Surprised by cake (and plants)


Sometimes I like to put coherent thought into things – no, really, I do. And sometimes things just happen. So it was with Sunday, when I found myself a) baking a cake – I may be a food writer and editor but I freely admit that I am rubbish at cakes – and b) giving some of the cake away. I know, I know.

table 2

It’s all the fault of VP, aka Michelle of Veg Plotting, who came up with the idea of a bloggy contribution to the Chelsea Fringe – The Bloggers’ Cut – enabling gardeners all over the place to join in with Chelsea-related fun no matter how far they might live from London (or, in my case, however allergic they may be to formal flower shows).

No, that’s not entirely accurate. It wasn’t all VP’s fault. Some of it was down to Karen at the Artist’s Garden, who thought it would be a good idea to participate and alerted me to the possibility of cake plus gardens, always a winner. On 2 June participants were to have tea in a garden, basically, and blog about it, and then all the posts would be linked over on VP’s site. Karen added her own element, though: that we would go to her garden, which has suddenly gone PING as gardens do at this time of year,

K's garden

do a little light weeding (!!!) and then have cake. I opted out of that adaptation on the grounds that bakers don’t weed. Particularly other people’s gardens. Plus I had other friends over for lunch. So the cake was made; the cake – predictably – sank; the cake was iced lavishly to hide the fact that it had sunk; chocolate was sprinkled over the top on the grounds that chocolate is always good. (Of course it helped that it was a chocolate cake, ahem, from a recipe given to me by my friend Caroline and her daughter Ellen, then eight years old, when I explained I couldn’t make cakes. Ellen was appalled and demonstrated that she could make cakes beautifully. The recipe is called the ‘can’t go wrong cake’. Oh yes it can…)

When I got there I was quite glad that I had baked a cake and thus got out of weeding, because Karen is doing a lot of work on her garden this year and there had been some dramatic activity, especially around the big pond:

weed mountain

and amazingly the weed stank of the sea. Why, I wonder? I know we’re not far from the coast, but the stench of rotting seaweed was marked, even though none was involved. Very odd. Happily the table was well away, and what wind – correction, gentle breeze, a most unfamiliar sensation – there was blew in the opposite direction.

So much work has been going on, and not just with the pond. A wall has been pulled down and rebuilt to curve in the opposite direction which works much better, for example,


and, all in all, I think everyone rather deserved their tea (with the possible exception of Muggins the messy-cake maker). Strangely, Dobby seemed rather reluctant to stop weeding, but then it does sometimes get you like that: there is an certain addictiveness about clearing an area. We did manage to persuade her to stop, which was just as well as the sun wasn’t exactly helping the cake improve – but I am not complaining about sun, no way, nooooo.  Idyllic, really. No rain. No snow. No sleet. Hats stayed on, rather than needed to be chased all over the garden. Sunglasses – whisper it low – were even required.

And the cake was fine – having served its purpose in getting me out of pond clearance, and making the fact that I was given this mug more or less ironic, hee hee:


(I think I need one that says ‘keep calm and fill the dent in the middle of the cake with icing’ – except that might not fit on a mug.)

Now, Karen sells plants. Lovely plants. And so I deliberately left my purse at home. The best laid plans… As a result of all the clearing and replanting, I came home with a large punnet full of wild garlic in need of a new home and a pot of self-sown erigeron plantlets. Dobby then provided me with a big clump of forget-me-nots (mine are most disappointing this year for some reason, and these should provide me with a fresh supply of seed), and three large lilies – of which she has an excess, due to an highly successful propagation drive.

A lovely way to spend a late Sunday afternoon. That’s it, this is definitely summer, so here’s one more shot of the backdrop to our tea to prove it:

fennel etc

and to make up for my lack of industry, I have spent this morning weeding (in my own garden). But I did leave the remains of the cake. Monday breakfast?


19 Comments Add yours

  1. VP says:

    Good grief they have been busy – I can remember Shedman building that wall.

