Once upon a time, Nigella Lawson published her hit cookbook: How To Be A Domestic Goddess. The book included her famous Nutella Cake, which I have subsequently tested, crashed and tasted.
Basking in the media spotlight, however, Nigella was oblivious to the troubles brewing on distant shores. That while there was the beauty, there would also be the beast. That her once elegant creation, would erupt with a dangerous avalanche of chocolate ganache and roasted hazelnuts all over a fancy plate. Moreover, that this mighty beast, which should only ever been known as “The Avalanche”, would masquerade around the World Wide Web as Nigella’s Nutella Cake…the very one, yet nothing like the same.
I’m sure she’s not amused!
Naturally, you have to feel sorry for her. It’s all very well when people post their successes and flood social media with stunning, visually scrumptious photographs. However, there’s always that idiot who can’t follow the instructions. Rather than taking responsibility for their horrific screw-ups, they then have the audacity to attach her name to their disaster…”This is Nigella’s Nutella Cake. “
If anyone was within their rights to sue, Nigella has a very, very strong case.
Looks like I’d better watch out!
Please forgive me, Nigella. I have sinned!
Of course, once you publish anything, you have to let your “baby” go. Leave it, for better or worse, in your reader’s hands. That’s the risk you take. Otherwise, all of us writers would simply leave all of our babies locked away in the bottom drawer.
However, when you’re a famous chef or cook and your baby is a recipe book, the risks intensify. Not only will your readers inevitably criticise your work, they could well screw up your recipes and post photographic evidence on every social media platform on the planet. This, of course, is an absolute public relations disaster! Your reputation, your precious reputation is hanging round your ankles along with those wretched undies with the broken elastic, and it’s not your fault!
No doubt, that’s too much for even a Domestic Goddess to bear!
After all, is it her fault that they can’t follow a simple recipe? That they don’t understand that “whisk the meringue” doesn’t mean beat the living daylights out of it, sending it past the Emergency Department and straight to City Morgue. It’s not HER fault that the meringue’s gone flat because you forgot to prepare your ingredients beforehand (a process known as mise en place among chefs) and had to send your nearest and dearest off to the shops to replace the chocolate someone else has thieved from the pantry. AND, it isn’t Nigella’s fault they have a temperamental oven, whose temperatures yoyo up and down like it has a weird tropical fever.
However, when her challenged followers show off their flops, Nigella gets the blame.
That is, as long as they don’ claim “it was an act of God”.
Anyway, after seeing Nigella on Australian Masterchef recently, I was inspired to bake her Nutella Cake. Although I’ve had a few baking disasters in the past, I was quietly confident. The recipe says it’s easy peasy and how could a cake made with a jar of Nutella, possibly go wrong?
You’d be surprised.
Or, on the other hand, maybe not!
Indeed, even for me, this cake was a disaster and I’m actually struggling to find anything I did right.
It all began with beating the egg whites. Or, should I say “whisking” the egg whites. I forgot that I wasn’t making my pavlova. That “whisk” really means is “hand whisk” using one of those big balloon-shaped contraptions you see on Masterchef.
I know that now.
Then, there were the cooking times. We had a lot of trouble trying to work out when the cake was ready. Unfortunately, this was compounded the fact I had to go out while the cake was still in the oven and left its future in my husband’s usually very capable hands. He did what you usually do. Stuck a skewer in the cake until it came out clean. That was until the top started “caramelizing” and he realized he’d missed the moment. However, overcooking it meant I could cut the cake in half to fill it with whipped cream and fresh raspberries. Well, that was until the top layer broke into several pieces which I patched up again with my sloppy ooze of milk chocolate ganache. Yes, despite beating and adding icing sugar and butter, the icing never resembled a spreadable consistency.
Time to take a swig of the Frangelico. By the way, Nigella recommends serving a glass of Frangelico with the cake.
I should mention that I used milk chocolate for the ganache as my kids don’t like dark chocolate. They have sensitive taste buds and I suspect they could be supertasters. Supertasters have extra tastebuds on the tongue. That must be it. Surely, it’s not my cooking?!!
As if The Avalanche hadn’t already been through enough, it’s troubles weren’t over yet.
The following day, Geoff found our dog, Lady, her royal scruffiness, with paws up on the table, tail wagging and half the cake missing.
Not good for the cake…or the dog! Chocolate can kill a dog. Thank goodness I didn’t go with the dark chocolate for the ganache! Why can’t that dog tell that eating chocolate is a health hazard? Can’t she read the packaging? What’s wrong with the mutt?!!
So, after all of these compounding mistakes, I was starting to think this cake was just doomed and that Nigella and I were like oil and water. We simply didn’t mix. I was never ever going to be a domestic goddess!
However, my husband had other ideas and said it was worth: “another go”.
This leads me to Round Two, which was certainly a vast improvement but still wasn’t trouble-free thanks to the oven and the fridge.
Have you made any of NIgella’s recipes? I must confess that I’ve never even seen a copy of How To Be A Domestic Goddess and found the recipe online.