Sex, Sexuality and Consent

When I was, ooh… 17 years old (give or take) I wrote a “dirty” poem for the man I thought I was in love with. I don’t remember the words, but I remember it was a little bit rude, a little bit “naughty”. That poem didn’t go down well. The recipient freaked the fuck out and I still don’t know why, but it immediately shut down communication about sex with the man I was supposed to be spending the rest of my life with.

That break in trust — the terrible reception to such a big part of an ‘adult relationship’ — caused a catastrophic change in my already fragile relationship with sex and my ‘sexual identity’. It’s hard enough to think about sex when you’ve had control over it forcibly removed from you at a young age (link content warning, sexual abuse) but to pluck up the courage to do ‘something’ and then be shamed and ridiculed and made to feel like a terrible human being?

I distanced myself from sex at that point. I made excuses to avoid it. I celebrated headaches, and getting thrush was like winning the fucking lottery. I tolerated the parts I couldn’t refuse. I faked orgasms to get it over with quicker. I refused to try new things. I was labelled frigid, and I cried, but accepted it as truth. Over the years as memories of that encounter faded I swallowed the constant message that this lack of interest in sex was my fault. I accepted that I just wasn’t that into sex, that sex did nothing to me, and it was probably because I had been abused; because I was broken.

Some 11+ years after that incident and I found myself suddenly free. With nobody to tell me what I did and didn’t enjoy, what I could and couldn’t say, I found myself bizarrely attracted to the idea of just getting laid. Going out, having sex with a random stranger, and seeing what happened. I put it to my counsellor that having sex would, once and for all, finally answer questions that I had kept buried for so long. Was I just frigid? Did I actually enjoy sex? Could I actually even orgasm from something other than masturbation?

In hindsight, this was a terrible plan that could have gone disastrously wrong. Sex, not least sex with someone for the first time, can be crap for a huge variety of reasons. The last thing I needed was for a bad one night stand to cement in my head that I was a fucked up sexless disaster of a woman incapable of enjoying herself.

By some miracle my first sexual encounter post-ex was glorious. And not for the reasons you might expect: my vagina did not spontaneously combust because of orgasm overload (although that would have been impressive) and I didn’t explode semen from my ears (less impressive). I felt lust and desire for what might have been the first time in 28 years, but after a long day of anticipation and nervousness and a long not-date full of conversation and laughter, I was exhausted and I stopped the whole thing. I said no.

“What happened next might surprise you!”

He said OK. And we rolled over and cuddled to sleep. And it turns out that’s what normal people do. Sometimes one or both persons don’t want sex, and they say no, and things go no further. Like I said, this was glorious. It was exactly what I needed. I did not need multiple orgasms to feel better, I needed someone to respect my body. To respect my voice and to understand consent. Respecting that “no” meant trust, and it meant communication withour fear, which meant I did not feel judged or shamed or like a terrible human being. It made me feel normal.

As it turns out, there’s nothing quite like communication and feeling normal to give you the mental space needed to finally open your mind to what sex CAN be like. Given that freedom meant that I could work through both old issues from new angles to (hopefully) put them to rest, but also a muddled up jumble of thoughts about myself as an unbroken person! With needs! And desires! And fantasies and kinks and attraction to people and ‘types’ that I’d never considered before.

Growing up in what I would call a sex positive household — an openly gay mum and various relatives of all LGBT+ colours — meant that I had never given much thought to sexuality. It was just a thing that people had/did/enjoyed/whatever. No big deal. On one hand this was great for opening my mind as a kid, but on the other this fluidity and ‘normalisation’ and blurring of sexualities and different sexual preferences meant I never really considered it important to establish my own preferences in any sort of fixed medium. That, and the early and further long-term erasure of any sort of personal sexual identity, meant that I spent 30 years just assuming I was straight.

So… back to this new found ability to communicate and explore, and I get on to thinking about my sexual preferences, and I started thinking about sexuality in more detail. I figured yep, I must still be straight because I knew I wasn’t gay: I was finally enjoying sex with a man too much to be gay. But for a straight woman with lots of thoughts on what I’d do to the likes of Tom Hardy or Cillian Murphy if they found themselves in my bedroom, I sure found quite a lot of women attractive too.

