Right, let me make it abundantly clear that this cracking idea for a dessert is universal copyright David Strange ad infinitum. If I find any restaurant is using this without paying me stacks of cash I shall come and wee in your fridges, write slanderously bad reviews of you and sue your arses off.
When dining at The Grill at The Montcalm I had one of the best desserts of my life: rice pudding crème brulée. There is a picture of it here, doesn’t look anywhere near as wizard as it was. It was not simply sophisticated comfort food made incredibly well, it was brilliant nursery food targeted at one’s most joyously childish sensibilities. This gave me a brilliant idea for a beezer dessert.
Perhaps more than any other food, desserts appeal to our juvenile side. They are themed on sugar and quite often dairy products; no matter how complex the construction these flavours appeal to the toddler in us all. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. It is certainly true that for the young of heart everything is fun and the simple pleasures of childhood days are accessible to all but the most drably rancid and crapulent – why not enjoy those pleasures in food?
Those of us who were blessed with guardians skilled in the culinary arts will have many memories of spiffing desserts as children. My mother was a great cook; I remember with pleasure the sheets of skin hanging down from the burned roof of my mouth caused by greedily attacking her brilliant jam and lemon curd tarts, and mince pies after too little time out of the oven when the fillings were still at global thermonuclear war temperature.
She made amazing apple crumbles with caramelised apple fillings that I’d even horse down in preference to my normal staple of unadulterated custard. These delights encouraged me to cook and I was soon making crumbles, baroque Sherry trifles and all manner of things by myself.
The thing Linda was really proud of was her sponge cakes. She always commented that when she gave them to people they said how light and fluffy they were, what a great texture they had, and how they were never dry or hard. I liked her making them for other reasons.
When she was mixing up butter, sugar, flour and occasionally lemon, lime or orange rind and juice for her fruit sponge cakes, I would hang around the kitchen with purposeful intent. Soon there would be a not-quite empty bowl used for the cake mix that I could greedily scrape clean using spatula, fingers and, if there was a really rich vein of cake mix and the bowl was big enough (or my head was still small enough) my tongue. Cake mix was an unparalleled joy.
Of course, what seemed like an interminable time after the cake mix was sucked off all implements there was cake. Hooray! My mother was right to be proud of her sponge cakes as she was extremely good at making them. A good sponge cake, possibly flavoured, with a nice filling and icing on top can be a real pleasure. If you are really childish then a big dollop of whipped cream will really enhance a sponge. They provided a totally winning experience.
So why not turn this into a topping dessert for bigger people who are in touch with their inner child?
For a start you are presented with a bowl generously larded with quality cake mix, which could easily be flavoured with some attractive combination of fruit, booze, chocolate or similar, and a tool or two with which to scrape the bowl clean of this wonderful concoction. You then get a little finger bowl to wash your mitts in case you got carried away polishing off the mix and used your hands. No shame in that!
Then, of course, you get served the finished cake! It would only have to be a little thing as presumably you’d have eaten plenty of mix, but when you eat the cake you can pretend you are all grown up and eat like a big boy/girl, even if you preferred the hedonistic delight of raw cake mix. Cracking, eh?
I admit this might not work at all but the most bleeding edge of three-stars, but at a certain kind of restaurant people would be lapping it off the bowls. Restaurants that serve food targeted at one’s primal urges and basic instincts of enjoyment would find cake mix and cake an incredible addition to their pleasure portfolio. Of the restaurants I regularly visit I think this would be a winning wheeze at Hawksmoor and probably also The Grill at The Montcalm; basically anywhere focused on raw pleasure. I can feel Heston Moomintroll preparing to swipe this cunning creation right this moment for the Corpulent Canard’s menu.
Even little deli’s and perhaps ‘oooh fancy!’-supermarkets like Waitrose would do well to sell you a little box containing a mix-smeared bowl, a little spatula and a cake for after afters. I will remind all these establishments of the first paragraph and await any contacts from executive chefs about royalty payments.
More generally, unless you are aiming for high gastronomic art, this is what food should be about: enjoyment and pleasure. We are obliged to eat so it makes sense to revel and wallow in the experience and extract as much gratification from it as possible. This is what places like Hawksmoor, The Grill, The Bangkok Brasserie and Pizzeria Santa Maria do so well, serve excellent food that makes you happy. Why not make the child in you happy too? Have some corking cake mix!