I am one of those women. You know, the women who, since they were old enough to make their own choices about preferred colours, has steadfastly and without fail avoided pink. I have pictures of me in a pink and white stripe swimsuit when I was very little with my sister in one identical just a few sizes smaller. My mother dressed us in identical pink trousers and jackets but it was not our choice (that I can recall) and we wore them with a mix of childish pride and shame. Mostly shame, looking back. Pink always seemed very very girly, something I wasn’t then and certainly am not now. I also remember wanting to wear black ballet shoes and a black leotard rather than a pink one – something that never happened. Possibly a good thing as I already resembled the Fantasia hippo as it was…why make it worse?
As I got older, pink still didn’t really hold much appeal to me. There were times when it crept in, mainly under the influence of my mum, trying in vain to make me slightly less of a bookwormy child and more sociable and “feminine” but to no avail. I was happier with my nose in a book, and later, with my nose in a stable and with horses, dogs, cats and the occasional goat. I can remember wishing that I could lose myself in a world much like that of Mallory Towers (remember those books?) at a boarding school when I could be as ungirly as possible and be surrounded by horses. Clearly that never happened – although at about 10 I did talk to my parents about sending me to boarding school in York all because they had horses there and dedicated riding lessons as part of the timetable. Unfortunately back in the real world we didn’t win the lottery that would be needed JUST for the first term – Mallory Towers was as close as I ever got to boarding school.
But back to the pink. All the way through school and then university pink seems to be the colour of girls. Whether its back to school signs for clothes, stationery, magazine headers and countless other elements, pink has been the colour that is associated with women. Personally I have always gone for blue, even when it comes to small things like plant pots, pens and cooking utensils. Whether this was a subconscious decision to shun the pink or not, it seems that I’m just not the kind of girl who likes pink things.
However, after a bit of an emotionally fragile week there was really only one thing that was going to help round off the weekend – red velvet cake. Now I know it says its red and the 3 tubes of red food dye are a bit of a give away in the name of the cake, it is a deep, dark chocolatey pink/crushed raspberry red colour. I first had it as a cupcake when I was working in Harrogate at the pub – coming straight from my main job to my second job wasn’t conducive to eating properly so a sneaked red velvet cupcake was all I had time for. I was hooked. I got lucky enough to be made a red velvet cake for my 30th by my awesome friend Sarah and since then, they have been my favourite.
So, today, after a bit of a wobble, I made my very first red velvet cake. Sarah let me know which recipe to use and advised me in the way of the food dye (gel not liquid – glad she did too) and I got to work. There is something soothing in the process of baking, of any cooking really. The weighing, sifting, mixing is all a bit meditative. Making soup is the same, but with less sugar and food dye. Cooking as therapy…not as strange as it sounds. The recipe comes from the goddess of the kitchen, no, not Delia but the delicious Nigella. I left out the cider vinegar in the frosting and went for a capful of vanilla extract and substituted buttermilk for briskly stirred until pourable natural yogurt (Onken is a good one). As for the food dye, I used the Dr Oetker food colouring gel in a tube (10g per tube) and used 3 of them – this is roughly the right quantity and gives a cracking colour. Nigella calls for unsalted butter but I’m not a purist so whatever was in the fridge went in…doesn’t seem to have done any harm and it tastes delicious.
So…while I am against the “pinkification” of women I am totally with it when it comes to cake. Because, to be brutally honest, sometimes, all you need is a pink cake and a cuddle.