me. A sofa awaits me and me alone.


  1. Lovely post. I hope you’re eating the leeks straight from the pan from the wooden spoon with your feet up! Good luck with the Barbie cake. I did similar but with a Tinkerbell doll stuck in the middle and insipid green icing. I used a ring tin for the cake, with an iced cone of cardboard on top to hold Tinks up. You’re right .. it looked like an 80s toilet roll holder. But made small girls very happy! x

  2. ah the Barbie cake, I think Tamsin is right – does have the look of thoose 70’s loo roll cosy. Although I do recall having one for a birthday when I was very small and must have been very impressed to remember it nearly 40 years later! I’m sure it will be a huge hit!

  3. wow sometimes I am thinking how to start a new dish or recipe and have my experiment. Maybe I could have this Barbie Cake to start with :)

  4. I have 2 girls and a boy and haven’t yet made one of those Barbie cakes. I had a real disaster with a Thomas cake one year and have vowed to stick to chocolate tray bake ever since loaded up with sprinkles and smarties. Just can’t be ragged with all the effort!
    Love braised leeks too!

  5. One of the reasons I am pleased I have boy-children is that I will never have to make one of those Barbie cakes. It’s almost tempting to stay at 2 kids for this very reason.

  6. I do remember once attempting to make a thunderbird rocket cake for my six year old son that ended up looking like a demented teddy and also remember the resulting hysteria I felt as the birthday crowd started to descend. I kept it simple after that and made hedgehog cakes that just required chocolate icing and matchmakers chopped in half stuck all over the top.

    Delicious leeks! Had some with a baked potato. A real mid week treat after a day at work.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *