Working in the charity sector and with a penchant for caffeine and cake, I’m a huge fan of campaigns like Macmillan’s Coffee Morning and, with a rare morning off, I’m nipping to a friend’s house for a quick slice now. I’ve already sent my eldest off to school with last night’s baking balancing precariously in his hands, with minimal expectations that it will survive the train ride and bus journey to school, let alone the 11 year old’s stomach rumblings.
Back to coffee mornings. I don’t do it often, but I love the idea. We live in such a big, but insular world and it’s oh so very British to get together over a cuppa and a slice of cake, so what’s not to love about taking a few minutes out with friends and contributing to a good cause. Still, even simple cake-making can bring its own plastic-free challenges.
Flour and eggs are easy enough – owing to a good hoard from our new rescue hens (thank you to the wonderful British Hen Welfare Trust) – but baking powder and bicarbonate of soda can be tricky. I have mixed success with sugar and generally anything that makes the cakes a bit more interesting. (With the possible exception of courgettes, which my children have strictly banned me from including in baking.)
What frustrates me the most is that the healthier I try and bake, the more challenging it often is to source the ingredients without any plastic wrapping.
Take sugar, for example. The refined white stuff – shiny, sweet and generally pretty tasteless – is readily available in paper bags. But the treacly brown sugar – so much better for us (as far as sugar stakes go) – is almost always packaged in plastic.
While chocolate can be bought in foil and paper packaging relatively easily, I like to add berries or seeds for a healthier shot of sweetness and texture too. But both can be difficult to source without a plastic film wrapper, often non-recyclable too. So I find myself dolling out large quantities of chocolate brownies, rather than the raspberry muffins I favoured before.
So, how to get around it all! If you’re lucky enough to live near a plastic-free shop or refill counter, that’s probably your best bet. Otherwise, I’ve been stocking up at the Plastic Free Pantry for a whole host of baking goodies
As it happens, my youngest has found many of the said goodies, gobbled up the cranberries, dried apricots and banana chips, so I’m back to plain old vanilla cupcakes for today’s cake sale at school, with grated chocolate on the top to cover up my sloppy icing skills.
Whether they’ll survive my son’s train journey in is another matter entirely!