By JanetMayes

Wabi-sabi for cake

I made J's birthday cake late on Tuesday evening - partly because I do most things at the last minute, and partly because our electricity tariff makes it significantly cheaper to use the oven after 11pm. She wanted chocolate cake, of course, with ganache frosting. I have photos going back about fifteen years of near-identical cakes (and I haven't got any better at making them look presentable). I always suggest a few alternatives or minor variations, but she knows what she likes. I used my favourite very easy recipe, melting the butter, sugar and cocoa with hot water before adding the eggs and flour. The wet batter makes a deliciously moist sponge. This time, though, the cake rose into high peaks in the tins. I carefully turned out the first tin, intending to flip it over on the cooling rack, but it landed on its point and the edges immediately flopped down onto the rack, breaking it into five segments. I managed to turn out the second half in one piece, except for a little chip off one edge, but it was too late for me to be prepared to start again. I went to bed, knowing I would have to stick the bits together in the morning.

The Japanese concept of wabi-sabi embraces imperfection, seeing fragments of broken porcelain pieced together and mended with gold as more beautiful than the original item. I coated each cracked edge first with a little jam, which spreads easily over the sponge, then with the heavier and stickier chocolate ganache, before pressing the pieces together as though it were superglue. I didn't try to move the assembled pieces, just spread them thickly with more jam and ganache and popped the intact half of the cake on top. A rather messy layer of frosting, half a dozen candles and assorted embellishments created an inelegant but celebratory effect. P held the cake, I held J's arms away from the candles, and she eventually managed, with considerable effort, to blow them all out. Her PA S ate cake with us - it's always nice to have someone else to join the celebration. To my surprise, the slices remained intact as I slid them onto plates, and the slapdash decoration did not prevent the cake from tasting delicious, with the unexpected seams adding extra bursts of soft, chocolatey richness.

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