Mountain bikes and cake… what could be better?
I havent been on my mountain bike for over a year. Reason: Rather a lame one... I dont really like mud. And, I always thought I would struggle to finish the Lands End John O Groats ride if I didnt do a lot of training miles. One of my road bike loves, is that I can get home after a long ride, chuck Enid or Hettie into the shed and lock em in, then stagger to the cottage and drink tea and recover. Whereas if I take the mountain bike out, it's to have a proper birthday scrub before I dare chuck The Lobster back into his house with the girls – and I am basically lazy.
So why am I back on board. Why is The Lobster stretching his tyres and covered in mud again?
Couple of things.... Tina entered the End to End cycle challenge, a ride we both completed in 2010, and like child birth, one forgets the pain, the cramps, the desperate FILTH along the muddy route. Tina didn't manage to finish her challenge this year sadly, but not for the want of trying. Having done no cycling what so ever over the summer, Tina dragged out her faithful machine, added a touch of chain oil, dusted off the spider webs and set off... I was very impressed, nothing fazes Tina, her training since the beginning of July was just a wee jaunt around the estate to check her bike was working ok!
Because I didn't enter the event this year, instead I offered to Marshall the event instead, and my task was to help with one of the 'feeding/watering' stations.
The weather for the previous 3 weeks prior to the start of the End to End was horrible... because unlike the lovely Indian Summer that everyone else got, the island only saw gales and torrential rain.... Not impressed! This meant the End to End route was like cycling up a river of deepest mud. Conditions were not good, even though on the day, the weather was better than forecast and the rain held off for once.
Handing out biscuits (energy bars) and water to the riders as they came though sort of triggered a 'I wanna do this too' response.
Tina had to bail at Arrasy plantation. She had stopped enjoying her ride and it looked like she wasn't going to better her previous attempt that she did with me in 2010. Thing is.... We now have a new challenge... Next year, we are going to race one another....
oooh..... I hope she still is speaking to me when I coat her face with mud!
The gauntlet has been well and truly slapped across both cheeks... The challenge has been set, and is ON folks! So in 2012, I intend to give Tina a run for her money, it will be my last year in the same category as her, as I move up to the over 50 club in 2013.
Then a couple of weeks ago while on an Audax ride ... I met up with Caroline. Caroline is our mountain ride leader. She knows the island as if it were the back of her hand, and as it happened, she was starting up with a new beginners Mountain bike group..... Perfect.
I shall never be more than a beginner in mountain bike riding. I can do the hills, and I can do the distance, but I cannot do the technical stuff.... Fine for scenic off road riding, but I am rubbish at jumps and loose rocky surfaces, and dont ask me to cycle up steps or over board walks for that matter. One of the group was emigrating to Canada, to Edmundton in fact. Caroline asked if I could bake a cake in exchange for some nice wine... Well, couldn't refuse, firstly I love the challenge of a cake bake and second I happen to like a drop of Rioja. This was a challenge for a couple of reasons.... The topic was Cows and Bicycles...
Cows, because Caroline leads the Mad Manx Cows ladies team, and Sally who was emigrating was a strong member of this group, and of course it had to include mountain bikes.
Phew... I soon found out how difficult it was to create a cow in moulding icing.
I happen to love baking... It was one reason why I had to diet all those years ago, when baking was part of my weekly ritual. Nothing better than diving into butter and flour to create beautiful things that taste good. I used to show my baking with great success at the agricultural shows in the summer months, and I am always happy to bake a load of goodies for charity events. Of course the recent "Great British Bake Off' has been brilliant and a fantastic inspiration, I have watched the entire series now 3 times on Iplayer!
So... to bake a cake with cows and bicycles.....
The cake part was easy.... I was going to bake a tall cake with bicycles around its edges, and so I made 3 huge tray bakes of marbled celebration sponge – it includes a vanilla syrup poured over each tray bake, this adds a sticky moisture to the cake, sponge doesn't really keep that well, whereas with the syrup added to the cold cake, it greatly increases the cakes moisture. Once the cake was cold, it was frozen as I only had 3 evenings to complete the decoration part of it.
The Wednesday before the cake was needed, I defrosted the sponges and layered them together sandwiched with homemade sieved raspberry jam and butter icing.
Then it was coated with a hearty layer of marzipan to give a foundation for the moulding icing to adhere to. The moulding icing was home made and coloured with green to create a mountain effect on the sides of the cake, wherewas white was left on the top.
OK.... I tried and tried to mould cows out of moulding icing and out of marzipan.... they all looked like pigs! So, I ended up using the same method I did to create bicycles.... I copied an image off the internet of a mountain bike, and of a mountain bike being ridden... I melted chocolate and filled an icing bag with a tiny writing tip. Parchment was placed over the pictures, and I traced out the image in melted chocolate. Placing the efforts in the fridge they all cooled quickly and were able to be lifted off and stuck with butter icing to the cake.
I did the same with a cartoon image of a cow, this time I copied it off the internet, and then traced the image via the parchment and used a mixture of dark and white icing.
I think it worked! Certainly today as it was Sally's final cycle ride, the cake survived its 'car' ride to the tea shop, who looked after it until the end of our ride... It was an emotional morning.
Anyway, I am now sipping Rioja and typing this.... The cake tasted ok, and didn't dry out. Great!
And, after our morning ride, I took myself out and about and did a further 10 miles around the tracks and plantations of where I live...
I have some End to End training to do!