Despite experiencing sex and sexuality positive parenting, I also saw biphobia from a young age. Gems such as “it’s just greedy”, and they’re “in denial about being gay” were not uncommon. I can’t say for sure that this made me discount bisexuality altogether, but it definitely meant that it wasn’t at the forefront of my mind growing up. And then one day I found those ‘Tom Hardy in my bedroom’ thoughts undeniably stirred up by an attractive woman and bosh: like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, it all clicked together. I am bisexual.

That wondrous magical consent-respecting man I mentioned above is now my husband. And despite my attraction to women (and Tom Hardy) I’m not greedy and I’m not gay: because above and beyond all others I love, want, & desire him.

Anniversaries, Races and …. this is a terrible title

What a month. WHAT A MONTH. Is it just me, or is May easily the busiest month of the year? (It probably is just me.)

The end of April (that’s basically May, right?) saw this blog – well, domain – reach 15. FIFTEEN years of dodgy web design, blogging about everything from poop to programming, as well as documenting massive life changes and my ongoing adventures.

May 4th, which came round far too bloody quickly, was the date of my trail marathon. That one with multiple ascents of circa 2000ft that I entered because it seemed like a good idea at the time. Predictably, I did not train for a marathon, so ended up ‘downgrading’ to the half on the day.

We (myself & some local friends) walk/ran/walked the half in 3hrs 37 official time, but again a Garmin moving time of around 3hrs 15 mins. Some of that walking was because my choice of trainers left a lot to be desired; despite running regularly in minimalist barefoot shoes and loving it, they’re absolutely sod all use for hilly half marathons comprised of slippery rock faces, gravel paths and the like. I was expecting to run in some Asics trail running shoes but they didn’t arrive in time, so I’m holding these back for July (because I’ve entered another trail half!?!)

The 5th of May saw me celebrating my ‘freedom’ anniversary – 3 years since I asked the ex to leave. As per usual, this meant my annual donation to Women’s Aid which after a quick post on Facebook was nearly tripled by friends.

On Sunday 7th May I then ran again — the Market Drayton 10k — which as well as being the first race I ever ran back in May 2015 is also up there as one of my absolute favourites. The support from the locals of Market Drayton is always fantastic: such a huge buzz being cheered on for 99% of the route by everyone from tiny toddlers to old pensioners. Bloody great goodie bag at the end too (important facts)

Next Tuesday (16th May) is my first wedding anniversary. One whole year of being married to the smartest, funniest, most amazing man I know. At this point in time I have completely failed to do anything about an anniversary present despite knowing what I want to do for well over 6 months (Jem in “leaving things til last minute” shocker) so this could be a very short lived marriage. :D

In between all this I’ve been juggling huge workloads both of my own stuff and as a WordPress ninja for Gaz’s firm locally; revising and practising for an upcoming taekwon-do grading for my yellow belt with a green stripe; usual kids / house crap; and lastly, multiple social engagements… because I am nothing if not a social butterfly (with great boobs):

To end this month of chaos we have Olly’s 5th birthday (May 30th) rapidly approaching which also marks the 5th anniversary of working for myself shortly after (no, launching a business with a newborn isn’t a good idea). I am not sure how my little spud managed to get to 5 (benign neglect / second child syndrome) but here we are. Should probably get him a present too…

What a munchkin.

All photos taken from my instagram because I’m too lazy to download them from my phone & re-edit them.

Identity

I was having a conversation with Gaz in bed the other day. You know the type: snuggled up in bed, pillow talk, vulnerabilities exposed, all that shit.

And this deep, meaningful conversation — the sort of conversation I can only truthfully have with my fucking wonderful husband — made me suddenly realise that over the past year or two I’ve become so wrapped up in treating or not treating, coddling or ignoring, planning in or avoiding my symptoms of PMDD that it has become my identity.

