Pumpkin Cake and Autumn

Autumn is really here, and I have a love hate relationship with this season. Being a first generation African, every year, at this time of year when it starts getting really cold, I wonder how I am going to survive until the spring. I feel the chill in my bones and I just want to hop on the next flight to somewhere warm. That is the hate bit. Now to the love bit. I love:

• The autumn colours
• Making a fire and watching the flames, smelling the wood and hearing the crackling of the fire.
• Bonfire Night (more on this later)
• Wearing half my wardrobe to take the dogs for a walk
• Soups (Oh yummy, root vegetable soups)
• Thick black tights that allow me to get away with hairy legs

I could go on, but I won’t as I think you get the idea. There are so many things to love about the autumn and it is preferable to the winter simply because it is not as bleak as the English winters can be.

There is something about the autumn that starts signalling that you need to start turning inwards. Gone are the loud, bright and frivolous sensations of the summer and it is now time to hunker down to something a bit more serious. Perhaps a bit of introspection.

I have had to teach myself to appreciate this time of year rather than just bemoaning the fact that the clocks have gone back, it is dark and cold, and woe is me. The seasons reflect life and we have to learn to roll with it. We must focus on the good in every season and relish it and not let what we don’t like about it overwhelm us. The fact is, the seasons don’t give a damn whether we like them or not, they are happening, so we might as well get on board, woolly hat and all.

This is the same with life. We don’t always have control of what is happening, and some things are going to happen whether we like it not. So rather than using our energies to fight something we can’t control, we are better off looking for the good in that situation; and yes, I know, some situations are downright awful, but if you have to go through it anyway, then you are better off not focusing on the negative.

Focusing on the negative makes a hard situation feel even harder. Plus, even when things are bad, there are always slivers of light; but you have to be alive to the light to see them. If you are busy focusing on all that is bad about a situation, you might miss the respite of the sliver of light that is thrown into the darkness to give you a break.

This is where I found myself on Saturday, looking for my sliver of light by attending the neighbourhood bonfire night party. In my book; Octopus on a Treadmill, Women, Success, Health, Happiness, I explain about the importance of relationships and the sense of belonging. First of all, I am lucky to live in a place where people bother to have a neighbourhood bonfire night party! That was my first sliver of light for what could have been another dark and cold autumn night. Were there other slivers? You bet; but as usual with everything with me, there had to be an adventure first. Enter the pumpkin cake.

Last year my contribution to the bonfire party was a pumpkin pie, only, halfway through the bake I realised the kids had broken my pie dish, so off I went to the neighbours on the hunt for a pie dish. This year’s drama was still pumpkin related, no surprises there. I was making a pumpkin cake to avert the pie dish issue. I hunted down a recipe on the internet but rather than baking it earlier in the day to allow it to cool down and then ice it in the evening, I cut it fine, and started the bake with only a couple of hours to go. Everything was going swimmingly, until I realised that the recipe required me to bake in two tins, stick one on top of the other when it came to icing it to create a sandwich effect. I only had one cake tin of the size the recipe required, so I decided to bake one cake in a bigger tin and then slice it into two horizontally and put the icing in between (you know where this is going).

My cunning plan went awry when the cake came out and basically disintegrated as I went to slice it, because it was too hot. Still all was not lost, I was going to stick it together with icing and no one would be any the wiser. I roughly patched the disintegrated cake into two slices, but had to put it in the fridge, as they do in the ‘The Great British Bake Off’ to cool it down before icing.

Meanwhile the party had already started, so the pressure was on. While I was battling with slicing the cake, I had put almonds, which I was going to use for decoration, in the oven to toast and completely forgotten about them until I smelt burning! At this point I thought ‘if one more thing goes wrong, I swear, I am going to put the whole flipping cake the bin.’ I rescued semi-burning almonds from the oven and convinced myself that they weren’t that burnt, and they were going on the icing as decoration anyway so no one will notice, especially as I was going to grind them anyway.

At this point my husband who was already at the party was texting and asking if I was coming or what! Honestly what did he think I was doing in the kitchen? Painting my toe nails? I caved into the pressure and decided to go to the party for twenty minutes and come back after the cake had cooled properly and then ice it. Before I went, I prepared the icing and set it to one side, all ready to slap on the cake.

I came back twenty minutes later, the cake had cooled down properly, the burnt nuts had cooled down properly, but would the flipping icing spread? Of course not. It had semi solidified and was not budging on the cake apart from pulling the already disintegrated cake even more apart. Do you know, at some point you just have to think ‘I give up’! But how could I? My husband had already told everyone about the cake I was baking being the reason why I was late for the party and why I had to leave after twenty minutes to bring the cake back. After this build up, I couldn’t just go back and say ‘by the way, I chucked it in the bin because the icing wasn’t playing ball’.

So, I got over myself, grabbed the icing and put it in the microwave under the defrost setting for 30 seconds and hey presto, it was spreadable again. I patched the cake together with the icing and spread the nuts on top. I must say that a bit of icing and some bad lighting (the party was outdoors so the lighting was limited) can hide a multitude of sins.

Luckily, I had tasted the cake when I had to slice it in two and it came apart, some of the parts fell into my mouth by accident honest! I know it defies the laws of gravity but here you are. It tasted good, so at least I didn’t have to worry about the taste on top of the solidified icing and the burnt nuts. So, after that faff and drama, the cake turned up at the party and it went down a treat. Everyone loved it. People went for seconds and thirds.

It later dawned on me that the icing solidified because I used the wrong type of sugar! Let’s not tell the neighbours, no one will ever know.

Phew, all this just so I can squeeze some joy out of my autumn and not bemoan the cold and wet and darkness. Yes, this is sometimes the lengths you have to go to, in order to focus on the positive and search for the sliver of light to lift you out of the darkness. Enjoy your autumn.