Today’s I’m pleased to welcome Ann O’Loughlin, author of The Ballroom Café, to the blog.
Ann has written a wonderful piece on the soothing properties of baking.
BAKING MY TROUBLES AWAY
Some opt for a spa treatment; others walk the dog. I like to bake a cake.
While most of my friends walk their troubles away; I bake them away.
There is something so calming when you run flour through your fingers, measure out the sugar and whip up a cake.
So it was hardly surprising that some of my favourite cakes made it in to The Ballroom Cafe.
In fact, it was baking I turned to when the plot ground to a halt and the warring sisters Ella and Roberta O’Callaghan refused to do what they were told. Baking was my salvation when Muriel Hearty decided to have a sea change and forget to gossip and when May started to fret too much over her fruit cakes.
It was to baking I turned after writing the saddest scenes in The Ballroom Café, to clear my head and reassure myself that all was right with the world.
Ella O’Callaghan in The Ballroom Café finds the same solace in a baking session when times are tough.
Times get very tough for Ella and the bank threatens to repossess, so she set up a café in the upstairs ballroom, serving her scrumptious homemade cakes and tea in a china cup.
Ella not only loves baking, but is a natural at it. My mother loved to bake cakes too. She never seemed to have to take out a recipe book; it was all in her head. She always said if you kept key ingredients in the food cupboard, you would never be stuck.
Flour in those days came in large white cloth sacks and it was my job to scoop it out with a big metal scoop and weigh it.
I know now she only got me to set it on the scales to humour a young helper. She herself could throw the ingredients together and whip up a cake in no time.
We made lemon cakes, coffee cakes and the rich family chocolate cake for special occasions. The chocolate cake with ground almonds and good quality chocolate is my all time favourite. It features in The Ballroom Café. And no, I am not going to reveal the secret ingredient; you are going to have to read the novel to get to that one.
Back to baking proper, my one piece of advice which comes – you guessed it – courtesy of my mum.
“Concentrate, block out everything else, enjoy doing it and it will all show in the cake.”
She is right of course. Ever tried to bake when the world is wrong for you and unhappiness gurgles through you; you end up with a stodgy, flat offering. Be happy and make a nice, light, fluffy cake; it works all the time for me.