    It all sounds most fun and in one of my most favourite gardens in which to have cake. It all looks very jolly and wonderful *wistful sigh*

    Yours is the first post from outside England – I can now say the Bloggers’ Cut has gone international 😉

    1. kate says:

      Well, the poor bloke has just had to rebuild it, but it does work so much better – and adds another bed, one which should be quite sheltered. It was a perfect afternoon, really (er, except for the cake).

      International? Wrth grws!! (Aka ‘of course’.)

  2. hillwards says:

    Sounds lovely, and Karen’s garden is looking beautiful. The planting already looks like a painting…

    1. kate says:

      It looks like a painting even if she does nothing. S’not fair…

  3. Dobby says:

    Stop beating yourself up about the cake. It was delicious and hit just the right note.
    Once I start weeding a patch, I find it very hard to stop. Even cake has a job to pull me away!

    Yes the pond was particularly disgusting this year. Really don’t know why. It’s never smelt like that before. I did enjoy my shower when I got home!!

    1. kate says:

      Well, It didn’t poison anyone! It is irritating that, when something is a large part of your job, you can’t pull off one aspect of it as well as the others. I have another food writer friend who can’t make bread, so at least it’s not just me with a silly blind spot.

      On pond – I’m just glad you were sitting downwind!

  4. Cathy says:

    I found out about the Bloggers’ Cut too late to participate – and didn’t even manage cake in my own garden yesterday. Definitely bad planning! I shall have to rectify that – just waiting for our chickens to lay… Can you get out of cake making duty now you have made this contribution?

    1. kate says:

      Oh yes on the cake making front, though I do have a tried and trusted apple cake recipe I do in the autumn which always works. Almost always.

      It’s a shame you missed out on the Bloggers’ Cut _ I only caught it by accident. I’ve been so busy replanting a chunk of my own garden that I’ve been slipping on the blog front…

  5. Helen Johnstone says:

    Oh that does sound like a wonderful Sunday.

    1. kate says:

      Perfect – and with free plants!

  6. Pauline says:

    You sound as if you had a wonderful time, I would much rather bake a cake than weed! Your cake looks truly delicious and I’m sure everyone enjoyed it. No cake in the garden for me, just weeding!

  7. croftgarden says:

    After a hard day fighting the chickweed wars I’m having afternoon tea and cake (Earl Grey and Date and Walnut teabread) as a reward and to boost the flagging spirits before I start the evening weeding and watering shift.
    I’d rather bake cakes than weed, but on a nice sunny afternoon its better to be in the garden.

    1. kate says:

      I’ll swap you the Chickweed Wars for the – almost too many to list, but let’s see – Groundsel, Creeping Buttercup and Alchemilla Mollis Wars. I know some people buy the latter but BE WARNED…

      My water butts are dry again, so I think more cake (bought, ahem) may replace the evening watering shift. Where’s the hosepipe?

  8. Anna says:

    Now what a perfect excuse to get out of the weeding Kate – would not work for me as my baking skills are inferior to my weeding prowess. Sounds as if a good afternoon was had by one and all despite the the aroma of rotting seaweed.

    1. kate says:

      It was lovely… I’m still wondering where the great heaps of stuff went in the end, but maybe it’s better not to know!

  9. wellywoman says:

    Sounds like a lovely day. Loving that wall. I need to weed and the greatest incentive is a photographer in the garden. So I need to get cracking or persuade him to do tight shots. 😉

    1. kate says:

      It was delightful (especially for me, as I didn’t have to go anywhere near the pond). Most of my photos are extremely tight… hmm…

  10. Karen’s garden looks glorious – piles of stinking pond weed notwithstanding – and the fact that you cae away with plants despite bot having participated in the weeding makes the day a triumph! As to sinking cakes, what a perfect excuse for extra icing.

    1. kate says:

      Yes on the sinking cakes / icing front, but I do have to say that there are limits and I may have exceeeded them (ho ho). And that garden is always an inspiration, cake or no cake…

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