The Good Guest

Is it OK to bake even if you fail? Is it the thought that counts? I seem to have more failures than successes when it comes to baking cakes. Friday was no exception!

I’m going away for a week and despite his promises I know my husband won’t eat any of the vegetables in the pantry. I started the morning googling cauliflower cake and thought better of it (with the way the rest of the bake went this was the best decision I made). So I dug out my mother’s carrot cake recipe and whilst grating carrots ( I lie – I actually blitz them in the mini blender) I had a courgette epiphany! Keep it simple?

My husband and I are going to stay with some friends in Cambridge this weekend and as a newly domesticated goddess I thought it’s only appropriate to bake a cake to take. Coming from a big Arab family I can’t visit anyone empty handed.. in the same way no one can leave my house without a token or some Tupperware filled with food.

So it’s all planned. A carrot cake for my husband and a courgette loaf for Cambridge.

I obviously forgot that my mums recipes aim to serve an army and ended up with 2 carrot cakes. They were looking so good. Until I broke the number one rule of baking.. I opened the oven half way through the bake!! Now I have two sad and sunken carrot cakes. How do you come back from that? I tried cranking up the heat. Didn’t help. I turned them upside down when I took them out? Nope gravity doesn’t help. Mother says I opened the oven at a critical point in the cooking and I must be more patient in future. She was also mortified I put two cakes in the oven at once!

The courgette loaf was much more promising. I found a fairly simple recipe online. When I’m using a new recipe I always make a few muffins from some of the mixture so I can try it. They took about 30 minutes to bake and looked great! Even the loaf rose well in the oven (no sunken middle!) and after an hour had a lovely golden top but the skewer was still wet on testing. Given how wet courgettes are I gave it an extra 15 minutes in the oven. But the skewer still came out wet after an hour and 15! So I turned the oven off and left it in to dry out. This didn’t work. Oven back on, loaf back in! I’m writing this whilst it continues to cook. I already know what the end to this misadventure will be..


Suspicious looking courgette and walnut loaf

Some problems I encountered and how I overcame them (or didn’t):

  • Sunken middles 

I don’t think you can come back from this but you can prevent it. If the mixture is a bit wet add some flour. Be patient and have faith in your recipe. Do not open the oven until the end!

  • Cooking takes too long

Cook one cake at a time. The mixture can sit for a while. If you put too much in the oven it takes more to keep the temperature. Like microwave instructions always say – if cooking more than one it will take longer.

  • Its brown on the outside and raw in the middle

Turn the heat down and leave the cake in for longer. You can protect the top of the cake with some grease-proof paper to stop it burning. Again, be patient

  • I hate cakes

I think in the future I will stick to muffins

  • I hate vegetables

For now I think I will avoid baking with vegetables.

So moral of the story? Always question mums recipes. Never put vegetables in cake. What makes a good house guest? A bottle of gin and a bouquet of flowers…

Scroll down for the mother’s carrot cake recipe ( keep the oven closed and it’s actually quite delicious!).

Carrot Cake


  • 4 eggs
  • 1.5 cups vegetable oil
  • 1.5 tablespoons lemons
  • 2 cups carrots – grated
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2.5 cups sugar
  • 3.5 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup crushed walnuts
  • 1 cup fruit eg. raisins


  1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees
  2. Mix the dry ingredients with the carrots
  3. Mix the wet
  4. Add the wet to the dry and mix well.
  5.  Stir through the walnuts and raisins
  6. Pour into lined cake tin and bake for an hour or until skewer comes out clean
  7. Do NOT open the oven before!

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