Ballymaloe Day 24: Roll of thunder, hear my cry

The palette knife made its way across the top of the sponge with slivers of raspberry filling the grooves. It was my very first time making a cake and I wanted it to look beautiful.

Every morning I wake up and for a moment I completely forget that I’m in Ballymaloe. As I slip on my chef whites and pick up my knife case, there’s a sense of calm that settles in my stomach.

Today I had not just a Victoria sponge cake on the agenda but also a tomato granita, homemade mayonnaise, crab mayonnaise and a brown bread soda to make.

Gary is my teacher this week, and with his guidance and enthusiastic manner, he helped me get myself in order and fine-tune my dishes and flavourings.

Sweet things, desserts and treats have never been my forte and apart from my secret brownie recipe, I never thought that I had skill to showcase something delicate.

With a light and fluffy sponge I was absolutely thrilled with how my cake turned out (especially considering the previous disaster with my lemon meringue tart).

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(First-time lucky!)

It’s something that I always wanted to do but never had the tools to really do it – so if you see me with oodles of flour in the supermarket, you’ll know what I’m at.

We had the lovely Pam Black taking us for demo today and she put together all sorts of scrumptious treats for us to enjoy.

Before we began we were warned about the possibility of the electricity being cut because of the storm outside, but regardless of the lack of light, the demo would go on!

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The thunder pounded and the lightning struck, and though we had a few wobbly power moments, Pam worked her magic and tackled each dish with gusto.

Demonstrating a delightful array of cakes (the chocolate one with chocolate shavings was stunning), and taking a culinary trip around the world, she brought it all together.

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I’ll say this, fair play to her, it’s not easy to do a demo when there’s a storm howling, the thunder is screaming and the lightning is bursting in the windows.

My partner David will be on cake duty tomorrow and I’ll be rustling up a Thai-spiced squash soup with noodles, chicken couscous salad with pomegranate and creamed curly kale! Our culinary abilities are constantly being tested and I LOVE it.

(I must go, my roommate Maddie has cooked up an unbelievably-awesome-smelling curry and the aromas are inspiring me to cook)

Some random things I learned today:

  • Never stir things like couscous or rice with a spoon. It clumps together, so instead use a fork!
  • When you’re decorating cakes, consider looking in a mirror after you’ve designed it. Sometimes when you’ve been looking at something for a long time, your vision is skewed. So a mirror is like fresh eyes on your creation.
  • Crystallising flowers isn’t as difficult as it sounds. All you need is an egg white, castor sugar and whatever leaf you’d like to do. Lightly stir the egg white with a fork and simply paint the leaf with it. Dip it in the sugar and leave it be. Leave them to dry overnight.
  • Sponges will take years to make and will be destroyed if you keep opening the oven. Resist the temptation and just keep an eye on it through the glass. I resisted for 20 minutes.
  • I can actually make cakes!
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