Monday, February 14, 2011

Romantic relationships, being 33 and cupcakes

Ladies aren't supposed to reveal their ages but - in conclusive proof that I'm definitely not a lady - I'm about to reveal mine. I'm 33 and so too are several of my friends.
What I'm beginning to realise is that 33 seems to be the age at which women of my generation start to feel the pressure. The pressure to settle down with a man they love and start a family.

Today is Valentine's Day and in the past few days, I've had several conversations with my single friends about this. In fact, since the year began, I've had countless conversations about love, the lack of it and what this means for a woman in her thirties.

Some of my single friends are beginning to worry. A few of them are on the brink of panic. And the older they are, the more anxious they are feeling.

It's not just my single friends either. In the past two months, I've consoled friends who have been casually and cruelly jilted. I've congratulated others who have joined dating agencies in a pro-active attempt to meet men who are ready for commitment. I've listened to one friend who is seriously unhappy in her marriage and another who has just finalised her divorce proceedings.

Here's what I've learned from their many different experiences:
1. Men - grr! - have it lucky. Most of them are blissfully oblivious to the ticking of a biological clock and they can sail through their thirties, forties and even fifties without feeling any pressure at all.

2. Love is ridiculously difficult to find.

3. Even if you do find it, you'll soon that the sentiments behind the Beatles' 'All You Need is Love' aren't quite truthful. You need a lot more than that if you want your relationship to succeed: you need commitment, honesty, a willingness to devote time and care to each other and quite a lot of luck.

If you've got someone to love who loves you back, tell them just how lucky you consider yourself to have them (today and every day).

I'm not going to utter any tired clichés to those of you who are single and wish you weren't. What I will say, however, is that people who are confident and happy attract other people. So, take time to focus on yourself. Take part in activities you enjoy: travelling, painting, scuba diving, salsa dancing, astro physics, whatever. Become the person you were meant to be and you will attract all sorts of like-minded people; friends and maybe even potential loves.

In the meantime, here's a cupcake:

And not just any cupcake, a sticky toffee cupcake with salted caramel buttercream from Fiona Cairns' 'Bake & Decorate'.

This recipe makes 12 cupcakes.
Ingredients for the cakes:
180g dates, pitted and chopped
1tsp vanilla extract
180g self-raising flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
80g unsalted butter, softened
150g light muscuvado sugar
2 eggs

Ingredients for the buttercream
125g white caster sugar
80ml double cream
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste; I actually added a little more)
1 tsp vanilla extract

160g unsalted butter, softened
200g icing sugar, sifted

  • Place the chopped dates in a heatproof bowl, pour 180ml of boiling water over the dates and leave to soak for 20 mins.

  • Preheat oven to 180 degress/ 350 degrees F/gas mark 4.

  • Sift the flour and the bicarbonate of soda into a bowl and set aside.

  • Cream together the butter and sugar for 5 mins or until the mix is light and fluffy.

  • Add the eggs gradually, beating between each addition and slipping in 1tbsp of flour about halfway through to prevent curdling.

  • Lastly, fold in the remaining flour and the date mixture, to which you have added the vanilla extract.

  • Spoon into cupcake cases and bake in the oven for 15 to 20 mins (until the tops spring back when pressed with a finger).

  • Leave to cool.

  • While the cakes are cooling, dissolve the sugar and 60ml of water in a small, heavy-based saucepan over a gentle heat.

  • Once dissolved, turn the heat up and boil the syrupy solution.

  • Wait for a few minutes, watching the syrup carefully. As soon as it changes to a caramel colour (like strong tea) and becomes a thicker consistency, remove it from the heat and, standing well back, add the cream. (It may splatter a little and you may think it has gone wrong but it hasn't.)

  • Keep stirring and add the salt and the vanilla.

  • Leave to cool.

  • Cream the butter and the icing sugar for 5 mins or so and then add the caramel.

  • Pipe this icing onto the cupcakes and you've got gooey, sticky, sweet toffee cupcakes with a sophisticated hint of saltiness.

  • Happy Valentine's Day to you all!


    1. I liked your article, it was worth reading. I will suggest your blog to mu friends. Keep doing good work. Cairns hostel

    2. Thanks, Cairns hostel. It's great to get positive feedback from my readers.

    3. Nice blog. I'm 37 and have been with my husband for almost 16 years now and it just boils down to work. Lots of hard work giving and taking. Once you figure out the art of compromise then everything runs a little smoother. Whilst I agree that 'becoming the person you are meant to be' is important for your own well being, people change and evolve all the time. It is kind of like saying 'there is never a good time to have a baby'. Good luck in finding your 'Love' - Keep looking, it is totally totally worth it.

    4. Hi Móna,
      Thanks for your comment.
      16 years is very impressive. Congratulations!
      You're right about people changing and evolving and needing to practice the art of giving and taking while doing so. Love is such a simple - yet complicated - business!