Reasons why Fran isn't applying to appear on The Great British Bake-Off

When the grandchildren came round last week, we made Welsh cakes. 

Two years ago, we made them on holiday in Wales and they were so delicious that the children requested this repeat performance. 

Unfortunately, the aspect of the performance that did not get repeated was that, in Wales, I didn't transform the cakes into slabs of inedible charcoal by frying them in a cheap, thin-bottomed pan. 

Nevertheless, the children tried to be optimistic as, one by one, I lifted the burnt cakes from the pan with a fish slice and layered them like pieces of soot-black roof tiles on a blue flowered plate. The plate looked highly offended, being more designed for delicate cup cakes than a pile of incinerated carbohydrate. 

When the Welsh cakes had cooled (and hardened even more) we tried them. 'They're nice, Grandma,' the children said, biting into them gallantly but with true alarm in their wide eyes like those facing a zombie invasion or firing squad.  

The only consolation is that apparently charcoal is good for flatulence and even if the grandchildren don't have problems with flatulence for another thirty years, I suspect that their innards are now nicely lined and well set up for it. 

Welsh cakes aren't the only things I've burnt recently. 

Last weekend, when we stayed with our daughter and son-in-law, joined also by the grandchildren and their parents, I decided to make a polenta and almond cake as a daughter-friendly non-gluten alternative to the scones we were having for tea. She had all the ingredients in her store cupboards so I spent a happy half-hour mixing the cake. 

I don't know what went wrong. Perhaps it was because I didn't know my daughter's oven. Or that I set it at the wrong temperature by mistake. Or I didn't line the tin properly. Or I'd done something to offend the gods and this was Cruel Revenge Part II, Part I being the Welsh cakes. 

But the polenta cake emerged after its allotted 45 minutes encased in a thick crust of charcoal. Top, bottom and sides, as though it had been on a spit over a furnace, perhaps in a blacksmith's forge. A lump of coal 23 cm in diameter that only its mother could love. A cake pathetically far from the dictionary definition of 'cake' and much nearer the definition of 'remains of bonfire'.  


I'll just hammer on this piece of Fran's polenta cake and we'll have you sorted.


I stared at the cake and cried. 

I've had other baking disasters over the years. Biscuits that spread in the oven so that only one biscuit, 20cm x 20cm, resulted. Cakes so dry at a tea party that until we could continue polite conversation we had to hand out hammers and chisels so guests could remove slices of it from their palates. Scones so flat and hard I sold them within ten minutes on  

But this one hit hard. I'd been so keen to make my daughter a cake.  

Worse, as I wept in the next room, grieving the loss of the cake and of my dignity, I could hear my son bravely slicing off the outside layers of the polenta cake with a carving knife while the others shouted encouragement: 'I can see some of the insides! There's definitely cake under there!' like rescuers after an earthquake, certain that there are still people alive beneath the rubble. 

Everyone was very kind and, later, my daughter even ate some of what had been rescued. I think she's been reading from Foxe's Book of Martyrs and was trying to put some of its principles into practice. 

Next time, I'll pick up something from the Free From aisle at the supermarket on my way there. 

And when the grandchildren come round again we're playing Ludo. 


'What happened to those scones you made, Fran?'


  1. I've had similar disasters with biscuits (cookies) spreading to fill the pan, but I just renamed it a slice and cut them up after I upended the pan. With lots of icing added, nobody cared. My mother used to make pancakes so thick and tough they could be used for frisbees. Her cooking was always very "filling", none of us was ever hungry between meals. She never made cakes though, that was left to my dad who made slabs of buttercake with sliced plums baked into the surface.

    1. Your dad's cake sounds delicious! I know what you mean about being filled up as a child - my grandad used to serve us slabs of dense Yorkshire pudding before the meal itself so that we were already stuffed and didn't ask for so much meat.

  2. It's always dicey to use someone else's oven; there's your scapegoat for sure :) I'm sorry things went awry just when you really wanted them to turn out. There's a special kind of grief where children are concerned, even if they are grownups themselves, so I understand your tears. Even if the cake was just marginally salvageable, you managed to turn it into an excellent and funny post, which is more than I can say for my cooking disasters!

    1. Thank you for this empathetic comment, Jenny. That's so lovely!

  3. This is so good. I am sorry you cried though, not over spilt milk, but burned cake.


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