Qu’ils mangent du gâteau (Partie 2)

Yesterday it was my birthday. I don’t usually have a birthday cake – the last one I had was ten years ago, and the one before that was probably as a child – but I wanted one this year. And, since I can’t bake, I decided to have one made for me.

You’d think this would be easy and that, in these difficult times, bakers would be more than happy for my business, non? Well … NON. One of the three local bakers whom I approached replied promptly and told me that she no longer made bespoke cakes (fair enough), another promised to contact me with costs but then didn’t despite me politely following up, and the third just didn’t reply at all. I messaged her on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, she read both messages (ah yes, the magic of modern technology and read receipts) but still didn’t reply.

Merci à Dieu, then, for Cat Daddy. He has never baked, nor has he decorated a cake, in his life. But, when he saw my predicament, he stepped in to be my dashing knight. And this magnificent masterpiece was the result of his efforts:

Saint Jésus et tous ses anges.

It may be 70% sugar and 30% food colouring, but it’s the best thing in the world. Bravo to Cat Daddy for stepping out of his comfort zone to save the day, and to my sister and nieces for making the fondant features. The cake tasted as good as it looked, and the only costs to us were the ingredients, the constant questions and Unrepeatable Expletives as Cat Daddy prepared it, and black tongues for several days.

Louis Catorze had plenty of attention over the weekend and is now recovering on his papa’s lap after all the over-stimulation. After all, he needs to conserve some mischief for the rest of the month.

Don’t overdo it! There’s still almost half of the party month left to go.
Take it easy, little sod.

Qu’ils mangent du gâteau

Earlier this year I treated myself to a Discovery Plus subscription, with the intention of taking advantage of the cheap trial period and then cancelling before the £4.99 per month kicked in. However, after just a week or two I was hopelessly addicted, and now I have lost all intention of cancelling. In fact, I’d happily keep the subscription even if it cost £499 per month.

One of my new favourite shows is Hallowe’en Wars, which is essentially The Great British Bake-Off except American and Hallowe’eny. I rarely bake because I don’t enjoy it, and most of the things I bake turn out awful but, dammit, I will happily judge an experienced artisan confiseur’s sugar work and remark that it looks wonky.

However, a warning to my fellow Brits: Bake-Off it ain’t. On Hallowe’en Wars, they randomly stop the teams mid-task to announce that there’s a surprise twist. Contestants are snarky and gobby towards the judges. There is in-fighting between team members, resulting in individuals storming off in a huff, never to be seen again, and eventually being replaced by members of previously-eliminated teams. And at no point do the presenters let the losers down gently and Britishly by saying, “And, sadly, I have the horrible job of announcing who will be going home this week.” Instead, they just turn to the eliminatees and say, “You’re done”. It’s brutal.

In one of the earlier episodes of series 1, the challenge was to create a scary animal-themed cake. I couldn’t have thought of a better premise than a cat who came back from the dead to eat its owner. And, naturellement, such a cat couldn’t possibly look any other way than this:

Saint Jésus.

I know. It’s like a flash-forward into the future, when Louis Catorze is denied entry into hell for being too creepy and decides to come back to lay his vengeance upon me.

I don’t usually eat cake but I want this one. And I bet you do, too.

Morceaux cassés d’une chose

Most pet owners will admit that they look after their animals better than they look after themselves, and I am no exception. When I visited the doctor recently about my recurrent headaches*, the consultation went something like this:

Doctor: “For how long have you been getting these headaches?”

Me: “I don’t know.”

Her: “How often do you get them?”

Me: “I don’t know.”

Her: “How long does each one last?”

Me: “I don’t know.”

Her: “When was the most recent one?”

Me: “I don’t know.”

[Silence, tumbleweed, crickets]

*Mum, if you are reading this, don’t worry. Everything is fine.

Now, had these been Louis Catorze’s headaches and not mine, I would have immediately been able to say that the he’d had them every 3.4 days for the last three weeks, that they lasted 22 minutes on average and that the last one started two days ago at 8:43am.

Last week, once again I demonstrated the extent to which we put our little sods first. After stuffing my face with salted caramel cheesecake, I decided that I wanted more cheesecake. However, when I opened the fridge, the cheesecake dish slid out and fell onto the floor.

Scientists may well tell us that matter cannot both implode and explode at once – or, if it did, the two would cancel each other out – but clearly they have never dropped a dish of cheesecake on the kitchen floor. Because I was a couple of glasses of Crémant under, both my clean-up efforts and my judgement were pretty shambolic; after a perfunctory sweep with the dustpan and brush, I tried to salvage a couple of spoonfuls of cheesecake from the mess and only stopped when I realised I was crunching on glass**.

**Mum, if you are reading this, don’t worry. Everything is fine.

Cat Daddy, a few minutes later: “Did you clean up all the glass from the floor?”

Me, aware that I probably hadn’t: “Yeah.”

Him: “Are you sure?”

Me, pouring myself some more Crémant: “Uh-huh.”

