Wednesday 19 August 2015

It's own timbre

Yesterday, the sky was a flat-packed grey. Under it, wet roofs, wet roads, damp brick walls, damp people in damp socks, the neighbour's cat with a sweet squirrel in his mouth. Bleak stuff. It's August, the prime of summer, but the sky is British you see, it can't comment on summer. So what if the rest of Europe is laid out on their beach towels like strips of bacon in a frying pan? We'll just take the old umbrella out for a walk.

Still, the weather doesn't irk me like it used to.  Maybe it has something to do with a little girl who goes 'Yay, rain!' every time it rains. I mean, who says 'Yay, rain!' in this country?! She can be positive about anything, this one. A couple of days ago, she hopped and grinned and danced around me saying "Ma, I'm really, really excited about nothing!" So yeah, it could be her; she makes me notice the grey less.

There's something else I like about days like these. The silver light. Like a snail's trail that has dried on the ground in slow, shiny loops. This light, even through a bare window, is diffused, discreet. It's incredible how a land's people mirror its weather.

I was writing this post when I looked up and saw Chotto-ma engrossed in her book, and realised how utterly quiet the house was. Only the rustle of a page turning, and her foot softly kicking the arm of the sofa, thup thup thup. I picked up my phone quietly and took this photo. Of her and the light and the quiet. There's a special kind of silence on grey days. It's different from the silence of a sunny day. Like the difference between synonyms - each with it's own timbre, its own use.

I've been meaning to share a recipe for weeks. It's for a plum cake that has been baked, eaten, baked in a loop recently. It's beautiful; soft, sweet, tart and almondy. I'd Instagrammed it, just out of the oven, and now here it is. These photographs are off my phone camera too, because I forget to do any better when this cake is sitting on the table making our rainy-day house smell all kinds of wonderful.

Almond, Plum & Brown Sugar Cake


1 cup plain flour
1 cup ground almond
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup coarse demerara (you can use white sugar too, but this gives the cake a rich, roasty flavour)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 heaped tbsp of butter
1/2 cup oil
1/2 - 3/4 cup milk (as needed)
4-5 plums, halved, then sliced (with peel on)

Preheat oven to 160 degrees C (320 degrees F).
Grease a rectangular baking dish (or a cake tin of your choice) with butter, keep aside.
Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl - flour, ground almond, baking powder and sugar.
Make a well in the middle. Crack in the eggs. Add the vanilla essence, the butter and oil.
Start mixing it in a circular motion. Pour the milk a bit at a time as you mix, till you get a nice smooth batter, easy to stir.
Pour batter into cake tin. Top the batter with the sliced plum, laying them on with a gentle hand so they settle into the batter a tiny bit, but not sink in.
Bake for 40 minutes if the baking dish is flat and rectangular, and about 45-50 minutes if it's deep and round. Slide a knife in to check if done.


  1. We have been suffering the most unbearable heatwave of late that I have been hankering after our good old British rainy summers! Thankfully it's disappeared (for now)! That cake looks delicious, and reminds me of a German cake here. Got any left? :) x

    1. I'd bake a cake and cut you a big slice anytime you are where I am, Emma :)
      We had a taste of your hot summer yesterday, and it was glorious! It's back to rain today.

    2. I will most definitely take you up on that one day! :)

  2. This photo of Chotto-ma... It makes my heart sing.

  3. She sounds like such a delightful child! And that photo is absolutely heart-warming!

    1. Thank you.
      It warms my heart too to have you say that xx

  4. What a warm post, Pia, your words almost made me wish for the rainy 'force you indoors' kind of day. Such is their beauty. And that is saying a lot since I'm otherwise holding on tight to the last shreds of summer out here. Lovely pic as always too, Im curious what she is reading. I'll try the cake.

    1. Hello, lovely Unknown :) Thank you for such a beautiful message. Sometimes, being housebound isn't such a bad thing, is it?
      I think she was reading Roald Dahl's The Witches.
      The cake won't let you down.

    2. Pia, this was Lakshmi (Ive commented before), wordpress is funny sometimes. Cant wait to make the cake.

    3. Ah, Lakshmi! The voice did feel familiar :) It's good to have you back.

  5. A quiet read on a rainy day, lazy drops as they slide down the window pane and a view to look out to when you want to think about what you just read! I can just see you (and I) doing that though if I had Chottoma to gaze at, I wouldn't look anywhere else :)

    1. You are such a beautiful soul, AD. Thank you for words that always make me smile. Love ya.

  6. "The silver light. Like a snail's trail...": so visual, so delicate, so evocative. I can see it and feel it. I live for those quiet moments when all is silent in the house and one or two or all of us have a book in hand. Lovely images.

    1. Thank you, Amelia. Yes, such precious hours, those :)

  7. Hi Pia

    I've been a long time reader but thought I'd come out of the shadows to say hi :-) and that I made this plum cake recently and it was everything I expected - sweet, tart, moist and just how home made cake should be!! Thank you for your lovely posts and recipes. I enjoy all your writing and look forward to reading a lot more of it.

    All the best x

    1. These, I think, are my favourite notes - when someone decides to 'come out of the shadows' and write in. Thank you for doing that, Swati. There's little point in everything that goes into this blog if all I was doing is having a conversation with myself. (Which I do quite a bit of anyway! :)
      I'm glad the cake was as good for you as it was for us.
      Do come again x


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