Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Fear and loathing in the playground.

Tomorrow is the day of the cake sale at my son's school. Even as I type those two words, my stomach churns with trepidation. Promoted as a benign event to raise funds for our children's educational establishment, the cake sale is in actuality a seething mass of fierce competition and playground back-stabbing. There are three parental tribes when this thrice yearly event comes around: The home-bakers, The poncy pretenders and, God forbid, the ones who nip into the corner shop on the way to school to pick up a pack of Mr Kipling Bakewell Tarts with an overdue sell-by date. I used to be in the middle category - I'd disingenuously buy some authentic looking mini-muffins or chocolate rice-crispie squares from Sainsbury's, and hand them in with the vague intention of claiming them as my own work.

Of course, since I've had the baking bug, it's taken on a whole new perspective. A few months ago, I enquired about renting a pitch at a school table-top sale. When I mentioned in passing that I proposed to sell cakes, the event organiser visibly paled. "Bonnie* does the cake stall" she whispered. Then added darkly: "Her lemon drizzle sells out before she's even taken it out of the box". How could I possibly compete with this? As if Bonnie and her infamous lemon drizzle wasn't enough to knock my confidence, my contribution to the last cake sale was far from perfect. I delivered a batch of slightly soggy blueberry muffins (I hadn't drained the fruit properly) and some banana fudge cookies that my kids declared 'tasted a bit funny'.

When I returned from work that evening, I subjected my poor son to a harsh interrogation: 'How quickly did they sell? What did they charge for them? Did you see anyone actually eat one? Did they look pleased or a bit sick?' He was bewildered.

For tomorrow's sale, I'm making chocolate and hazelnut cookies - a Nigel Slater recipe I haven't tried before. Though when all's said and done, a cookies a cookie. Or is it? *Name changed for my own protection! PS The above gratuitous snap is of a banana bread I made last Friday.

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