Baking was an everyday activity in our house when I was little. The Bero cookery book was always to hand. You never cooked just one item in the oven; the oven was always filled up, with scones as big as your head, fruit pies and crumble.
Grandma was the queen of cakes. Special cakes with a twist. Sponge cakes cooked with real pelargoniums at the bottom of the tin so they tasted of lemon and orange. Fruit cakes where the glace cherries did not sink to the bottom. And Bara brith, a welsh cake using cold tea to soak the fruit.
For a non-religious family cakes for religious festivals were extra special. It struck none of us as odd. Christmas cake always had a layer of marzipan and then a thick layer of hard icing smoothed with a knife. The plaster cast Father Christmas with his sack always wandering across the snow scape. He left a single foot print and his piece of cake was always eaten last.
On a trip to sunny Rye on Good Friday, we stopped at a tea shop.
“One carrot cake and one fruit cake please”
The tea and cake duly arrived. “One carrot cake and one simnal cake”.
Simnal cake – it brought back a flood of memories a wave of jolly nostalgia. Cake at Easter with lots of lovely marzipan, wrapped around and over the whole cake with rolled marzipan eggs all-round the top. My companion ate the simnal cake none the wiser, graciously allowing me a bite of an egg. I smiled a lot inside and thought of my grandma and my mum – one baking cakes in the kitchen and the other sat knitting as they chatted away.
A quick check with my big sister, the oracle on my childhood.
“No idea why we ate simnal cake – I know it was always yummy!”