Monday, 30 July 2012

Dear Wendy Cope (1945 - ),

I discovered you from an article in the New Statesman. It was headed with the alluring quote: "I can't die until I've sorted out the filing cabinets." I could relate. As a somewhat obsessive filer, I live in constant fear of dying with a desk full of messy papers. It reaches the point where, if I know I've got a stack of papers left unsorted, I'll look left and right one extra time before crossing the road. Now there are probably more important reasons to want to stay alive, y'know, like love and family and friends and making a contribution to the world. But my fear of stepping in front of a bus comes largely from my desk, and, if I'm wearing daggy underwear that day, from my dread of the mortician's sartorial judgement.

But you, Ms. Cope, had sold your archive to the British Library. Now there's a reason to become a poet. If you're significant enough, you can get some library somewhere to take all your papers off your hands, and to pay you for the privilege!

And this, after a career of Bridget Jones-style witty laments for the men who leave (and take the corkscrew), or who almost buy you flowers, but don't. So let me get this straight, Wendy. You built a career out of sarcastically cocking your eyebrow at the world. You kept this up for a couple of decades, and actually made a living at it. And then a library paid you to sort all your old emails?

You are my hero.

Oh, and you also write clever wordplays about food. For instance, in "The Uncertainty of the Poet", you take the same 10 words, and rearrange them over and over to get multiple meanings:

I am a poet.
I am very fond of bananas. 

I am bananas.
I am very fond of a poet.

I am a poet of bananas.
I am very fond.

A fond poet of 'I am, I am' -

Very bananas.

Fond of 'Am I bananas?
Am I?' - a very poet. 

Bananas of a poet! 
Am I fond? Am I very?

Poet bananas! I am.
I am fond of a 'very.'

I am of very fond bananas.
Am I a poet?

Some meanings are straight-forward. Some are silly. Some are remarkably deep. Some are quotable - often, when I'm writing something that seems poetic, the phrase "I am of very fond bananas" pops into my head, which is apt, because I am fond of my banananess.

OK, Wendy, I think we've established that you deserve something yummy created in your honour. In the spirit of rearranging things, let's take two flavours - banana and salted caramel - and twist them into all sorts of combinations. Banana caramel cake! Sandwiching caramel buttercream and banana slices! With caramel sauce! Done.

We shall call this combination: I am of very fond banoffee.

I Am Of Very Fond Banoffee Whoopie Pies

Makes 16


Cakey domes:
2 very ripe bananas
125g sour cream
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 C brown sugar
1/4 C macadamia oil
2 1/2 C plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
250g caramel chips

2 firm bananas
1 C caster sugar
50g butter
500ml cream
300g mascarpone cheese
50g butter, extra, softened
1C icing sugar
1 tsp salt
Cornflour, to thicken


Preheat the oven to 180C.

Load the overripe bananas and sour cream into a food processor, and blend to combine. Add the eggs and vanilla, and pulse. Add the sugar and oil, and pulse once more. Set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together all the dry ingredients. add the banana mix, and stir minimally until it comes together. Add the caramel chips, and stir until gloopy.

Dollop 1.5tbsp gloops of batter into small mounds on a lined baking tray. You can pipe them out if you want nice perfect circles. Bake for 10 mins or until lightly browned.

Meanwhile, make a caramel sauce. Heat the caster sugar in a heavy-bottomed pan until it starts to bubble and go amber (resist the temptation to stir). Once it's caramelised, add 50g of butter and 1/2 tsp flaky salt, and stir into a liquid toffee. When that's melted together, add the cream in a slow drizzle, and heat until smooth. This stuff gets REALLY hot - the clumsy should wear covered shoes and oven mitts to protect their skin from any spills.

Next, make the buttercream filling. Using a hand mixer, beat together the softened 50g butter, mascarpone cheese, icing sugar, one cup of the caramel sauce, and the remaining 1/2 tsp of flaky salt. Because of the soft cheese, this is likely to be runnier than a traditional buttercream, so add a little cornflour if needed to make it firmer.

When all the cake domes are baked, slice the firm bananas. Brush each cake dome with caramel sauce on its underside (ooh, naughty!). Sandwich the domes together with a few banana slices, some buttercream, and some drizzled caramel sauce. Finish with another drizzle of caramel over top.

WARNING: These are American-level ridiculous desserts. I have a superhuman sugar tolerance and even I could only manage to eat half of one of these. Find someone to share with, or prepare to feel sickly.


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