I didn’t expect to find myself back in the writing about cake on the internet game but here we are.
We have a monthly team meeting where those of us who want to meet up in the office in person. The team aren’t all based in London and some of us are full time homeworkers, so we’ll always have some people joining remotely.
I’ve been baking a cake and bringing it in for the meeting. A couple of months ago I said that next time I’d send cake in the post to the people who couldn’t be in the office, if they wanted some. You know, to be inclusive.
I don’t think the team believed me.
This month I brought in a lime drizzle cake. Lime drizzle cake is better than lemon drizzle cake. It’s a variation on this recipe except you use the zest of 2 limes in the cake, and the juice of both those limes for the drizzle, and ramp up the drizzle a bit by using 100 grams of sugar instead of 85 so that you get a little bit more of that crystalized sugary goodness.
I offered to post the cake to the team members who were working remote. “Send me your address through Slack” I said. At the end of the day nobody had sent me their address. “Oh well,” I thought. “They reckon I’m doing a bit or something.”
I didn’t want to waste the cake so I offered it up on Twitter. I figured there was enough lime drizzle cake left to send to 5 people. Within 10 minutes I had 5 takers. Twitter knows I’m not doing a bit or something. I got retweeted by Simon from the Big Green Bookshop who has a fairly big following. As a result three of the people who wanted cake were unknown to me, didn’t follow me on Twitter. Still don’t follow me as it happens. But anyway.
Also I agreed to send cake to a sixth person because they missed being the fifth by a whisker. I’m nice like that.
This was on Wednesday. I’d said I would send out the cake by the end of the week.
On Friday 3 people from the team sent me their address through Slack.
So now I was committed to sending 9 pieces of cake. I didn’t have enough cake so I needed to make another one. I did this on Saturday. Also on Saturday I received this direct message from one of the people who don’t follow me on Twitter that I’d promised to send lime drizzle cake in the post to:
What happened to the piece of lemon drizzle cake you promised to send me on Wednesday??
This amused me.
I had worked out what I thought was the best way to ship the cake. I wanted to avoid it being destroyed in the post. I didn’t want any of the 9 cake receivers to open up a packet of delicious crumbs. So, I decided to wrap each slice in baking paper, then put it in one of those shallow plastic takeaway boxes, and then put that in a padded envelope.
I collected the necessary packaging. I thought I’d be able to get the shallow plastic takeaway boxes from a pound shop and lo, I was right. So much good stuff in pound shops.
On Monday I packaged 9 pieces of cake. I underestimated how long it would take. The process included cutting the padded envelopes to size because they were just that little bit too big and I didn’t want the plastic takeaway boxes to slide around inside. Anyway, after an hour and a half or so I had a small pile of robustly packaged and addressed lime drizzle cake.
I went to the post office. It’s about a 10 minute walk. The weather had been nice that day but in that 10 minute walk I was caught in a torrential downpour because hey the universe wanted to remind me that I was doing something silly.
When I got to the post office counter I had a brief ‘Great Escape “good luck”’ moment when the clerk asked me what was in the envelopes and I panicked I was doing something illegal so I wanted to lie but couldn’t think of anything credible so after a beat I said “cake” and he smiled and said “oh how nice!”. Phew. Also thank God I didn’t say “drugs hahaha just kidding”.
Then the clerk told me how much each package would cost to send and I winced, but on the inside. On the outside I smiled and said “yes great thank you”. So the clerk printed the stamps and put them on the padded envelopes and then they were off. Godspeed, cake.
On Tuesday I started getting confirmation that people had received their cake. That felt good.
I had an update from the person who I don’t know who had asked where their cake was on Saturday:
Thank you for the lemon drizzle cake it tasted good x
I didn’t correct them on the citrus ingredient even though they got it wrong twice, because I am all about love.
So yeah, warm glow nice job and all that.
Back in the day (2015–2016) I used to make a great deal of cake for my colleagues. I had a process for gathering feedback and I recorded all the cake data on an open spreadsheet. You know, like a normal person.
One of the main metrics I used was ‘cost per slice’. I would calculate the cost of the cake using ingredients from the Sainsbury’s website divided by their proportions in each recipe. At the end of 2016 the lemon drizzle recipe I use cost £3.16 in total, with a cost per slice of £0.17¹.
Inflation is real. I wonder how much that cake costs today?
Well I worked it out. It costs £3.77. I didn’t realise limes are half the price of lemons. Butter is nearly twice as expensive as it was 7 years ago though. Sugar and eggs are more expensive too. Flour is the same at the moment which surprised me, although I’d expect that to rise given current threats to global wheat production².
To calculate cost per slice let’s include postage and packaging³:
- Padded envelopes — £10
- Shallow plastic takeaway containers — £6
- Postage — £40
That’s a cake total of £59.77 and there were 9 slices, meaning the cost per slice for this lime drizzle cake comes in at £6.64.
Previously my most expensive cake for work was £0.43⁴. I could have made 15 of those for the same price.
Totally worth it though.
What lessons have I learned?
- Wait a couple of days for the team to respond on Slack
- Don’t be afraid in the post office you’re not doing anything illegal
- Limes are much cheaper than lemons
- Second class post is fine
Thanks for reading.
¹ You can find this calculation in cells G and H on row 105 in the spreadsheet.
² War in Ukraine and unprecedented heatwave in South Asia.
³ I never included labour in these calculations before which is why I haven’t accounted for maybe 3 hours of my time, given that I made the cake twice.
⁴ Coffee and walnut cake, 2016–09–03