There’s a point at which I can’t believe this is ever going to work. Two tins of what can only be described as brown sludge have been in the oven for the exact time specified in the recipe. I can’t see them actually bubbling and spitting like a volcanic mud-bath, but that’s what it feels like they’re doing. And if there’s one thing I can’t imagine emerging from a putrid hot-rock swamp it’s a coffee and walnut cake.

Turning from Nigel Slater’s ebullient ‘you can do it!’ instructions to Delia Smith’s sterner words doesn’t help. Did I open the oven door too soon to rearrange the tins — trying to ensure both get evenly heated, despite the fact we can’t get them onto one shelf — and bugger up the entire process? Does the fact that these tins are, erm, 22cm and 23cm not 21cm *really* make all that much difference?

Cooking from a recipe is always an exercise in anxiety-management for me. I’m actually quite good at making stuff up, food-wise, once I’ve got a basic idea of what I’m doing. But faced with a carefully-constructed programme, promising me the perfect tasty little something, I become obsessive and — with apologies to CB — unbelievably bad kitchen company. If anyone can advise how to solve this problem without seeing a life coach, you know where to find me!

Anyway, you’ll be pleased to hear — especially if you’re able to pop round for coffee in the next couple of days — that after all the agonies, a convincing-looking cake came to be. And to my great surprise, I must admit, it tasted like the coffee and walnut cakes remembered from years gone by. Not like the scrapings from a geological quagmire.

Pumpkin Publog