In my desperation to not become defined by this Thing that I cannot fix, I have literally let it define me. Let it control me. Let it stop me taking risks and let it stop me pushing harder.

Having not so long ago risen up against foes and demons of my past and thrown myself into the deep end of discovering ‘me’, I have gone and let a new demon wash me away. My fear of drowning in the abyss of hormones and treatments and not-treatments and symptoms and anxiety and SHIT has distracted me from the greater goal of constantly learning and constantly redefining who I am and who I can be.

Of course, this epiphany doesn’t come with answers. Knowing I’ve wrapped myself up in knots trying to avoid something whilst simultaneously using it as the very rope that binds me doesn’t magically fix all my problems. Introspection has only ever got me so far, and acknowledging that won’t make it go away.

The funny thing though, rather than ignoring it and hoping it goes away I think the real solution is to acknowledge it, embrace it, and fucking kick some ass anyway.

Easier said than done though, right?

First the plans, now the goals

Off the back of my post about plans for 2017, and following a conversation with my darling husband last night during which I got defensive more than once (even though he spoke the truth) I woke up with fire in my belly.

Taking advantage before noisy children and the realities of my todo list extinguish the flames I’ve set myself some goals for the year (and cracked a few things off that blasted list) to work on alongside the Big Plans:

Challenge more stereotypes, more often
I work hard to address stereotypes at home – personally, and with my children – but can and should do more publicly and for others.

Work harder in the time I do have so that I can better use the time I don’t
I have a limited work day. I often get round this by working through the evening and making up time over the weekends. Sometimes this is a necessary evil but a lot of time this could be fixed by planning ahead, working harder/better during the day and waffling less on twitter.

Write more – blog posts, letters, thank you notes
It’s been ages since I’ve written decent long form posts and pieces, and years since I wrote a proper letter. I need to do both more often: so as not to lose the ‘skill’, because it reminds me of my Grandpa, because it’s the only way to improve, to record more of myself for when I inevitably forget.

Writing more thank you notes is self-explanatory. Gratitude is never wasted.

Drink less
For my liver and my bank balance. Cutting it out completely doesn’t work; it only takes one social occasion to reset me back where I started. I’m taking a different approach: don’t buy alcohol to drink at home. Once my Christmas treats are gone, any drinking needs to be done socially because there’s an occasion to do so.

Stop accepting mediocrity as OK
Mediocrity in my work, in my approach to fitness, in friendships, in my interaction with others in general: it’s not good enough. If I’m not giving it 100% I might as well not bother. To give 100%, though, I need to cut out the deadwood that’s distracting me from the things that deserve that 100%.

I started this last year by culling ‘friends’ on Facebook that don’t directly contribute to my wellbeing or happiness, as well as unfollowing people elsewhere who upset/annoy me or make me question or doubt myself. As we go forwards into 2017 I need to take this to the next level: cutting out people who aren’t beneficial to my mental health, dropping clients who cause me more stress than pleasure, turning down work that isn’t a good fit for my schedule.

I don’t know how long this will last. I don’t know how much I will achieve. But… if I seize every moment when I feel like a badass warrior woman, I’m hoping it’ll carry me through the days I want to hide under my duvet. I got this.

Wedding Antics

So who got married last week? Just me? Oh :)

jaz-wedding-web

On May 16th at 11:30ish (we were early) Gaz and I officially tied the knot (as they say; no actual knots were tied). In a short and sweet ceremony where I agreed to love and cherish my “awfully” wedded husband, we exchanged rings, had a quick snog then went for yummy grub at my favourite pizza restaurant.

On Saturday night we made it all the more real with a celebration for family and friends who very kindly travelled from as far away as London, Scotland and even Belgium.

We ate a big hog roast, expensive cheeses, locally made cupcakes and the best tasting popcorn I’ve ever eaten from Joe & Seph’s. Seriously, that stuff is adictive. I don’t even eat popcorn normally and now I’m thinking about getting the catering size packs in for “emergencies”.

