Baking Hot in Birmingham!
My name's Stella and I'm a girl on the wrong side of forty, my marriage is in crisis, my daughter's a Goth. My mother's gone global (don't ask) and I'm about to lose my job as a TV producer.
But hey, when I'm in that kitchen baking I don't give a damn. There's something about the combination of butter, sugar and flour that never lets you down, isn't there?
Anyway, I've been corresponding with Chloe, the fashionista heroine from chicklit novel, 'Lying to Meet You' and having met up with her in New York recently, read about that experience here I returned the favour and invited her to my favourite place in the UK, my kitchen. So as I said, I love to bake (and eat!) cacke, I am also 20 pounds too heavy (oh ok... so I lied, 30 pounds and counting!) Chloe is young, thin and pretty, so I shouldn't really have anything in common with her, but she's feisty and fun and loves cupcakes... what's not to love?
I welcomed Chloe to the Midlands where I live near the city of Birmingham, famous in showbiz circles for being the birthplace of Ozzy Osbourne and David (Homeland) Harewood. After NYC, Birmingham is not the most inspiring place on Earth, but I took Chloe straight to my kitchen -- which is very inspiring! I didn't want her fretting about calories and working-out during her stay, so I told her to leave her trainers at the airport, as there would be no power-walking, sit-ups or spinning classes while she was with me. The only time I raise a sweat is when my oven's on and I'm baking a batch of delicious fairy cakes (you'll know them as cupcakes!)
Without giving too much of my story away, I am trying desperately to win a contract to bake cakes so I can leave my job as a TV producer (where I suffer daily at the hands of my nasty boss MJ). One of the contracts I'm working towards is the opening party for 'Strictly Come Dancing,' which you will know as 'Dancing with the Stars.' Like the US version, ours is a prime time treat of celebrities, glitz, music and dancing -- and there have been celebrity love affairs, scandals and sporting injuries along the way (you see, too much activity can damage a person -- proof).
Anyway, I'd invited Chloe to share some baking time and make two hundred chilli chocolate cha cha cakes for the 'Strictly Come Dancing' bid. I knew she'd appreciate the work that goes into my cakes and as she's into fashion I showed her some of my design sketches.
These cupcakes are sweet yet with a little sizzle, just like the dance. The paper cases are metallic red to suggest a hot scarlet dress and there's a hint of spicy chilli for some rather hot Latin dancing.
After a cup of coffee and a chat (I thought I had a complicated love life until Chloe told me about hers!) we began baking... with a little Latin influence in honour of the cha cha.
"Now," I said through cake crumbs (I was 'testing'); "Chloe, cream that cake batter, and start by letting your hips sway very slowly... feel that music pulse through your body and let those Latin rhythms take you as we cha cha round the kitchen."
Chloe really embraced this and and at one point was so enthusiastic, I had to move my porcelain balking bowl as she shimmied past the kitchen table a little too close and too fast!
While the cakes baked, I made hot coffee and opened my cake tin for Chloe to sample my latest 'Violent Violet Punk Rock Fairies.' These bright purple cupcakes with a Mohican top were recently created for a 70's theme night and I'm very proud of my recipe collection (to be found in Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes).
Once the cha chas were out of the oven and filling the room with warm, spicy chocolate aromas, we dressed them. I showed Chloe how to swirl warm, chocolate fondant on top of each one, (while gyrating -- of course) then we had great fun throwing on red sparkles and bling from a great height. Of course, the most vital part of baking is the testing -- and I am relentless in my cake research. So we both took several big chocolate chilli bites and danced the night away... who needs the gym when you can bake, bake, bake?
So, do I get that cake contract? Can I escape my hellish boss? Will I save my marriage and convince my daughter it's ok to wear pink? And can I stop my mother dating on Ebay?
It's all in the book 'Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes,' a story of love, loss, friendship and cake.
Here's a short excerpt if you'd like another little bite of fairy cakes...
After a tough time, Stella's best friend Lizzie has taken her on holiday to relax... to Ibiza, where everyone is 21 and 'relaxing' is not on the menu...
"The brochure described our resort as 'famous for its old town, cobbled streets, tasty local sausage and fine linen'," I called through to Lizzie.
She laughed. "Sweetie, it is a bit younger than I thought but on the plus side, it's just full of young men. Babes, it's Cougar Town out there!"
I drank my tea in silence. So, Lizzie had already discovered what the brochure referred to as 'tasty local sausage' and it was only the first night.
When we woke the following morning to the distant-yet-insistent beat of 'Veejay Bobbi' I stood on the steaming, concrete balcony and surveyed the scene. It was incredibly warm already and not yet ten. By the pool, a few late-night revellers had abandoned themselves to the sun-loungers and were sleeping off last night's orgasms on the beach and long hard screws against the wall (and no, I don't mean the cocktails).
As I sipped yet more comforting hot tea I heard Lizzie singing and rummaging around in the room. She was so used to travelling with work, she never bothered to unpack and by the end of the week her suitcase would look like an explosion in a dress shop, but as she pointed out, "a designer dress shop, darling." Anyway, from the already-detonated suitcase Lizzie had extracted a really stylish lime-green tankini which she was now sporting on the balcony with a matching silk sarong and a golden layer of 'Fake Bake'.
"Lizzie, you look gorgeous," I said, almost as green as her outfit with best-friend envy.
"I have a turquoise set too," she said. "You can borrow it if you like. It would go great with your blonde hair."
I looked at Lizzie's full, curvy shape, chin-length auburn bob and (despite years of Merlot and Marlboros) perfect skin, and smiled; she was so kind.
"I couldn't possibly look as lovely as you, Lizzie. I'd never get those lycra shorts over my bum. I'll stick to my big black upholstered costume, thanks."
Lizzie put down her cup and saucer and grabbed my wrist, gently but firmly dragging me inside the room.
"Madam," she said in a mock-stern voice. "You are looking good -- there's nothing better than a bit of marital trouble to make those pounds melt away."
She plucked the turquoise beach set from her exploded case and handed it to me. "Just try it on..."
Can you really make a a living from indulging in your dreams?
TV Producer Stella Weston is over worked, overweight and under fire. Having battled uphill for years to balance her career with family life, she is repaid by being put out to pasture on a religious gardening programme -- complete with a nervous vicar, his nymphomaniac wife, and 22 stone Britney wannabe gardener, Gerald.
In the past, comfort has always been found at the bottom of her mixing bowl, but when even the most delicious lemon sponge with zesty frosting cannot save the day, Stella decides enough is enough.
However, finding the courage to quit is sometimes the easy part. Can you really turn a passion into a profession? Does more time at home actually give you a happier family life? Are men truly from Mars or another universe altogether?
Stella has to roll up her sleeves and find out -- when the going gets tough, the tough get baking...
You can find Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes on Amazon US and Amazon UK.