Winging It

As I write this I am sat on my sofa avoiding the midday heat and surrounded by the delicious scents of warm cinnamon, cardamom, butter, vanilla and gingery sugary goodness. I am paying close attention to the gas hob in my kitchen and wondering nervously if the heat has burnt the pan contents sat atop the hob or if these mouth watering scents means my random act of BAKING A CAKE IN A SAUCEPAN ON TOP OF THE GAS HOB is actually working.

Let me explain how I came to this…

I woke up yesterday and felt to bake a cake for my boyfriend. I wanted to do something nice for him and I pondered my options whilst I walked leisurely to the shop in my bright pink flip flops. The heat of the day slowly intensifying with the rising sun. I stepped up and through the creaking door of my local shop that lies nestled in the shadows of an old dusty church. The choice was limited but three sturdy orange carrots caught my eye and made my decision to bake carrot cake. I picked a handful of the finest walnuts I could see and tucked them into the basket with dates, spices, sugar and more.

I was up early and eager to begin my baking this morning. As I live in Egypt I have been missing the feel of autumn. The red and burnished gold of leaves, the smooth brown curves of conkers. This carrot cake was to be my way of acknowledging the season. It would be filed with golden autumnal sugar, the rich warmth of cinnamon and a touch of cardamom to represent the Eastern spices of where I now live. As I walked into my kitchen I knew I didn’t have scales and would have to estimate the weights of ingredients using a cup and trawl the Internet for a conversion table. I approached the gas oven and despite my best efforts it refused to light. I tried over and over again but it just would not cooperate. I almost burned my thumb on one occasion as the gas flared up and lost the lighter down the back of the oven during another as it pinged out of my grip. I had to leave the room after another attempt filled the kitchen and me with gas that made my eyes sting and water. After ten attempts and a couple of minor gas flaring incidents I resigned myself to no oven. But at least I hadn’t passed out from gas fumes in the process.

By this point I had also looked up conversion tables from cups to grams on the Internet and sadly realised they are all different. I could find no converter that had an answer for each ingredient and each converter gave a different answer for just one ingredient. Oh.  I stared at my dream of autumnal baking bliss, of carrot cake heaven, and felt disappointment rising in me like a soggy undercooked bun. I had no scales and no oven but I desperately didn’t want to give up. I took one look at the gas hob, another look at my largest saucepan and thought

Oh what the heck, let’s wing it and make a cake on the hob

That idea was WAY OUTSIDE OF MY COMFORT ZONE. I don’t wing it when I do things that reflect upon my abilities, that others can bear witness to. I plan, prepare, worry, prepare some more, lose sleep and plan some more. I have, as do many of us, a fear of failure and of being exposed for the village idiot. I fear I am not as good as all that. So the idea of baking a cake in a pan on the hob, with no idea of quantities of ingredients AND for someone else would definitely be winging it and very far outside of my happy place.

At this point I should mention I am recovering from a recent illness caused by, I believe, too much stress from unavoidable outside circumstances but also due to my reactions and expectations of myself. I ignored my Intuition telling me to stop and rest until I literally had to stop and lie down for a week. Yesterday I decided I must listen to my Intuition more and let her guide me. Stop playing by the rules, stop expecting everything (including myself) to be perfect and wing it a little instead with more laughter in every day. I simply do not want to be the cause of my own exhaustion and illness anymore by ignoring my inner self. The world is a harsh enough critic without me adding to it.

I pondered this with a raised eyebrow, and eyed up the hob and saucepan. Could making this cake be the perfect opportunity to put my thoughts into practice and let my intuition guide me? I could listen to my Intuition closely and see if I could make a cake without scales or an oven. I have made plenty of cakes in the past (albeit with scales, a recipe and an oven) and perhaps my inner self might just know the way to do this. Could it be the perfect opportunity to practice letting go of certainty of success? The cake could come out as a soggy lump of undercooked gooey, burnt batter. That would be my failing but perhaps that is okay. I won’t die from it.

So my beautiful imagined day of seamless autumnal baking for my man had turned into an opportunity for some self-analysis, growth and letting go. Who knew an almost lethal oven, a lack of utensils and a willingness to put myself out there could be so therapeutic? No, me neither.

I took a very deep breath, reminded myself to listen closely to me and then winged it BIG TIME. I threw cups of basic cake ingredients into my mixing bowl and hoped for the best. I splashed yellow eggs in, sprinkled over what I felt would be a tasty amount of different spices and added plenty of baking powder. Surely some extra lift would be a good thing for my saucepan cake? I chopped up the dates enthusiastically and threw them in without considering quantity. Why not, we’re not playing by the rules here anymore. As I mixed the ingredients together lovingly I listened closely and my intuition told me it looked about right for carrot cake batter. I poured the hearty, orange flecked, walnut filled batter into my saucepan and promptly fell about laughing at how ridiculous this idea was. Yes it was also FUN. I was letting go, I was covered in flour dust and playing. I was learning to be me and trusting I am enough. I was also learning just how divine raw cake batter tastes. If only one could survive on cake batter alone as a healthy nourishing diet.

So, my ‘cake’ has been on the hob now for almost an hour and we are back to where I started my tale. I am sat on the sofa surrounded by the delicious scents of warm cinnamon, cardamom, butter, vanilla and gingery sugary goodness. I am paying close attention to the gas burner and wondering nervously if the gas has burnt the pan contents. I tell myself it is time to check and guess what….there is a cake in my pan! An actual cake. Sure it’s not perfect looking but it is definitely cake. This is a recognisable edible item, commonly referred to as food. I can’t believe it!

Or maybe I can? My intuition told me all along I could wing this and make it happen. My stubborn mind just refused to quieten down and believe.

After a minor skirmish with my cake in the pan, a knife and a fish slice (I lack utensils here) it came free from the pan and flopped onto a plate with a heavy sigh. Here is the cake in all her autumnal, slightly burnt, middle-stuck-to-the-pan glory. Isn’t it just perfect? I think so. Okay so it may be slightly burnt, wonky and missing a middle section but it represents a step forwards for me and it is gorgeous with plump edges. As the cake cools slowly on the plate by my side I am smiling.

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What seemed like a disaster, a disappointment disrupting my plans, turned out to be an opportunity for adventure, laughter and growth today. The unexpected turned out okay in the end. All I had to do was drop my self-expectations and rules, turn up with an open mind and be prepared I may fail. Choose to give it a go even though I felt out of my depth, wing it with a kind and forgiving heart, listen closely to my intuition and do my best. Perhaps that is all I can ask of myself every day? All any of us can ask of ourselves? Because, truth be told, I think we are all winging it at times and hoping our cake comes out perfect every time. We all have fears,  wish we were better at this, less of one thing and more of another. Do we hesitate and hold back from trying new things because of our perceived limitations?

How about we just stop beating ourselves with the whisk, take a leap and enjoy the ride, bumps and all? Trust ourselves and go for it. Add heaps and dollops of glorious extra frosting and enjoy the cake. Sit down and eat the cake, eat a lot of cake. And say to ourselves…I did my best and that is simply enough. Now pass me my cup of tea.

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