Boy Lacer’s hottest ever birthday / Peyton and Byrne British Baking review

I am seriously confused today, the weather is an extremely hot 27C and it’s very nearly October (if you can bypass the typical Daily Mail babes in bikinis, I love the old photos of the last time Britain was this hot at the end of September, way back in 1895) , Mr. Lacer had a day off today and my dad was visiting as well, so I’m having trouble remembering what day it is, let alone what month. But today is Boy Lacer’s 6th birthday, so of course I remember.

Unlike me and Girl Lacer (we both have birthdays in holiday periods), Boy Lacer is usually at school on his birthday but if you’re going to be at school (or work) on your birthday, I guess a Friday is a pretty good day to do it, so today almost felt like the start of an unofficial Bank Holiday just for us (and with Bank Holiday weather to boot). The kids were still in school today mind you but their school is pretty fun, so I don’t think they minded to much. Whereas me and Mr. Lacer did shopping and housework first thing (after of course the whole getting up, opening presents – Hot Wheels, a book about castles, a Portal T-shirt, a copy of The Tiger Who Came to Tea and a tiger torch and of course the going to school thing) and then went out and had a late pub garden lunch with my dad in the sun before pick up time and more present opening (more Hot Wheels and some Lego).

Of course most children being sent to school on their birthday would be desperate to play with their new toys as soon as they got home from school, nope, not Boy Lacer, all he wanted to do (after opening the second batch of presents) was to go and play Portal again and by the time Girl Lacer and Mr. Lacer were setting up some of Boy Lacer’s Hot Wheels toys (which look pretty cool, I have to admit) and Boy Lacer had moved on to some cr*ppy looking Flash games, he still wasn’t more than slightly interested. This was the boy who’s been drooling over Hot Wheels ads for months. I know I shouldn’t be surprised and I’m not really, it’s all a significant part of his autism and we’ve seen this sort of behaviour before. The notable time was one Christmas as a toddler he refused to play with any of his new toys, instead playing with his beloved blocks  that he’d got for his birthday from his Grandad a few months before – there’s quite a lot of video from that particular Christmas and for most of it you can see Boy Lacer in the background playing with his blocks, whereas Girl Lacer is trying to play with everything at once. Back then we didn’t know about Boy Lacer’s autism (although we did know he had muscle tone problems and were just glad he was sitting up) but the brick building we can now see is just an extension of his computer game playing today, he loves building things and puzzle solving, I just wish he could see that there are building opportunities and puzzle solving opportunities beyond the computer sometimes.

Anyway, we had pizza and cake, the cake in question was an adapted Victoria Sponge from the Peyton and Byrne British Bakingbook. The cake had been ‘ordered’ by Boy Lacer some months before, being inspired by an old ad in our local gym for children’s birthday parties, that had a picture of a cake with sweets on top, although he was quite specific that he didn’t want the precise sweets that were in the cake in the picture, which were Liquorice Allsorts, which he doesn’t like. He also specified that the cake was to be “yellow with jam in the middle” i.e he wanted a Victoria Sponge and absolutely none of mummy’s attempts to make a chocolate birthday cake again (because I know everyone in the family loves Victoria Sponge, I just can’t make them very well and I am much better at making chocolate cake).

So this morning I grabbed the first of my far too many baking cookbooks to hand, glad that it was Peyton and Byrne book as although I had not yet cooked from it (despite having it for ages, the shame), I love their cafes, they alone, if anything, are a good reason to visit the National Gallery (they run the cafe there) and their cakes in their cafes aren’t too sweet and I . . . am . . . meant . . . to . . . be . . . on . . . a . . . diet after all (and I know I’m going to eat some of this cake). And guess what? I managed to make a victoria sponge that was actually nice! Not perfect mind you, it sank a bit in the middle and I could imagine Paul and Mary from the Great British Bake Off tut tutting over my presentation but it rose, was light, buttery and a bit too sweet (I can easily see not all of this cake being eaten and it ending up in the food recycling bin), but overall it was delicious and easy to make. Although I knew of the egg weighing victoria sponge method, I’d never tried it before (you weigh the eggs in their shells and then add the same weight in sugar, flour and butter) and it resulted in a thick, creamy, luscious (oh so calorie laden) batter.

Z's birthday cake

I don’t think I’ve written about the Peyton and Byrne book before , so to give it a quick review before I go, yum, if you like the Peyton and Byrne cafes you will like this book, with many of the things you see in the cafes appearing in this book (such as the jammy dodgers and the gingerbread men). Although I’m moaning that the victoria sponge was too sweet, I don’t think Oliver Peyton has gone too OTT with the sugar in these recipes and although it’s obviously not a healthy baking book, I’ve seen worse and whether I’m on a diet or not, when I’m eating a cake or a biscuit I always prefer to actually taste what I’m eating and not to be just overwhelmed with sugar. There are chapters on biscuits, cakes, fairy cakes, fruity cakes, tarts and pies, breakfast goods, buns, special occasions and basics, so if this were to be your one baking book you wouldn’t be too stuck (there are even some bread recipes in the bun chapter). It’s hard to say I know, when I’ve only cooked one recipe from this book but the recipes are clear and easy to understand (and the whole design of the book is lovely, sort of matching the homey, slightly old-fashioned, utilitarian feel of the cafes). I have way too many baking books, which is perhaps not the best thing for someone in need of some weight loss but at least with books like these I can live vicariously through print and photos and imagine all that baked goodness, either that or torture myself.

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