The window cleaners came today, which gave me a very good excuse to leave my desk. It faces one of the windows in my bedroom, and if the window cleaners are outside, working their way around the house, it makes me edgy. I don’t want to be sitting there looking out when a face suddenly appears at the window – for both our sakes, I think it’s best to vacate the room until they’re done.
Now, it’s a big old house, with lots of windows and a conservatory to boot; it takes them ages, because they’re professional and thorough. I heard on the radio today that D H Lawrence said he would never want to pay someone to do a job he wouldn’t want to do himself, which made me feel a bit ashamed, though not so ashamed that I would consider clambering up those ladders with a bucket and a shammy leather. However, one can at least use the time one saves by not cleaning windows to do something worthwhile and, since I could no longer work on the sequel to Netherwood (see above) I set about decorating the chocolate cake I baked yesterday, for my friend Ali’s daughter’s 21st birthday on Saturday.
I always bake the same chocolate cake. It’s from that first book by Nigella Lawson – How To Eat – and it’s just called Birthday Cake. It’s a doddle to make, though you have to put boiling water and condensed milk into it, which is what I think these days is called counter-intuitive – or, in plain English, it doesn’t feel right. But the result is a dense, fudgey, super-chocolatey classic cake. It had had plenty of time in the pantry to cool, so I made a ganache – again following Nigella’s instructions – from chocolate and double cream, and then set to daubing it on. I had some of those chocolate cigarillos (my son and I ordered them online after seeing Lorraine Pascale use them on TV) and, with laborious care, I pressed them on to the outside of the cake. They stood higher than the surface, so I filled the space with spare ganache, which will set to a glossy finish. Then, ignoring my less-is-more instincts, I sprinkled silver balls on the top, and was glad I did because they look kind of starry and celebratory.
All of this took an hour or so to accomplish, not including the clearing up. The window cleaners have gone. It’s now lashing with rain (naturally) so their hard work was in vain, but mine wasn’t, because there’s a thing of beauty chilling in the fridge, and I’m raring to go back to Ravenscliffe. When I’ve had some lunch, that is…..