As a child, my life was chaotic. Our little house in Winchester housed a printing press in the front room which clanked and groaned as my mother wiped the sweat from her brow and churned out another fresh batch of anarchist literature. She passed the barely dry posters to youths lounging unwashed on the sparse and uncomfortable furniture and they in turn papered the genteel town as it slept unawares.
They were fun, those bodies that littered the floor like sleeping caterpillars, dreds spilling from the mouths of their army surplus sleeping bags (was it just me that saw the irony?). We sniffed the garlic spray they used to confuse hunting dogs and ruin the fun of countless horse-backed toffs. CND paraphernalia and peaceful protest were our playthings, huge black flags and banners to wave or roll up inside, badges and stickers which we adorned our bright red front door with until the very surface underneath could not be seen beneath the weight of dissent. One afternoon we returned from school to find an enormous bamboo and tissue paper skull in the front garden, drying quietly in the sun. We took it all in our stride, as children do.
In our downstairs bathroom the walls were almost completely covered in casual graffiti, it was just something to read and do whilst answering the call of nature I suppose? My friends were allowed to write whatever they wanted on my bedroom wall and so they crowded in, headlight stricken rabbits before a blank canvas and wrote their own name and maybe a smiley face or two. I always preferred paper myself.
In the midst of this colourful muddle there was the cinema. Sure, we had a little black and white television, but it didn't hold my attention for long. What I loved about the cinema was the chance to lose myself in make believe, to enter a world where the colours were supercharged, the music heart-breakingly sweet and the stories all had a happy ending.
I wasn't unhappy, or longing for normality, because for me this unpredictable existence was everything I knew. But I bathed in those movies and soaked up the wonder in total suspension of disbelief, loving every minute of fantasy.
As an adult, I find myself drawn back to those early Disney films when I need a little comforting balm. Sitting with Finley nestled in the crook of my arm and a sparkling animation playing across the screen, I can leave everything for a couple of hours and drink up the make believe like a cup of hot cocoa.
This month's theme for Go Ahead Honey It's Gluten Free from Katrina of Gluten Free Gidget was to create a dish from a Disney film. When she came up with the theme, I knew instantly what I wanted to make - the Eat Me cake from Alice In Wonderland. I already knew the story when I went to see it, as it was highly encouraged reading - being subversive and full of strange imagery, it fit my mum's reading bill of fare to a tee. It's not one of Disney's greatest films, but I distinctly remember being fascinated by drinks that could shrink you and cakes that might make you grow. A quick ponder about the letters (the currants used in the original, Fin can't eat) and I saw that they were literally staring me in the face - on the door of the fridge!
I had some tiny foil cupcake wrappers just waiting for a light rose scented cake (very aptly Victorian I thought) and it was the work of moments to mix and fill them. Once baked and cooled, I put the tiny cakes on a pretty plate and pressed a Disney coloured letter on top of each one, enjoying the silliness of mismatched sizes and the fanciness of piped icing. Then I set them down in a sunny spot, stood back to admire my handiwork a moment and caught my breath. Just as I remembered that magic feeling for a moment and longed to immerse myself completely in a world where cake had special powers, animals spoke in rhymes and every perfect sun filled, blue skied day, an orchestra played heart melting tunes and women with crystal clear voices sang soothingly in all the right places.
For the child in all of us, I give you these tiny almond and honey cakes, scented with rosewater, two bites each, best eaten with a small cup of tea and a good movie.
Eat Me Alice Cakes (makes 18 mini cakes or 5 muffin sized ones)
1 large free range egg (weighing 3oz) separated
3 1/2 oz ground almonds (almond flour)
5-6 tsp runny honey
2 tbs rose water (or yogurt and lemon juice)
1/2 tsp vinegar or lemon juice
pinch sea salt
Preheat the oven to 160C and fill a tray with mini cupcake cases (for muffins set oven to 150C) - fan assisted temperatures.
Mix egg yolk, honey, rose water and then stir in ground almonds.
Beat egg white, salt and vinegar to stiffish peaks and then fold into almond mix until just combined - aiming to keep as much air as possible in the mixture.
Spoon into the waiting cases almost level with the top, as the mix will not rise much and will fall a little on cooling.
Bake mini cakes for 15-18 minutes until golden brown and firmish to touch - they won't firm up properly until cool. Muffins will take 25-27 mins at 150C. Leave in the tins for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge to loosen any bits that have stuck around the edge and ease out of the tins. Cool completely on a rack.
Rose Butter Icing
If you made any of my rose honey, this is perfect for a rose butter icing.
1 1/2 oz soft butter
3-4 tsp honey
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2-3 tsp rosewater
This is easiest made with a hand held mixer as the quantity is so small - or you could double the quantity and save for another time.
Beat butter and honey until pale and fluffy. Add vanilla and beat again. Add rosewater a teaspoon at a time beating well in between each addition and beat until soft, pale and fluffy. Taste for sweetness and add a little more honey if you feel it needs it, or maybe a little more vanilla?
Pipe little rosettes onto each cake and press a letter on top of each - you could write 'eat me', or maybe somebody's name, or even 'happy birthday!'
To check out the round up at the end of the month just visit Katrina at Gluten Free Gidget.