Alas, I ended up spending about two hours this afternoon baking my first cake ever, an incredibly sweet chocolate cake that is, of course, 100% vegan. These two hours include the washing up which was just…I mean, I’m someone who quite enjoys doing dishes because it can be quite relaxing, but washing up after lunch, then after putting the cake in the oven, then after removing the cake from the tins—all of that was a bit much, to say the least.
I tolerate cooking, sometimes enjoy it, but mostly cook because I want to eat the foods that I like. Baking, however, has always seemed very complicated and not worth the effort. That’s why I’d never attempted anything more complicated than a banana bread or some crappy brownies with banana as the main ingredient. But the lockdown has denied me the freedom to go into a shop and order a slice of chocolate cake when I want to, and I’d been craving chocolate cake for a while now. As such, I was compelled by circumstances and my avarice to attempt baking a two-layer cake, with frosting, for the first time ever.
Thankfully, it turned out not disgusting, even rather nice, albeit too sweet; otherwise, I would have been really angry to have wasted all that effort and, more importantly, time. I was a bit worried at first when I removed the cakes from the tin and one had broken into discrete chunks. I also almost made the mistake of using the broken piece as the bottom layer, as I’m not sure it would’ve been very stable. In the end, I used the piece that was intact as the bottom one, and placed the broken one on top like a jigsaw puzzle.
But oh my god, the amount of sugar that went into this. I didn’t reduce the sugar because I’d never done this sort of cake before so I wasn’t confident of it turning out okay if I mucked with the recipe. Knowing exactly what is in there, though, especially the goddamn icing, is having the very annoying effect of making me not want to eat it…when, obviously, the whole point of spending all that time making this cake was to bloody eat it. Thankfully, one of E’s flatmates likes it quite a bit. He had a slice after dinner, then came back into the kitchen and asked for another. That was quite cute. As I’d known he would, E said it was nice but too sweet. I told him that I found it too sweet, and since I have way more of a sweet tooth than he does, he’d get diabetes from it.
Another thing: baking isn’t as easy as cooking. I had to sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda. I couldn’t find the baking soda so I didn’t add it, and added baking powder despite using self-raising flour. I also didn’t know what the point of sifting was; no matter how I sifted and how I crumbed the hard bits left of the sieve, there continued to be hard bits. In the end, I was fed up of sifting and threw the rest of the mixture away, including quite a bit of sugar. That part really annoyed me. Actually, that was the only part where I was completely clueless. Measuring the ingredients is annoying too, but that’s because I don’t have a method for it. My point remains though: baking is harder than cooking. That said, now that I’ve baked a pretty good chocolate cake, I wonder if I’d be willing to spend a few pounds on just a slice of chocolate cake when this lockdown ends and life goes back to normal.
On another note, I’ve been having skin problems ever since I switched my skincare from Shiseido to the Body Shop for ethical reasons. There’s something about the latter’s Drop of Youth range that’s caused spots to break out continuously on my forehead and red patches to appear on my cheeks. This is really distressing as I haven’t had skin problems since the obligatory adolescent acne. The obvious solution is to go back to Shiseido, but I don’t want to fund companies that are not certified cruelty-free, so I’ve been looking for cruelty-free, preferably vegan, Asian skincare companies. I found a few Korean ones and almost dropped 100 pounds on six products from Klairs, but was shamed by E into not doing the smart thing and asking for samples first. In the end, despite asking for samples, I didn’t have the patience to wait for a response, and bought some products anyway, albeit not entirely the ones that I wanted (two of them went out of stock). In any case, my request for a sample was denied, as expected.
This isn’t very interesting, is it? I thought I might write a deeper, more reflective entry, but having just re-written the introduction of my article, I wasn’t in the mood for anything serious. But I do need to seriously say that I am absolutely slogging through Charles Dickens’ Bleak House. It’s slowing down the amazing speed at which I was reading books up until now because 1) it’s over 900 pages long and 2) it is so meandering and full of random characters and scenes that make you go what the fuck is the point of this? As Dickens is one of the few writers from before the 20th century whom I enjoy (or enjoyed?), and since this is a book about the law, I wanted to like it. I still do. But the truth is, I can’t keep track of the ten million characters in this book, and it’s frustrating when new characters are introduced 300 pages into the book because you don’t know why they’re there, and it’s hard to keep reading when you’ve already guessed the obvious plot twists 200 pages in and the conflict isn’t very clearly stated. Obviously, I should try to read it for its other merits, like Dickens’ satirical eye for the ridiculous things that society does, such as its class divisions, its laborious legal processes, etc. And I do enjoy the satirical bits, insofar as I understand them. There are also a few passages of literary genius in terms of the prose style, so there’s that.
But there’s also his famed sentimentality towards the working class. (When I said this to Ivan, he said, ‘That’s such a middle class thing to say.’ But he hasn’t read Dickens so…) There’s also the black and white nature of his characters: either good or bad, no nuance whatsoever. There’s also these long, random scenes, these conversations between characters, some of whom I barely remember, others whom he introduces 300 pages later like I’ve said. There’s also the question of why I ought to care about any of these people when it’s still unclear, after 300 pages, what’s going on with them, and what the story even is. Of course, I have a vague idea of all that, but this book is really way too long.
Okay, E is back from watching some crappy 80s B-movie called The Fly with his other housemate, so I’m just gonna post this now.