Him: “I really hope so. We can’t have HIM hurting his little paws.”


Before Cat Daddy could even draw breath I was scouring the floor for fragments of glass, looking at the same spots multiple times from different angles to see if I could catch them glinting. I picked up every single piece by hand, threw them away, then did another sweep with the dustpan and brush AND a further sober sweep the next morning. We have broken glass countless times in this house and Catorze has never come a cropper, but HIS LITTLE PAWS.

Lessons learned have been as follows:

1. The universe has ways of letting me know that one helping of cheesecake is enough.

2. I would – and did – crawl over broken glass for Catorze. And doesn’t he look appreciative?

Smug little sod and his weird tail.

La récolte

Yesterday was the hottest day of the year so far, with Heathrow (6 miles away) hitting 37.8 degrees. Louis Catorze dealt with this by, erm, escaping out to the south-facing, waterless Front when Cat Daddy returned from the food bank. When I retrieved him two hours later, he had leaves stuck to his fur and was screaming his guts out. Then, when the sun passed to The Back, he went there to sunbathe when the temperature reached its peak.

In other, better news, it’s the festival of Lammas today, which is traditionally a celebration of the grain harvest, bread and baking. So how wonderful it is that we have recently discovered wheat – yes, ACTUAL WHEAT – randomly growing in our garden at The Back.

Unfortunately we only have five stalks which are barely enough to yield a teaspoonful of flour, not that I have the slightest idea of how to turn it from grains into flour. Plus I don’t even really like baking and am spectacularly bad at it. But free food is free food, non? So I intend to treat our wheat stalks with love in the hope that they will multiply, but we will need to take into account the Catorze risk factor. He has never shown much interest in that particular part of The Back before but, now that I want him to stay away from it, we all know what he’ll do, don’t we?

This is what we have (x 5).
This is what we want to end up with.
This is what Catorze will see when he looks at it.

We know absolutely nothing about cultivating wheat, so are very much open to advice. And, should you know – and be willing to share – the secret of keeping a cat who always does the opposite of what you want, from doing the one thing that you don’t want him to do, we would be very grateful indeed. (We’ve spent 6 years trying to figure that one out, with zero success.)

If you fancy entering into the Lammas spirit but your baking is anything like mine, you might like to check out the link below from Cocoa the babysit cat’s mamma. I highly recommend her Hen Corner courses and, should you attend an in-person course (with safe distancing and hygiene measures in place), you will actually get to meet Cocoa and Chanel!


Plus sucré que le sucre

With the grotesque sugar glutton-fest upon us (Easter, I mean, not The Great British Bake-Off), I thought it apt to mention that the sweetener xylitol is making an appearance in more and more foods. And, whilst it can be good for humans, it’s fatal to animals.

Now, dogs aren’t the most discerning diners, as I have found out from living next door to Oscar the dog. So, as a dog owner, one automatically adopts the practice of not leaving food lying around. With cats, it’s a little trickier. They’re not naturally drawn to foods containing xylitol but, because Louis Catorze, in particular, is a fastidious groomer, and because I use the raw powdered xylitol on a daily basis, I watch every stray granule.

A few weeks ago I spilled some xylitol on my head. (Long story, and so stupid that you wouldn’t believe me even if I told you.) Without thinking, I ruffled my hair to brush out all the bits and sent a fine mist of xylitol all over our mutual friend, who was on my lap. Oh. Mon. Dieu.

Cat Daddy wasn’t home at the time (hence why Catorze was on my lap) so I plunged into a complete blind panic. Should I put Le Roi under the shower? What if the heat and the water somehow melted the grains into a sweet paste which glued itself to his fur? Should I brush it all out? What if I didn’t get all the bits out? How would I know the difference between the grains of xylitol and the absolutely identical grains of unknown crud in which Catorze is often covered after rolling around outside? Should I taste them to find out? (Eurgh. What was I thinking? The panic was making me lose my mind. And, in any case, once the suspect granule was off his body, it no longer mattered what it was. NO TASTING.)

As you know, Sa Maj does not like being brushed, so it was no surprise to discover that he also doesn’t like being pinned down by my knee and having bits picked off him. But it was worth the lateness to work, the bleeding eardrums and the psychological trauma to know that my boy didn’t have a single grain of anything potentially toxic about his person by the time I had finished.

So all is now well with the world: Catorze survived me sprinkling his body with fatally toxic grains and I managed to make his body a xylitol-free zone without resorting to picking bits off his fur and eating them. I also wrote to the plastic-free company from whom I bought the product to tell them to put a clearer warning on their packaging in case others spilled it when decanting (although I didn’t tell them that I spilled it on my head) and didn’t know the dangers. And they replied within minutes and said that they would.

Below is a picture of Sa Maj’s fur after the unfortunate incident. Xylitol, outdoor crud or gross skin flakes? Luckily I picked off every last bit so that we wouldn’t have to find out. 

*Obviously if your pet has consumed xylitol, or even if you think they may have done so but you aren’t sure, get them to a vet très rapidement.