IT’S MY 21ST BIRTHDAY TOMORROW but first, after a small hiatus to write 6000 words worth of essay and start to plan my dissertation (I got as far as looking up the submission date and thinking ‘nah, I have time’ before going back to watching When Harry Met Sally), I’m back with the promised post on our travels to Norway for possibly one of the coolest holidays I’ve ever been on. Rather than give you a run down of our daily activities (which was actually very little, unless you count playing – and winning – numerous card games and making our way through the huge record collection of our first Airbnb host), I thought I’d condense it by giving a rundown of things we found out whilst adventuring.
- Norway is expensive. Not like London prices. A pint for a fiver would have been a steal in Norway. No, here, a tube of Pringles cost a fiver. Pringles. A pint? £10, at least. Thank god for duty free (and Guy for giving me a bottle of rum for Christmas, which is now no more).
- I mean it. You literally can’t overestimate just how expensive Norway is. A meal out will cost you a minimum of £90 for two. A 15 minute taxi ride was £70. I’ll stop now, but basically, eat in and buy booze at home.
- Norwegians only bother salting the larger roads, which means that roughly 70% of the walking you do won’t be walking; it’ll be a combination of slipping, falling, pushing yourself along on your bum, holding onto your walking companion in the hopes they’ll drag you to a non-icy patch of road, and standing whilst you judge which patches of ice you think will be the least slippy. The last one is the safest bet, but it’ll take a while to get anywhere.
- Norwegian words are hard to say. Not quite Mandarin or that written Scottish dialect that Irvine Welsh uses, but hard enough that it took 20 minutes on the phone for the taxi company to understand where we wanted picking up from, and another 20 minutes in the car trying to make the taxi driver understand where we were going.
- I can happily go 3 days without pooing when the only place to poo is a shed with a bucket. It did have a toilet seat and a light though, so I’m not complaining. But I’m still not pooing there.
- It’s cliché, but fresh water straight from a Fjord is genuinely the best tasting water ever. I’m considering writing to Devon County Council asking them to consider investing in a Fjord in Exeter, because it was nice having tea that actually tasted like tea (even if that tea was the most expensive tea I’ve ever bought).
- Also cliché, but probably the best thing about our trip was the chance to do nothing for a few days. Not in a boring watching-repeats-of-Jeremy-Kyle way, just in a super chilled out, post-Christmas, basically-cutting-ourselves-off-from-civilisation way. No need to fight through seas of tourists to see must-see cultural landmarks (Trondheim isn’t exactly well known for its cultural richness), no pressure to post artsy shots of us posing candidly in front of famous artworks in galleries or museums, no need for us even to get properly dressed for the day. We didn’t even eat like Norwegians (mainly because it’s too bloody expensive) – we made eggs and bacon, we went on long walks/skids/falls in the snow, we came back and played games with what little light was given off by the glow of the fire and the (literal) thousands of tealights we had to keep relighting every few hours. Proper hygge.
So that’s Norway, as we experienced it. No Northern Lights, no husky rides or anything, (though I’m not denying that would have been cool). Just a tiny cabin, a foot of snow, a pack of cards, and a propane gas heater which became our favourite thing in the world. And a fuck load of money on taxi rides and Pringles.
But. Back to my birthday. It’s my birthday tomorrow. My 21st birthday tomorrow. That’s all I actually have to say on the matter because it hasn’t happened yet and I can’t comment on any new feeling of maturity or wisdom or aching joints, but it’s tomorrow, and I’m excited. It’s sad to admit it, but I insisted this year on making my own cake, purely so I could make this beauty.
3 types of ginger, 3 layers of sponge, 2 types of buttercream, all the types of happiness. It’s actually a really easy recipe to follow and even if you, for some bizarre reason, don’t possess a cook’s blowtorch or a piping bag, you could definitely serve the cake without the Swiss meringue buttercream and call it a naked cake. Do it while Winter is still here, it’s the most cosy tasting cake ever.
Triple layer ginger cake with Swiss meringue buttercream adapted from this BBC Good Food ginger cake
For the cake:
100g dark muscavado sugar
100g black treacle
140g golden syrup
225g plain flour
1 tsp bicarb of soda
3 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
125g whole milk
3 large egg yolks, beaten (always make eggs room temp!)
For the ginger buttercream:
140g butter, room temperature
200g icing sugar
4 piece of stem ginger preserved in the syrup, chopped finely
2 tbsp of the syrup from the stem ginger
For the Swiss meringue buttercream:
3 large egg whites
175g golden caster sugar
- Preheat the oven to 140 degrees fan. Grease and line a 22 x 7 cm loaf tin (it looks relatively small). The best way to line the tin to prevent any creasing on the cake is to cut a strip of greaseproof paper the width of the bottom of the loaf tin, long enough for two flaps to fold over the ends of the tin.
- Melt the butter, muscavado sugar, black treacle and golden syrup in a saucepan until melted, and leave to cool for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, combine the flour, bicarb, ginger, cinnamon and a pinch of salt in a large bowl, before adding the warm mixture, the milk and the eggs. Once a smooth batter, pour into the baking tin and bake on the bottom shelf for an hour, until a skewer comes out clean. Leave in the tin for 10 minutes, before turning out onto a cooling wrack to cool completely.
- To make the first buttercream, cream together the butter, icing sugar (sieved), ginger syrup and stem ginger until smooth. Set aside while you make the other buttercream.
- For the other buttercream, put the caster sugar, egg whites and a tbsp water into a heatproof bowl and set over simmering water. Whisk with an electric whisk for about 5 minutes, until relatively stiff. Take off the heat and continue whisking for another 3 minutes until really stiff.
- To assemble the cake, carefully cut the cake into three layers, and sandwich the cakes together using the first buttercream. Take half the meringue buttercream and spoon into a piping bag. With the leftover meringue buttercream, use a small palette knife or butter knife to ice the cake all over, before using the tip of the knife to create long lines along the sides of the cake. Pipe little spikes all over the top of the cake, and use a cook’s blowtorch to lightly torch the cake all over. Decorate with crystallised ginger, edible gold leaf and a candle, cus it’s my birthday.