The word ‘cake’ sparks happy feelings in me – I have always had a sweet tooth and swooned at the sight of anything and everything from a lemon drizzle to a coffee walnut. Of course there used to be a time when I could eat anything and never put on any weight – back in my 20s – as I was blessed with a high metabolism. Not so much the case these days!
For me though, the ultimate cake was my Nana’s chocolate cake.
My maternal grandparents came to live with us when I was seven years old as my parents felt they had the space and were concerned for their safety after they had experienced several burglaries in their little flat in south London. My mum was keen to go back to work full time and with my grandma home she was able to do so. Consequently my Nana fulfilled a slightly different role to other peoples – it wasn’t common to live in an extended family those days and I guess it still isn’t. She fell somewhere between being a mother and a grandmother and got the worst end of the stick in some ways as she had to live through my teenage years and all the grumps that came with them. I’m not sure if my sister would agree but, if I’m being honest, I think that my relationship with both Nana and our granddad (who we called Bobba – a throwback to not being able to pronounce the name Bob as toddlers – strange but true!) might have been much closer due to our living situation if they had been different kinds of people.
They were quite reserved and I get the feeling they had also been quite strict parents. Bobba died when I was about 16 or 17 so I really didn’t get to know him as a person. But my relationship with my Nana was complicated. She had been a strict Catholic as a young woman and my Mum was duly sent off to a Catholic convent for her schooling and nearly caused my poor Nana a heart attack when she chose to marry my Dad – an atheist! I think the fact that my sister and I were brought up without any sort of religion never sat well with her.
We shared a birthday and this was a time when I felt our bond most strongly though. Despite cooking us our dinners most of the time she was never the greatest cook when it came to savoury dinners – more of a meat and two veg person, no real sauces or frills. However, it was puddings that she excelled at – delicious treacle tarts, sponge puddings, frangipanes and fruit cake. She knew that chocolate cake was my favourite and if she ever wanted to do something to make me happy then the baking was on! Equally she knew that my cousin’s favourite was the frangipanes and there was a scrabble to produce a batch when we knew a visit was imminent!
Yes it could definitely be said that my Nana expressed her love through cake and I think that if anyone made me a cake unexpectedly at this point in my life (which seems unlikely, it has to be said!) I would be very happily reminded of all the lovliest things about my Nana and my relationship with her.