Music was provided by local band Lost the Plot and was heartily enjoyed by all guests. Huge thanks to these guys for entertaining us all evening, and for playing (by special request) Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass”. There’s something particularly amusing about 3 ageing muscians (sorry guys) playing a song about curvy young women.

Here are some of my favourite photos from the night, including one of me dancing like a bellend (for your personal enjoyment):

what kind of dancing is that

team gazza

the look of love

And there are tons more photos are up on Facebook, if you know where to look.

Rabbits, half marathons, fitness & weddings

Holy crap, it feels like I basically haven’t stopped doing stuff lately. I’d blame that for my inconsistent blogging but we all know that’s been an issue for many years, so I’ll cut to the chase and get you up to speed on the funky biz that’s happening in my life at the moment…

The wabbit

I brought Peanut home and within 3 days I’d got him eating better food (science selective nuggets – best commercial rabbit food you can buy), more hay, and as I type this he’s on the lawn grazing on grass and clover. He is still nervous about being approached, and isn’t too keen on the resident guinea pigs, but I did manage to get a couple of strokes yesterday before he binky-ed off.

peanut-rabbit

Half marathon

On Wednesday, I completed the “May the 4th Be With You” trail half marathon: 13.1 miles up and down the beautiful hills of Church Stretton in Shropshire. Ascending more than 2000ft, this was perhaps both the most challenging and yet most enjoyable race I’ve ever taken part in. It was a fabulous day (the weather was really on our side) and the company of some fellow Broseley Joggers made it a fantastic experience all in. We finished in 3 hours 21 minutes officially, although had stopped to take pictures and enjoy the snacks at the water station, so actual moving time was more like 3 hours 10.

half-marathon-medal

Fitness bits

I’ve been LOVING going to the gym, having fit in an upper body session this morning (resting my legs after Wednesday / got a 10k on Sunday!) I’ve been visiting twice a week most weeks since the beginning of April now. I’ve not had any issues with dudebros, people are always happy to answer questions and will let you step in without a second thought. Nobody has made me feel unwelcome or inferior because I’m a relative n00b (and female; although this causes the odd double take).

As well as the gym, Gaz and I have recently signed up to ongoing taekwon-do sessions having participated in a cheap trial month. We’re both approaching our first assessment thingymabob to go up a belt, which is strangely intimidating and yet should be fairly easy.

Wedding bells

In less than two weeks time Gaz and I will be married. I’ve finally found a simple wedding ring I like (two, actually.. don’t ask) and everything else is sorted. Not that there was much to sort for the wedding, because it’s literally going to be a case of turn up, say I do, go eat pizza. WINNING.

The wedding party was slightly more complex to organise but even then: food, booze, people, music. Bob’s your uncle, etc. I’ll tell you more about that after the event, of course.

Of course, I genuinely can’t believe that this is actually happening. I thought Gaz would have got bored / fed up with me long before this point. He’s clearly mad.

But then… aren’t we all?

I’m 30 and nothing’s different

Well howdy. It somehow got to January 20th without me noticing. Funny how this time-passing-by thing works.

I turned 30 in style, partying the night away with some of my favourite people. I even took two dresses to my party because I am that awesome. Came away with a car boot-full of presents too, which made me cry on more than one occasion. Apparently I get soppier as I get older.

Turning 30 has not given me a greater wisdom, sudden grown-up super powers or anything of that sort (which I’d kinda hoped for). Indeed, I still spent most of last Thursday in bed pretending I wasn’t an adult with Responsibilities until I remembered I had to take Bramble (MEGABUN) to the vet for his post-neuter check-up. That reminds me, I really need to finish my Pets section.

The neutering went well, which will probably mean he ends up with a girlfriend-bunny at some point. Preparing for “I told you so”s in 3, 2, 1…

This year is already starting to look like a busy one, with vague wedding stuff being planned. Much to the disappointment of certain people Gaz and I are planning a “run away and do it in secret” style wedding. No fuss, minimal expense, just us and the legally required amount of witnesses who may or may not be dragged in off the street beforehand. I’m not sure I could deal with anything else, it’s not my cup of tea.

