I know most humans are drawn to coffee like cats to catnip, but for me it's a major turn-off: the aroma, the bitter taste, the tar-like appearance. Just...no. Similarly, the very notion of trying to conjure up a Jamie Oliver creation in 30 short minutes is completely alien to me - I mean why would you even put yourself under that kind of undue pressure? Just thinking about pans bubbling over and utensils clattering is enough to bring me out in hives. The thing with cooking is that there's just so much effort involved. You do the maths: take a gazillion ingredients, add several different cooking durations and temperature requirements, sprinkle in a few distractions such as Facebook and the telly, then subtract the luxury of enough time...equals so many opportunities for things to go pear-shaped. Far too much admin, if you ask me.
|Even the eggs were laughing at my cooking efforts|
Fortunately, my distaste for all things coffee and culinary is countered by a love of tea and eating, so with a little determination I was able to overcome my lazy-girl issues and get cracking with the preparations. Well, it's all for charidee, mate, after all. As my partner Andy imports coffee for a living, he supplied the good stuff (I'll take his word for it), then I rolled up my sleeves and got my bake on...
|Getting my bake on (that's not really a big splodge of cake mix on my chin - honest 😋)|
Now I doubt Mary Berry will be fearing for her job anytime soon, but I have to say my lemon drizzle cakes (yes, plural!) came out remarkably well - so much so that a couple of friendly neighbourhood mice (or perhaps it was my parents), scurried in and nibbled one of them and I had to bake another. Weirdly, I didn't mind at all - having overcome my concerns about the edibility of anything I could create in the kitchen, got past the faff of having to buy all the various cake-making components and worked out how to grate lemon zest without reducing my acrylic-nailed fingertips to bloody stumps, I actually began to relax and enjoy the bake. There may have been a flour cloud above my head and sticky lemon juice on every available surface, but licking the bowl was heavenly and the finished result made up for all the mess.
|My lemon driz is the biz 😛|
Whilst I cooked up a storm in the kitchen, my family rallied round to help get my house tea party-ready: mum loaning me the best family china; dad repainting my battered garden furniture that has definitely seen better days. My sister took one sceptical look at my child-unfriendly house full of angular units and breakables and began carrying out a full risk assessment...quickly concluding that a trip to her place to collect enough primary-coloured bits of plastic to open our own branch of Toys R Us was required. (Later, when I clocked her easing grubby little mitts off my travel memorabilia and back towards the toys I was extremely grateful for her contribution).
Zipping round the supermarket for some prefessionally-baked back-ups, I was aware of the judgemental glances of other shoppers; eyes sliding away as I clocked them peering at the cake mountain in my trolley: lemon meringue pie, swirly strawberry cheesecake, scones, red velvet cake, Taste The Difference carrot, morello cherry bake (that one was delicious, by the way) - you name it, I bought it. I looked like some crazed sugar junkie on a bender. I slung in a few bottles of prosecco for good measure and I was good to go.
On the morning of my event I awoke early to prepare the treat-filled feast for my guests. Having performed yet another last-minute supermarket sweep, the spread was looking even more bountiful: baked goods balanced on every surface. Sprinkling heart confetti on the table and adding flowers, I stepped back to admire my handiwork...
|I'm not sure there's enough...?|
|Move over Delia! My cousin Lucy's handiwork...|
Hungry ladies began arriving in their droves and we finally allowed my little nephew Hayden to get stuck into the cake table - something he'd been slyly attempting for the last hour, his mum and I swatting him away until the other guests arrived.
All my nail-biting fears of no-shows, mumbled apologies and texts of regret dissipated as the doorbell chimed; the tea was poured, the cafetière plunged and cakes gratefully eaten. Neighbours popped in, friends dutifully appeared; there were even a few surprise appearances and tears.
|cousins and cakes|
|Blondes have more...cake?|
|a few of my oldest pals|
A timely collaboration with those lovely folk at TeaTourist meant that as well as my trusty PG Tips, I also had an abundance of interesting herbal tea blends to offer my guests. Available as a one-off purchase, a thoughtful gift or a monthly subscription, the company selects an array of carefully-crafted artisan teas from various respected suppliers and then delivers them to your door in a slimline box that fits easily through the letterbox, so no hanging around for deliveries. The complementary taster box I received included some intriguing flavours such as Chocolate Orange and the cinnamon-tinged Mulled Apple Brandy - although my favourite of them all is Rose and Strawberry. Each taster sachet has enough for four cups and includes information about the tea as well as the company who produce it, along with a discount code if you'd like to repurchase directly. Seeing as there's a subscription box for just about everything these days, it makes sense to have one for tea too. (Use code FIRST10 for 10% off your first box).
|Teatourist taster box|
|Hmm, which shall I try next...?|
To add to the warm fuzzy feeling that gave me inside, Mother Nature provided a warm fuzzy feeling on the outside: Thursday 30th March turned out to be the hottest March day for five years, enabling us to spend the entire afternoon in the garden eating yet more cake and quaffing prosecco. High five, Sister!
The final guests left at 6pm, so I kicked off my shoes, had a cup of Wilderness Honeybush from my TeaTourist box and totted up the funds raised. The cash on the day totalled £265, with another £298 via my Just Giving account, giving a grand total of £563! Add to that the 25% gift aid and the total raised climbed to £703.75! How cool is that?! A pretty productive day, if I do say so myself...
So on behalf of The Eve Appeal and myself I'd like to say a huge and heartfelt "Thank you!" to everyone who donated to my campaign - either in person or online. Your generous contributions will enable this fabulous charity to continue their great work: protecting women's health by helping prevent gynae cancers.
The word I'd use to sum up the day? Much like the cakes themselves actually:
|Hayden and Amelia enjoy a cupcake|
Facebook: Samantha Jane Walsh