Somethings just don’t quite go to plan…. Banana Tart Tatin and Chocolate Mango Surprise Cake

No! The cake is leaking! Molten brown sugar is spilling from one carefully crafted banana tart tatin to the one below. This is not good and Andrew looks at me like I’m a crazy lady as I report the disaster that is happening in front of me. Here I was thinking I’d make the team a treat for another hard day of training, instead it is early morning and I’ve left making the banana tart tatin until now, the training session is this afternoon. I thought it would be a great thing to make, simple ingredients, locally sourced and available, however I had totally over looked that making caramel with the brown granulated sugar here is different to using white caster sugar.  I also thought that using a flan dish with a removable bottom would be ok…(well maybe with good caramel!) so we had a rather big leak. Then there is the ongoing problem of markedly different temperatures on different shelves in the oven! I was left with something resembling a pudding and maybe a tart tatin that could be cut into pieces and eaten with a napkin! The team loved them but I felt a bit embarrassed serving them but felt it was important to share my flops as much as the successful bakes, I like to be real!

I wake hearing the sound of sloshing water and cloths, Lucas is still asleep, I daren’t move, any extra minutes of sleep are a bonus.  I am counting in my head in rhythm to the sound of sloshing water the number of times he has woken in the night and Im sure its 8.  My eyes are stinging, they have been all night, a second shower at 3am only mildly took the edge off.  Andrew emerges to find our poor guests Bernice and Eric, from South Sudan and Ghana, mopping up the contents of the toilet… everything… it has overflowed, we had the plumbers in before they arrived who had assured us it was working.  Did you know it is world toilet day on 19th November? Seems very apt after our toilet disaster. Bernice’s eyes are also stinging, it turns out handling new impregnated mosquito nets then rubbing your eyes is not that dissimilar to chopping chillies then giving your corneas a good rub! I don’t think they’ll be coming back in a hurry to B&B Jamii.

I am cooking for our guests, I decide to make our family chocolate cake inspired by the arrival of “Tim Tams” (the Ozzie version of Penguins but better) that Bernice has kindly brought us. I notice an unwanted visitor in the kitchen, a cockroach, I chase it around till I finally trap it and gently make sure it doesn’t visit again…   Distracted I miss the oven is overheating, I think it is not actually an oven but a random temperature generator. I hurriedly pull the cake out to find the middle burnt and sunken, a cake disaster! Andrew doesn’t seem to see the magnitude of yet another cake breakdown and flippantly says I should just cut the middle out! I tell him in the politest terms possible that it is a ridiculous idea and the cake is ruined. He’s convinced it’ll be fine with a gaping hole in the middle! Then I start thinking maybe he is on to something, I cut out the middle of the cake, take the burt bit away, crumble up the good stuff, it still tastes good. I then mix the crumbled centre with chopped mango, (Bernice loves mango) and put it all back in filling the hole.  A chocolate icing cover and the ‘mess’ is hidden.

“Chocolate mango suprise cake” is surprisingly good and goes to show that disasters can be turned in to success.

The Falty Towers events continue, I have a pile of clean washing and a wriggling Lucas in my arms and head for the door to hang the washing on the roof, the inside lock is completly jammed, we are stuck in the house! Andrew is in the office (just a couple of minutes away) and comes to try unlock it from the ouside but is unable. Lucas and I settle for a day indoors.  Our landlords appreciate that although the flat looks great it is poor quality and the finishing appears to have beed done as a race to get out. They very kindly drive from two hours in Eldoret to arrange a new toilet and a plumber to fit it, send another guy to sort the lock and once he is in he has the job of trying to fix the hot water in the guest shower. With people in and out we take a break once they have left and go for a walk, on the way out we find the outer door key is missing.  This a potential security risk so our landlords kindly buy us a good padlock, whilst walking I am thinking why were they keys separated, I don’t like to assume they have gone into the wrong hands, and I think it is just as likely a bit of carelessness. Thankfully  later we find the key on the guest shower window ledge!  Shortly after, just as dinner is served we have yet another power cut, a long one, another dinner by phone light. We decide to leave the washing up until we can see and snuggle up together on the chair to watch the last half an hour of Ice Age and take an early night!

We wake this morning very refreshed, and finally my eyes have stopped stinging! A run followed by a coffee, things are looking up!! I turn on the tap, no water… Oh well a good excuse not to do the washing up!  We go out for lunch instead!

Andrew:  I’m on the phone to DHL East Africa yet again who assure me the Slit Lamp (the rather expensive and essential piece of equipment I need to examine the study patients on) has not been lost in Uganda and this was misinformation. Apparently it is in Nairobi airport but nobody there seems to be able to place it. My plan of commencing village 1 of 100 this week looks to be an unlikely event. Oh well, I have a mountain of things to work through and I can’t magic up a new one so will have to use my energies elsewhere. Madeleine is having a fight with the oven which appears to be the cause of a cake accident. I make some suggestions which are not well received so go back to being on hold with DHL.

