Posts Tagged ‘Blitzen’

Bundt cake part 2

December 24, 2012

A soddy cake: my mother’s name for a cake that hadn’t cooked properly – most of hers were soddy.  She said the word with a kind of rueful pleasure – Schadenfreude. I suppose, except it was her own dismay that triggered it.  Selbstshadenfreude, therefore?  There are reasons for a soddy cake: perhaps people stamped or trod heavily while it was cooking; perhaps there had been an angry voice.  Anger was known to ruin the rising of cakes.  So we crept around the kitchen, trying to be nice to one another.  Still the cakes fell.  Sometimes it was the oven’s fault (and by extension, the landlord’s fault – another in the catalogue chalked up against him) – the door didn’t fit, or she looked inside too soon (no glass doors in those days).  They were always packet cake mixes – Mum loved (and loves) innovations.   

It may be a very old word: in early modern English ‘sodden’ or ‘sothen’ means ‘boiled’ (the present tense is ‘seethe’).  Meat might be ‘roast or sod’ in the sixteenth century.[1]  Of course Mum was having a sneaky little giggle because a ‘sod’ was a term of abuse for anyone you felt was behaving meanly, but also a sodomite, and so an obscenity in the intolerant world of the fifties.  A child could detect the giggly sneer and the rudeness, even without knowing the derivation.  She loved to get away with things – and a fallen cake allowed her to get away with using the word and the smutty reference in front of children.


You’ve guessed by now that the lovely Bundt cake was almost totally uncooked inside.  The outside a lovely golden brown, it slipped eagerly out of the tin.  I put it on my mother-in-law’s glamorous blue-and-white Victorian cake plate, dusted it with icing sugar, and it was a gorgeous sight to behold, its peaks dominating the table of party food.  Until I cut into it: Alas! a solid, greyish-gluggy, inedible interior.  A truly soddy cake.  That damn oven! 


In that wakeful moment in the small hours I remembered how I had mixed it.  I adore that word ‘blitz’ that Nigella uses, but it is ambiguous.  How long do you blitz for?  And I thought about those meanings: ‘Blitzen’, the reindeer paired with Donner, is of course ‘lightning’ – a short sharp shock – yoked with her mate, the thunder.  (Are the reindeer gendered?  I suppose Vixen is – but the others?)  In comparison, I had blitzed that cake mixture to hell and back.  Somewhere in the depths of my mind I recalled a recipe book’s advice: “Do not overbeat the eggs.”  But in what context?  Anyway, I can tell you that overbeating the eggy mixture, followed by putting the cake into too hot an oven, in an overgreased tin, then turning the oven down too far, to compensate for the initial error – – – well, that’s a recipe for disaster!!

Just a dream of perfection: an image found online

Just a dream of perfection: an image found online

[1]Andrew Boorde’s Compendyous Regyment or Dyetary of Health of 1542, “Potage is made of the lyquor in which fleshe is soden [boiled] in , with puttyng-to chopped herbes and otemel and salt”.


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