A very personal blog about the Emotion of Baking starring two carrot cakes (one Vegan)
I used to wear a T shirt with a quote from French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard: Cinema, c’est L’emotion. I loved it, but (thankfully) I passed through the pretentious T shirt phase. In the next part of my life I began to actually work in the film industry. I loved that too. And it turned out to be true, that quote. Until, eventually, it overwhelmed me. I was drowning in the film industry, and I was drowning in all that emotion.
Now, as I enter a new phase, I am finally learning what was probably always true. Baking is Emotion. Not the melodrama and intrigue and girl-and-a-gun thrill of the film industry, but simpler emotion. Baking is honest and funny and intriguing. It’s emotional as hell, but a lot kinder
For me this is true in all kinds of ways. The emotion of my frame of mind when I am baking; the emotions brought out by certain ingredients; the way that emotions can take me to new ideas and developing something new.
I left the film industry drunk with emotion and drunk with wine. In the earliest days of recovering from both, my experience of being tea lady at AA meetings led me to a new discovery – baking is emotion! – and a new cake.
The first job (“service”) most people do in recovery is making tea at meetings. I took this role on as if I had just been made head of a film studio: it was everything to me and I handmade all of the cakes rather than buying biscuits at Asda. In a matter of weeks, the attendance at that meeting grew significantly. Everyone loved my cake and soon I had that precious and sought-after thing: an AA nickname. I was Cake Lady.
My most popular cake was Carrot. It started life as a wonderful recipe I’d clipped years before from Southern Living magazine. But as my Cake Lady confidence grew I stopped stressing about the cake and began to look around me, and soon I saw that there were people at the meeting who were not eating anything else during the day. They were seriously vitamin deficient and in need of something nourishing and substantial, plus maybe something that would make them smile. I started loading the cake up. I replaced white flour with spelt. Tripled the amount of fresh carrot. Added more spice. Spiked it with coconut milk. It was my Florence Nightingale moment and it was seriously floating my own needy boat. It was all about emotion: I was Cake Lady. I was making people happy and well. And I had invented Recovery Cake.
If I am honest, this period is what gave me the courage to start to do this for a living, and leave the film studios behind.
For the next emotional curve, fast-forward a couple of years. Recovery Cake (aka Spelt Carrot Cake) became my best-seller in a small but thriving wholesale business which I ran from my home kitchen. I did it like the true Alcoholic that I am: no sleep, not enough help, perfectionist, couldn’t see a damn thing for the trees. I won 2 gold stars in the Great Taste awards (up!) but it was unmanageable on my own and I panicked (down!). Drowning in emotion once again and tempted back for one last spin in the film industry, I sold the business and the commercial rights to the recipes to Lola’s Cupcakes. Someone else could make the cakes.
So I embarked on a period where I finally proved to myself that I am totally done with film as a career (turns out the only fun emotion to be had in film is being in the audience) and that my heart and soul is in baking.
Recovery Cake – Spelt Carrot Cake as it is now called – now belongs to a brand called ‘Lizzie D’s American Bakery’ run by Lola’s, and kudos to them that they won a Great Taste Award for it last year. My heart did a little secret dance of joy for the recovering alcoholic.
And I have landed from this period, fragile but saner, back in the land of real emotion with a stall on Berwick Street and no recipes I can call my own. Can you believe it? I need a carrot cake. Damn.
So here, with all my love and sanity, is the Recovery Cake Mark 2 recipe