Posted by: Joan Spiller | July 4, 2011

Christmas Disaster!

Everyone has had at least one of ‘those’ incidents in the kitchen. Where you poured gravy over ice cream thinking it was choc sauce or where you used sugar instead of salt..

Mine involved a bottle of lavender essence and the family Xmas cake. Throw in a very pissy Mother and you have my recipe for Christmas past-disaster!

See here’s how it panned out for me all those years ago ..  

Once a year my Mum – who was not an adventurous (or even very good) cook – would embark on making the family Xmas cakes. I say cakes cos these babies she excelled at and she had to make several to cater to us all.

They were dense, moist .. positively groaning with fruit that had been soaked in ginger ale for goodness knows how long.

No one knows what else she did to these babies – but they are the nicest Xmas cake I’ve ever ever had in my life. And yes I’ve tried to replicate it .. without success. Cow.

All I know is that whatever night Mum decided to make the fruit cakes was a night to not be home cos she got hot, bothered and stressed – in equal amounts. Cooking multiple fruit cakes on low but constant heat in sunny Hawke’s Bay in mid Summer – most uncool. Literally.

But after she was done with them: oh baby – let me eat cake!

The lavender cake incident became a family ‘story’ to be pulled out at least once a year. It involved her benevolently smiling as the told the story and me muttering darkly about what a rough childhood I had, whilst smiling on the outside.

It was ROUGH I tell you! Sheesh..

So there Mum – busy mixing the cakes til she issued an instruction: “Go to the car and get the almond essence” .. she’d been shopping and had obviously left the essence out in the car.

I duly did as I was told – going out to the car and grabbing the 1 bottle of essence I found in the front seat of the car.. Mum does her usual careful measuring thing “glug glug glug” in goes 2/3 of the bottle ..

She thanked me and carried on mixing. The scent hadn’t reached her nostrils at that stage, clearly!

Turns out she’d not just bought almond essence, she’d also bought lavender essense or oil. And in her drive home the almond essence had rolled off the seat and onto the floor of the car so when I got there, all I found was one bottle of “essence” as per her instruction. 

About 2 hours after the cakes were in the oven we were all standing there going “mm!..?” ..closely followed by: “Hmm?” Cos it just wasn’t right ..

Mum eventually figured it out and fixed me with a beady stare. You know the kind. A cross between “I love you but gee I want to kill you” and “You ruined my cake you evil child, you’re gonna die” ..

Not a good look, when you’re 11yrs old.

I headed for the hills and came home when the cakes were cooked a few hours later.

The vile stench of lavender permeated the house for days afterwards. The cakes (she stored one for years and would haul it out each year to assess if it’d “calmed down” any .. it never did) were inedible.

Is it any wonder that to this day, I loathe lavender with a passion!?



  1. Are you sure it wasn’t on purpose retaliating for the honey shampoo she gave your hair?


    • hahaha I wish I had thought to say that to her James but then I’d not be around to tell the tale, methinks *grin* That experience tested our friendship for quite some time 😉


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