We're not quite at the precise anniversary yet, but around this time last year I had my heart broken. It was the kind of betrayal that leaves you whimpering through snotty, high-pitched sobs almost indecipherable to human ears. I thought I'd never get over it. You always think you'll never get over it. But you always do. Even if at the time if feels as though the sun may never shine again. It may leave a scar, you may never forgive and you probably won't forget, but you move on to better things and to much better people.
Sharing heartbreak publicly always treads a fine line between simply wearing your heart on your sleeve and excessive over-sharing. Even in the depths of despair I always think it's wise to grab that moment of clarity where you question whether your tweets or Facebook updates include too much information. If you have to ask the question, they probably do. So I made a conscious decision to keep my heartache fairly quiet or cryptic online. There's nothing worse than making people feel awkward in your company.
But more than just trying to be polite, I was so sad that I felt unable to cook. I lost all interest in most creative things. I believe I mentioned this at the time, but I discovered that sadness totally stunts my creativity. I know there are some who find that wallowing in melancholy inspires them, but not me.
I was alone in the house and felt a sudden and intense urge to bake. Inspired by a Lorraine Pascale recipe in the Observer Food Monthly, that I adapted to fit my own Victoria sponge baking preferences, I baked a lemon Victoria sandwich. It emerged from the oven more perfectly formed than any cake I have ever baked. For the first time in more weeks than I care to remember, I felt a flicker of my old self again. Cheesy as it sounds, that cake was a like big pink sticking plaster over the enormous chasm in the middle of my chest.
I've baked this cake several times since that first attempt, adapting it each time until it became truly mine. Every time I made it, I was reminded of how I originally stumbled across it. Every time that started with a brief sigh filled with bad memories, before culminating in a joyous face full of fluffy, zingy cake and a comfortingly predictable reminder that all bad experiences ultimately improve.
Last weekend I decided to make it again to mark the end of a strange and, at times, very painful year. To make it extra special, I made the lemon and lime curd that's sandwiched between the two cakes myself, rather that buy it ready made. I was shocked at how simple it was.
I found a recipe on the BBC food pages, adapting it to include limes and to make less than the original recipe stated.
To make just one jar I used these quantities instead:
2 whole eggs + 1 yolk
zest and juice of 1 large lemon
zest and juice of 2 large limes
The first cake I baked was a disaster. It's never gone wrong before. It tasted fine but, for some odd reason, it didn't rise. I baked almost like a biscuit. If this cake was going to mark end of something, I had to be good, so I started all over again. The second time it was beautiful.
The decoration came about more as a case of serendipity than design, but I'll always try to make that crack down the middle happen. When life gives you lemons, make some curd. Least sexy advice ever!