In wondering where to begin this odyssey, this mammoth undertaking (hmm .... could I call it a torte de force? could I?) – I have had to come up with a war strategy.
I know. A war strategy. I have never previously even imagined that the simple act of baking might require something as organised as a strategy. Obviously this shows just how little I actually know about what I'm about to do.
Coming up with the project idea itself, that was the easy bit. But executing two years of bakeworthy goodness without going mad? Well, there's got to be some planning involved. It’s a lot to do, and danger lurks ahead for the novice baker who doesn't have a strategy.
One false step, readers, and it could have meant throwing my spatula at the wall in a huff and vanishing in a puff of self-raising flour. I would never be seen again. How to approach it?
Here’s what I considered for my stragedy, as Daffy Duck would say, even though he never featured in the original book and his other Disney friends never made it into the reprint because their copyright licenses expired:
1. Bake every cake in the order it appears in the book.
Sure, this option had a certain logical appeal. Working my way through the book in a devoted homage to the original, that's pretty straightforward. I would deliver a faithful reproduction.
But then again … there would be no element of surprise. And I’d have to make the damn train cake first, because it's on the cover. And that is just not possible! I need to eeeeease myself into this and build up some skills first.
I have to learn my icing sugar from my icing mixture before I start in on those advanced cakes. I need to understand ratios. I need to buy cake tins. I need to learn how my oven works.
And in the end, it was the thought of my beloved swimming pool that swung me away from this option. Because I wouldn’t be able to make it for my own birthday, would I? No, I’d have to just bake it in the week that its page came around. The horror, readers, the horror! The eight-year-old inside me had a shrieking tantrum at the very thought of it. I could NOT let that happen.
2. Bake through the categories in which The Book itself is laid out.
Animals, numbers, cakes for girls, cakes for boys, sports, and so on. Again, there’s a logical kind of symmetry to that. Boring. Next!
3. Bend The Book to my will, baking at whim and on demand.
Ah, now this sounded like much more fun. It would mean I could bake the right cake for the right occasion. I could start with the easy ones and work up to the ones that need nine different colours of icing and thirty-seven different sweets. I could learn how to actually bake a cake before I have to learn how to construct one using barbeque skewers for scaffolding and toothpicks to hold the thing together.
I could match important calendar events to the exact right cake. On grumpy days I could bake that scary monster thing with the teeth. When I achieve domestic goddess status, I can serenely do the little stove cake, totally ignoring the sharp agony of my subverted feminist ideals stabbing me in the ribs.
And that brings me neatly to the official start of baking for this blog. As Julie Andrews sang sweetly in The Sound Of Music: “let’s start at the very beginning… it’s a very good place to start”.
So readers, I am going to start at the very beginning....with the number one, of course.
I am preparing my army. They say the terrain looks manageable. I will report back soon.