On a similarly personal note, I’ve an appointment for the end of the month to speak to my doctor about sterilisation. My hormones have been in overdrive lately which is making me super broody, but the reality is another child would be a massive physical, emotional and financial load which I just wouldn’t be able to deal with. Feeds weird to think I’ll never carry, birth and feed a tiny baby ever again but taking the pill is a pain in the arse (despite some minor benefits for my probable PMDD), and with Gaz’s total lack of desire for kids of his own, it just makes sense. I have two beautiful, smart as hell, pain in the arse kids and that’s more than enough.

Now that’s out of the way…

So now the introspective waffle is out of the way, let’s talk about the small matter of me turning 30 in a few days.

Not because of the turning 30 part, there’s nowt I can do about that (and I’m looking forward to being FABULOUS at thirty … or something) but the part where I set myself a list of things to do before I was 30 and have utterly failed to complete the list.

It’s not like I didn’t try. I did some pretty radical (for me) things in 2015, things that I never thought I’d cross off the list but managed anyway. I also have some list items “in progress”: Gaz and I are booked on a hot air balloon flight early this year, I did *cough2cough* random acts of kindness, I registered to give blood but had to cancel my appointment because of a bad flu-like illness, and I have sort of worked with other developers on a couple of things.

But… there are definitely items on that list that were doomed from the start. Read 100 books? I’m lucky if I read 10 books in a year these days. Earn £5000 in passive income? Take off a zero, pal. And how do you even define a pay rise when your employment situation does a complete 180. I might earn four grand in one month and sod all in the next.

I still want to learn to swim. I want to volunteer because I think it’ll be good for me to get out of my little bubble. But mostly I just want to continue taking risks and doing cool stuff, and I don’t think I need a list for that.

Be a little patient

We’re on day 3 of the new year and I’m yet to write any of my typical end of year posts for 2015: what I did for christmas, my review of the previous year, my goals for the next.

It’s not that there’s nothing to say. I mean, 2015 saw me complete the remortgage on the house, return to self-employment and move the man I love in with me. If that wasn’t awesome enough, for some bizarre reason that man asked me to marry him and I said yes. And — on a slightly less life-changing level — I lost weight, had my first foreign holiday (and went topless on the beach), got lost in Oxford, got myself a giant bunny and saw my dad for the first time in a couple of years. Amongst other things.

A busy year all in, and plenty to write about, but instead I’m sat here feeling restless and agitated. Instead of focusing on all the massive AWESOME cool stuff that I did / achieved / went through in 2015 I remember the times I skipped a mornings work to lay in bed because my head was telling my silly things or spent 3 hours on twitter because it’s the closest I’d get to adult company and the isolation was setting in. I think of the income I didn’t get because I was too busy doing favours – saying yes when I should have said no. Or just generally procrastinating.

I think about the times I shouted at my kids because they were doing ordinary kid stuff because outside pressure and the PMS and life was making it difficult to relax. I think about the wine and takeaway curries I consumed when I should have been working out and eating homemade food. I think of the failed budgets, the overspending, the constantly fluctuating savings. Most of all I spend a lot of time wondering when I’ll feel normal again.

But what is normal? When you’ve spent the vast majority of your life in situations where you’ve had to build walls and exercise control over the minutiae because it’s the only thing you’re allowed control over; when your relationships are based on defending your emotional health rather than cultivating it; when you’ve spent so long living with oppression that freedom scares the fuck out of you… none of what you “know” is normal. There’s no going back to normal, because there was no normal to begin with.

So… I guess what I’m trying to say is that 2016 is going to be about defining a new normal. Allowing myself to continue building on what I’ve done, finding out who I am and being gentle on myself when I fail. Mark Manson said, in his piece Shut Up and Be Patient (which basically feels like it was written for me at exactly the time I needed it):

There are a thousand tons of emotional and psychological cargo being hauled across the vast oceans of your unconscious. Be a little patient, fucker.

