During the week, I don’t have the difficult decision of what to do with my waking hours. I get up, eat breakfast, wash, go to work, and so on. I grew up imagining myself to be an enemy of routine but now I find it comforting.
Hence at weekends I often feel depressed. In addition to the familiar rug of routine being swept out from under my feet, spending more time with my family increases the probability of arguments, misunderstandings caused by the inherent difficulties experienced by four adults living together in a 6 roomed house.
What has this got to do with baking? “It is mathematical and precise, baking; it requires full conscription to rules and chemistry...I had always baked to relax, sometimes I baked to avoid the things I ought to have been doing (like writing); sometimes I baked because it was orderly when the rest of my life felt like chaos.” So writes Kate Moses in The Guardian ‘Weekend’, in an article entitled ‘Baking with Sylvia’. “For Plath, cooking and baking and reading cookbooks was therapeutic and consoling, a means to reconnect to the life of the body for someone who spent so much time engaged with the vivid anxieties of the life of the mind.” Incidentally, one of Plath's favourite recipes was tomato soup cake.
Yesterday was a particularly stressful Saturday. I baked two batches of biscuits, a round of shortbread and this light, moist pear and ginger cake. It’s very quick and easy to make, and the ingredients are inexpensive.
Pear and ginger cake (serves 8)
1. Grease and line the base of a 20 cm cake tin. Preheat the oven to 180 C/ Gas Mark 4.
2. Combine 175g of the butter with the caster sugar, flour, ginger and eggs, whisking to a smooth consistency.
3. Pour the mixture into the cake tin, making sure it’s roughly level.
4. Cover the surface with the pear slices. Use all of them, it doesn’t matter if they’re overlapping as some will sink into the cake. Sprinkle with the brown sugar and dot with the remaining butter.
5. Bake in the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
This cake is delicious served warm with cream or vanilla ice cream. Best eaten within a day or two of baking.
Sources: Cookshelf Italian by Penny Stephens, “Baking with Sylvia” by Kate Moses in the Guardian Weekend February 15th 2003