Chocolate-Vanilla hidden tractor cake | On Kenyan time…


“I will be there in five minutes”

Ten minutes later we phone again…

“I am here now”

I look around bemused, are we in the wrong place? We have arranged to pick up a patient we’d seen in the clinic earlier in the week,  we want to follow up on how he was doing. I’m in a bit of a rush as I’ve got a load of things that need finishing this afternoon and Madeleine is waiting for me at home.

I ask one of our team to call again and check where he is.

“Just coming down the road,…” he tells us.

We decide to intercept him on his journey to speed things up. It has already been nearly an hour from when we were due to meet. I pull in to the petrol station on the corner of the road where I’m given a translation of Kenyan timing.

Five minutes = some time today

I am here now = I’m thinking about setting off shortly

Just coming down the road = my journey has started

Eventually the gentleman arrives and skips in to the back of the van, happy as Larry, not a mention of being over an hour late. It transpires that just before starting his journey, he was closing up the shop and a friend popped in for a cup of tea. Rather than saying he was already late for a meeting, he put some water and milk on gas and prepared a cup of tea to enjoy with his friend. When he eventually started the journey he bumped in to two old friends whom he spent time chatting to.

The irony is, although no one ever seems in a rush, as soon as a motorised vehicle is involved it becomes a life-risking race to get to a destination as quickly as possible, only to arrive and chill out for hours on end…

There are some traits that are hard to adapt to. Having had punctuality drummed in to us from birth (myself more than Madeleine – she is very Kenyan in this respect and was 45 minutes late for our own wedding), constantly checking the time and sacrificing being polite to be on time makes it hard to understand when others are less bothered about keeping to time.

Then again, what is more important? Spending time with a friend or being on time? Maybe it us who have our priorities mixed up.

p.s. Madeleine says she was only half an hour late and it wasn’t her fault….

Recipe – Chocolate-Vanilla hidden tractor cake

I asked Lucas what Cake I should make, he replied, “one with a tractor hiding in it” – So I did…well I have attempted to!


For the  chocolate cake: (adapted from Delia Smith’s Choc Beer Cake)

50g cocoa powder

200 ml milk

110 g very soft butter

275 g dark soft brown sugar

2 large eggs, beaten

175 g plain flour

¼ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

For the icing: See tractor in the mud cake

For the Vanilla Cake (I used a Victoria Sandwich Recipe adapted from the River Cottage Handbook No 8): 

Unsalted butter, softened, plus a little more for greasing
4 eggs
Golden caster sugar
Self-raising flour, sieved with a pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
A little milk, if necessary

For the chocolate cake:

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4, 180°C

First of all, cream the butter and sugar together, beating thoroughly for 3 or 4 minutes until pale and fluffy.

Now gradually beat in the eggs, a little at a time, beating well between each addition. Next, sift the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda

Then weigh the cocoa and put it in a separate bowl, gradually stirring the milk into it. Now carefully and lightly fold into the egg mixture small quantities of the sifted flour alternately with the cocoa-milk liquid.

Then, when both have been added, divide the cake mixture equally between the 2 tins and level it out. Bake the sponges in the centre of the oven for 30-35 minutes. The cakes should be flat on top and feel springy and will have shrunk slightly from the side of the tin. Leave them to cool in the tins for 5 minutes before turning out on to a wire rack to cool further, carefully stripping off the base papers.

Craft a tractor shape by using a cardboard cut out stencil and carve the cake to the required tractor shape.

To make the icing, beat the icing sugar and butter together until blended, then gradually add the stout, making sure it is thoroughly mixed in after each addition. Now melt the chocolate in a bowl set over hot water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Then, when it’s melted, remove the bowl from the water, and carefully fold the chocolate into the icing mixture.

For the Vanilla Cake:

Keep the oven to 180°C. Lightly grease two 20cm sandwich cake tins with butter, and line the bases of each with baking parchment.

Weigh the eggs in their shells and weigh out the same amount of butter, sugar and flour. In a bowl, beat the butter until creamy, then beat in the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, adding a tablespoon of sifted flour if the mix looks as if it’s going to curdle. Beat in the vanilla extract, then gently but thoroughly fold in the flour. Now check the consistency of the batter. Scoop up a tablespoon of the mixture and hold it over the bowl. If it drops down fairly easily, it’s just right. If it sticks stubbornly in the spoon, fold a tablespoon or two of milk into the mixture.

Place the mixture into 20cm square tin and gently smooth the tops with a knife. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for a couple of minutes, then turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely.

Once cool  cut the 20cm cake in half and use each half for sandwiching the tractor, use the tractor stencil to cut the reverse (top and bottom halves) of the vanilla cake which the chocolate tractor will sit between. Place the butter icing around the chocolate cake and sandwich within the vanilla. Finally coat all the surfaces in the chocolate icing  and voila…

It is very important not to waste any ingredients…


Picasso Jr at large again…


Today’s clinic – a cinema showing films and live football for 30 pence




The vision chart reflected in the lens of a patient examined on the slit lamp

acuity chart in lens on slit lamp

4 thoughts on “Chocolate-Vanilla hidden tractor cake | On Kenyan time…

  1. well done Madeleine! the cake is amazing! Your photo with Lucas is stunning too! Andrew – love the photo with the e-chart reflection! You should submit that somewhere for a photo prize!!
    Keep up the good work over there! Step by step, and yes, it does take time, but that is okay too!! Sometimes hurrying around brings you no further and certainly not happier! well done!

  2. Fantastic cake! Loving the blog as always and Mads, you were between 30 and 45 minutes late, Dan was over an hour late for ours so you have nothing to worry about! x

  3. ah, could it be hereditary? Your Mum was also very late for hers so none of us were at all surprised or fazed to see history repeating….

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