& I think I can do that. :)

If I know what love is, it is because of you

If you follow me on social media at all (you all follow me on social media, right?) you’ll know that Gaz asked me to marry him last week. I was lying in bed on Sunday morning, having not long woken up, and Gaz just randomly stated “we should get married”. I wasn’t sure I’d heard him right, and he was on his phone, so thought maybe he’d said someone else was getting married. I responded, bewildered, “what? why?”

I clearly know how to respond to a marriage proposal with class and the appropriate level of excitedness.

After some discussion during which we established that he wasn’t just pulling my leg, that he really was asking me to marry him, etc etc, I obviously said yes. Who wouldn’t want to marry a man that is hilariously funny, super intelligent, kind, patient, calm and most importantly of all, puts up with me?

So I am engaged. And it is a truly bizarre feeling. Firstly, because this means that someone genuinely loves me enough to want to spend the rest of their life with ME. Secondly, because I have never particularly planned to get married, I have no idea what I’m doing. Thirdly, because suddenly everyone wants to be involved in my relationship which, while lovely, is also oddly intrusive and weird. For someone who is generally a chronic oversharer, my desire to not share THIS (hence not announcing it for nearly a week) feels out of character even to myself.

I guess it doesn’t help that I don’t really ‘do’ weddings, generally. There are several wedding traditions that rub me the wrong way. I’m not interested in being walked down the aisle (especially so in a church setting, because I can think of nothing more hypocritical) or wearing a giant puffy meringue dress. I don’t want to spend a fortune on flowers and favours and frills and all that pomp and ceremony. (No offence to anyone who likes that stuff, this isn’t a judgement.)

On the flip side, being married to Gaz seems 100% right. There is nobody else who gets me like he does, who makes me laugh like he does, and whom I trust so wholly and completely. And I want people to know that, and to see/understand the depth of my feelings for him. I’m just not sure how to share that without letting people in.

(“If I know what love is, it is because of you.” — Hermann Hesse)

I considered cam-girling to pay my mortgage

I’ve just been moaning on twitter about hitting a bit of a ‘blogging wall’ after 3 weeks of doing pretty well on my Septemblog challenge. In doing so, it occurred to me how lucky I am that — minor ‘every day’ life niggles aside — the only thing I can think of to moan about today is not having a topic to write about.

This time last year I was still trying to come to terms with the realities of lone parenting: mentally, physically and most overwhelmingly financially. Scraping together every spare penny to deal with having to pay all the bills myself, and a bunch of other crap that all seemed to hit at the same time, not least a tax fine/bill of over £950 because of a cock-up I’d made on a previous year’s tax return.

I was broken, financially and (nearly) mentally, and desperately trying to save every penny for massive impending solicitor and IFA bills to finalise the transfer of equity and re-mortgage my house. Bad times.

Anyway. At times — where I was not sure how to make my full time salary stretch any further, and I’d already worked my evenings away doing dev on the side — I would brainstorm ideas that would be low (mental) effort for high return and time and time again found myself pondering the realities of using the world’s (supposedly) oldest profession as a second sideline: I even googled story after story of past and present cam-girls and amateur porn stars to figure out the ins and outs of the industry.

I’m not particularly shy and I have zero issues with nudity. I am, shall we say “intimitely familiar with myself”, and not bothered who knows it. Most of all, thanks to years of other people helping themselves to my body, it isn’t that huge a step to give it away. Seemed therefore a logical jump to turn that into something that could earn me money with little outlay for tech or setup. I could potentially earn hundreds of pounds which would keep the little ones fed and a roof over our heads for a little bit longer.

But I didn’t do it. And while I have since joked about it with Gaz and indeed on twitter, I don’t think I could. If nothing else but because old wounds are healing, and I’m not sure having money in my back pocket is worth opening them up again.

