By popular request - ok, so just Shalen asked - how Cake Wars came to be! I debated long and hard about calling it Cake Wars IV: A New Gateau but didn't think I could keep the theme going, so it's plain old cake wars!
The setting is a (wait for it ...) coffee shop. Yes, I know, such a shock, me being in a coffee shop! My habits had changed a little in the past few months; I used to walk back along the pedestrian precinct in town to swing by a coffee shop, but that shop had closed down. I still walked past it on the way in and it sat empty for quite a while. Then, one day, it looked like it was re-emerging from it's somnulent state. A few weeks passed and whilst the shop remained closed it was obvious things were afoot: a name change, change of frontage, etc. Then, one day, it stood open! What could a a poor boy do? Instead of carrying on and coming back like usual I popped in there and then.
The young couple who run it seemed very nice and in conversation with them (I will say now I have asked if they mind me using their names and they are fine with it) found out that they hail from Mauritius and came to England via a stay in Italy. Both Natacha (she) and Jansen (he) cook/bake, but it is mainly Jansen who is behind the grill and Natacha who is front of house. In passing, Natacha is not as you may think a traditional Mauritian name, her mother just liked the sound of it! They bake their own cakes for the shop and we got talking about cakes (yes, I AM getting to the Cake Wars part ...!)
Natacha mentioned that she did a mean apple cake (also gluten free and vegan). I said that sounded nice, even if it was vegan, etc., and she said she'd bake one so I could try it. Off I went on my way, after having had a coffee and a brownie that Jansen had made (not normally a huge fan of them, but ... oh dear, it was very good!)
Next week and I was looking forward to trying the apple cake, but ... *sniff sniff* no apple cake, so I had t 'make do' with a slice of an orange marmalade tart (oh, the suffering, I am thinking of setting up a GoFundMe page to help pay for the psychological support ...!) The week after and Natacha was not about, just Jansen, so again no apple cake.
The following week Natacha was profuse in her apology in forgetting to make the apple cake. However, she was actually mixing one up and Jansen was mixing up a carrot cake - can you see where we may be going with this yet? Some light banter over which one was going to be best went on, and I have to say both looked fine as they were being worked on in their respective bowls. Sadly I did not have time to wait for the mixing and baking to be done so set off for home looking forward to tasting the fruits of their labour.
Next week dawned and ... no cake!!! Ok, yes, there WAS cake, I had to force myself to a slice of a gluten free chocolate cake, but no cake from, or for, the Cake Wars! Solemn promises were made that a slice would have barbed wire fencing erected around it, signs saying 'Keep off, reserved for Simon" mounted, with guard dogs and machine gun posts and come hell or high water there's be a slice for me next time.
Next time dawned in just a week's time and ... lo, there was a slice of each available. Of course I could have done the sane and healthy thing and just had a slice of one of them, but where'd be the fun in that? And so it was that I had a slice of each, plus a coffee, on the table before me. Being, partly, the culprit of all this, up first was the apple cake. The fork dipped, cut off a piece and ... oh, yes, a nice bit of cake. So far the apple cake was ahead and only partly by default. Next up was a bit of the carrot cake and ... sorry apple cake, but carrot cake just, just topples your from the podium. Then another bit of apple cake. Oh dear, back went apple cake to the podium, giving the carrot cake a gentle nudge to make room. And so it went, alternating between the two it was the one I had just had a bit of which was my favourite.
All the while Natacha was leaning over the counter saying 'which one?' and 'mine is better, yes?' with Jansen a bit behind her, rolling his eyes a little and giving me small shakes of his head and pointing to himself. I, naturally, was having none of this and just said I'd tell them once I had finished both. Once I had finished both I, of course, dallied and theatrically pondered. Now, up until the last bite of each it was as I had said, the last bit of cake I had eaten was my favourite. But with the final bit of carrot cake there had been a small sprig of mint which I had removed from the icing and that had ... 'tainted' the flavour of the icing and the two flavours, to me, clashed'.
Giving my summation I led to believe it was going to be a tie with each being my favourite. But, I had to say that when I got to that final bit of carrot cake, the mint was just not quite right and for that alone the apple cake would have to be a winner. Natacha beamed hugely and Jansen looked a bit confused and then Natacha admitted that it had been she who had added the sprig of mint to Jansen's carrot cake! Sabotage! The judges (well ok,just me but I HAD just had two slices of cake so feel the plural was fitting) deliberated and on reconsideration declared the carrot cake to be the victor!
Not much of a tale, but what is not mentioned is all the smiles, fun and laughing that these small moments in time of a Monday have included. Even if your local coffee shop is not called 'Coffee Me' or run by Natacha and Jansen, go visit, have a slice of (hopefully!) home-made cake and a coffee and have a chat - you may be pleasantly surprised!