The study team have gelled really well and are seemingly happy. My phone rings, it seems one of the team are unhappy about something, an issue we had already discussed on several occasions and apparently sorted out. We meet in the hospital to discuss it again. I am rapidly learning that face to face frank discussions are not the way things work here but through intermediaries who share information at a later date when the individual with the concern is not available. We have accepted that cultural differences, missing deliveries, oven disasters, leaking toilets, power cuts, water cuts and self locking doors are all part of the rich fabric of living in Africa, things like this will happen and it is all part of the learning experience, one so far that we are really enjoying.

Recipes: Banana Tart Tatin and Chocolate Mango Surprise Cake

For the banana tart tatin I used Sarah Jane’s recipes from the Great British Bake-off.  In addition to the problems described earlier I just placed the rough puff pastry in the freeze to chill more quickly as I was struggling with time, probably another not great bit to do with hind site  However the bits of rough puff pastry that were cooked well, worked and were nice and crunchy and yummy! Let me know how you guys do with this one and I will try and improve my efforts at a later date!

Chocolate Mango Surprise Cake

This chocolate cake recipe is a McCutcheon (my family name) favourite as a child we would always have this cake for our birthday’s, it’s so yummy and easy to make, tastes really chocolatey whilst just using cocoa powder and the icing is so simple but very effective and gives you the same chocolate hit as nice dark chocolate!



110g soft butter

275g dark sugar

175g plain flour

2 large eggs

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 ts bicarbonate of soda

200ml milk (or guinness..very yummy!)

50g cocoa powder


1 chopped Mango

Icing: (sorry these measurements are not metric..its just how i’ve always made it!)

1oz of butter

2 tbsp water

1 tbsp caster sugar

5oz icing sugar

10z cocoa


1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and line a 20-22cm ish cake tin with baking parchment

2. Beat the soft butter and sugar until light and fluffy then gradually add in the egg (if you add a room temperature egg it is less likely to curdle.

3. Sieve the flour and raising agents together in one bowl, in another small jug mix together the cocoa and milk until you have a smooth chocolatey paste, at first it will probably go all lumpy but just keep mixing in the milk in small quantities.  Gradually fold in the flour and chocolate paste into the butter, sugar and egg.

4. Scrape the cake mixture into the tin, gently wiggle until all level or smooth over then place in the oven for about 45 minutes, depending on your oven, keep an eye on it in case you experience cake disaster, like I did!

5. Don’t make your icing until your cake is out the oven on a wire tray and cooled as it will set.  When the cake is cool cut a circle of cake out the middle and scoop out, crumble this up and mix with chopped mango, the place back in the hole and squash down until level with ring of cake.  When you are ready to make the icing add the butter, sugar and water to a small pan on low heat, stir until all dissolved, then add in all the icing sugar and cocoa and stir quickly until all combined and you have a smooth chocolate icing.

6. Pour the icing onto the cake starting in the middle and in circles moving outwards gradually pour the icing out, if you need to use a spoon to smooth it out make sure it is wet or you will loose the icing shine.

7. Eat when icing set and keep in the fridge due to the fresh mango, yummy!

6 thoughts on “Somethings just don’t quite go to plan…. Banana Tart Tatin and Chocolate Mango Surprise Cake

  1. Mad, it sounds like all of your bad luck has come at once! Hopefully it’s come in bulk so that now you can have some good luck for a while (you certainly deserve it!). If it’s any consolation, John’s apple pie leaked all over the bottom of our oven today and he then managed to melt the sponge onto the oven whilst trying to clear it up – genius!
    Loving all of the photos you’re including; I can’t believe how much Lucas is growing up. Tell him that Jessica tells him to let his Mummy and Daddy get some more sleep. Make sure you give yourself some time out during the day if you’ve had a bad night (i.e. horizontal time out, not running time out 🙂 ).
    Love and hugs to you all xxx

  2. Hi Guys, sounds like you’ve had an eventful few days. Welcome to Africa! Our western expectations of time completely changed after a few months in Namibia. Ironically I had a much bigger culture shock coming back about how high everyones expectations are in the UK. I love the African mentality and adaptability. By the way the chocolate mango suprise cake idea was a stroke of genius.

  3. Sounds like a bit of a disaster week…Good that it’s over with! If it makes you feel any better; our car bumper is held on with masking tape (Yep – not even gaffa tape) and nobody seems to be able to understand Pete’s English! But, whatever lah! Never mind lah! It’s all part of the experience lah! Can, can (lah!) xxx

  4. As ever your ability to take things in your stride is incredible….I would have melted into a small crying blob!!! Lucas with finger on lips….the most adorable picture EVER!!!….Keeping fingers crossed that you are now on the good luck streak, I would happily eat the choc mango surprise!!! Big hugs to all, love Kat xx

  5. Pingback: Still waiting… The four plaited loaf | Eye Bake – Kenya

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