Recipe: Eton Mess Cake

Yesterday was Gaz‘s birthday and in true birthday tradition (AKA any excuse for cake) I decided to bake, with the “help” of the kids. Normally for this sort of occasion I would find a recipe weeks in advance and fail attempt to make something spectacular. However, with work and kids to contend with, time was not on my side, so I thought I’d modify my basic victoria sponge and turn it into Eton Mess in cake form. Here goes…

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 200g butter
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking powder

For the filling / decoration

  • 1 tub of mini meringues
  • 300ml (ish) double cream
  • 3 tbps icing sugar
  • 300g (ish) strawberries
  • A tablespoon or two of seedless strawberry jam or some nice strawberry coulis

Equipment

  • Two 8″ or 9″ round cake tins (I can’t find my tape measure)
  • Bowl and spoon or your nan’s Kenwood Chef
  • Greaseproof/baking paper OR butter for greasing

Top tip!
You can make a fantastic, rich & tasty sponge for the majority of occasions by using equal parts butter, flour and sugar with 1 medium egg for each 50g. Don’t be afraid to experiment: e.g. make a chocolate cake by replacing 50g flour with 50g of cocoa powder.


Method

Is it just me that thinks ‘method’ makes it sound like a science experiment?

  1. Stick your oven on to pre-heat at around 150-170C.
  2. Either by hand or with a magic mixing machine, combine the butter and the sugar in a bowl until it turns into a creamy soft sugary goo. Fish your childrens hands out of the bowl and remind them that nobody wants to eat cake that’s had fingers poked in it.
  3. When combined, slowly add the egg, mixing gently as you go. Remove the chunks of broken shell from the mixture. When the egg and buttery mix is combined, add the vanilla extract.
  4. Sieve in the flour and baking powder.

baking-eton-mess-cake

  1. Gently stir the flour into the mix until smooth and delicious looking. Fish your childrens hands out of the bowl and remind them that nobody wants to eat cake that’s had fingers poked in it.
  2. Line your baking tins or grease with butter. If I’m making a cake with butter as the ‘fat’, I just grease and don’t usually have any problems getting the cake out of the tin.
  3. Divide the mixture between the two tins roughly equally and using the back of your spoon, level it out as best you can. Give the spoon and bowl to the children for “cleaning” duties.

cake-mix-in-tin

  1. Pop the cakes in the middle of your pre-heated oven with the kid’s fish fingers that they’re having for tea, and cook for around 20-30 minutes. To test if the cake is done, stick a skewer / cocktail stick / piece of dry spaghetti into the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean it’s cooked. If it’s black, you’ve burnt it.
  2. Let the cooked cakes cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Answer the question “is it cool yet?” 500 times a minute with the word “no”.
  3. Remove the cakes from the tin and allow to cool on a rack. I cheat at this point and stick the rack in the fridge because the cakes cool quicker, and cold cakes are much easier to trim…
  4. When completely cool, remove any bumps and lumps from the top of the cakes as best you can (it doesn’t have to be perfect, nobody is going to see it under the cream anyway) using a sharp knife or cake trimmer thingy (posh git).

cooked-cake

  1. Whisk the shit out of your double cream. As it begins to firm up, whisk in the 3 tablespoons of sieved icing sugar until the cream is fairly stiff and leaves a hole when you stick your finger in it (for “testing purposes”). Don’t tell the people eating your cake it’s had 3 pairs of hands in it.
  2. Slather your jam or strawberry sauce on the top of one of the trimmed sponges and then chuck a few dollops of cream on top. Spread it around using the back of your (now washed) spoon — or a palette knife if you’ve got one. If you’re really fancy, you could also pipe the cream on to the cake at this point. Snob.
  3. Break 2 of the merginues over the cake, sending lovely crunchy meringue bits everywhere.
  4. Chop up a handful of strawberries into quarters and chuck them on top of the cream meringue layer, resisting the urge to dip spare strawberries into the cream as you’ll need that later.

strawberry-layer

  1. Stick the other sponge on top, pressing it down slightly to make sure it’s not going to slide around (but not so hard that your middle cream layer spurts out the sides)
  2. Dollop lots more cream on the top, vaguely attempting to spread it round. Decorate with several mini meringues and whole strawberries. If you were able to buy strawberry coulis you might consider drizzling it over the top cream layer. I did not think it’d work quite as well with blobs of jam…

finished-eton-mess-cake

Tada!