Funny thing… I’ve been in a bit of a strop so far this year; call it January blues if you like. One of the few things that seems to pull me out of it is baking cakes! Just in the last two weeks I’ve made Marmalade Cupcakes, Peanut Butter Cupcakes and today I made Coffee and Walnut Cupcakes. I was feeling pretty darn moody when I made these – you would never have guessed looking at them would you? I hope they are not like the wedding cake in Laura Esquivel’s lovely book Like Water For Chocolate. In the book, Esquivel describes how a recipe is like a formula but each food, be it sausages, soup or stew, contains a secret ingredient: love, patience, sorrow, or even a respect for tradition.
The recipe is just the first step in a chain reaction triggering an emotional response. After the food is made, it has a texture, smell, shape, taste and colour. These features arouse the senses. Esquivel associates certain dishes to love, lust, sickness, pregnancy, motherhood and the supernatural. In her story, Tita has to stand by and watch her sister Rosaura marry the man that she loves. When preparing her sister’s wedding cake, Tita’s tears of grief fall into the batter. Later, when the wedding guests eat the cake, they become overwhelmed with a sense of immense loss and everyone is reduced to a fit of longing and wailing. The heartache is coupled with bouts of vomiting and the entire wedding party is ruined. I’ve eaten two of my coffe and walnut cakes and I think I’m OK, for now.