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Public Freaking... and some chocolate biscuit cake




Sophie White

Sophie White



Public speaking has never been my strong suit. People are usually pretty surprised at how terrible I am at speaking in public, as, in conversation, I am confident and chatty.

In private conversation, I don't struggle to maintain eye contact or mumble incomprehensibly, as I tend to do in public. Also, when speaking publicly, my knees shake and my voice quivers.

Oddly, I am actually more comfortable singing in public than I am speaking in public. As most children of Irish families know, one must always have a party piece and no excuses.

This is perhaps why, when one of the Bitchherd charged me with making a speech at her wedding, she requested that my contribution be a musical one. This request was a tricky one. On the one hand, I wanted to serve her wishes as she was the bride. On the other hand, however, I didn't want to be the dick who delivers her pitch-perfect rendition of Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend and completely upstages the bride on her wedding day - it's not my fault; I'm just really good at party pieces.

My version of DAAGBF actually has some pretty awesome accompanying choreography - a routine devised by my cousin back in 1989 - and I've seen no reason to amend the moves in any way. It's possible my four-year-old self may have been better at pulling off said moves and looking adorable while doing so, while my 30-year-old self comes across as desperate and delusional. However, when it comes to party pieces, my ego usually wins, and I go full Diana - as in Ross.

I can usually convince myself that the grimaces that are visible among the audience members are grimaces of awe and adulation. Which, let's face it, they probably are.

You see, some small part of me is still incredibly shocked that I never made it as a musical-theatre performer, despite making absolutely no efforts to pursue this dream. When I turned 24, it was accompanied by deep astonishment and disappointment that I wasn't a pop star. I also realised it was unlikely to happen as, at 24, I was at least 60 in pop-star years.

So, I was conflicted about the speech. Sing my song and eclipse the bride, or face my third-biggest fear - public speaking? Incidentally, biggest fears one and two are, respectively, dying a violent death and not dying at all, a la Death Becomes Her.

I found a compromise.

I am now going to impart my completely failure-proof method for giving speeches. No need to thank me. I am aware that this column will never contribute much to humanity beyond the ultimate recipe for chocolate biscuit cake - so this piece of instruction may be the best I can ever hope to offer the reader: if you are ever charged with making a speech, regardless of the occasion or environment, always, always, always conclude your speech by instigating a sing-song.

The feel-good factor is totally irresistible to people. After the speech is over, they will be unable to recall any of the details of what you said. All they will remember is that warm, "brotherhood of man" feeling one has in the aftermath of a really great sing-song.

Ultimate Chocolate Biscuit Cake

Serves 12-16.

You will need:

150g (5oz) milk chocolate

100g (3½oz) dark chocolate

125g (4oz) butter

75g (3oz) golden syrup

150g (5oz) digestive biscuits

2 Crunchie bars

100g (3½oz) mini marshmallows

50g (2oz) white chocolate

Fill a small saucepan with water, bring it to the boil over a high heat, then reduce the heat and allow the water to simmer. Put the milk chocolate and the dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl, place the bowl over the saucepan and gently melt the chocolate.

When the chocolate is almost completely melted, add the butter and the golden syrup and stir to melt them and combine everything fully. Remove the saucepan from the heat.

Place the digestive biscuits in a freezer bag and gently bash them up with a rolling pin. Similarly, using the rolling pin, bash the Crunchies inside their packets. Don't bash them up too much, as you don't want to turn them into dust.

Add the crushed biscuits and crushed Crunchies to the melted chocolate, golden syrup and butter mixture in the bowl, along with the mini marshmallows, and stir together to incorporate fully. Line a 20cm (8in) round springform tin with baking parchment. Spoon the biscuit-cake mixture from the bowl into the tin, spreading it evenly and carefully pressing it in to flatten the surface.

Allow the cake to fully set. Then melt the white chocolate and drizzle it in thin lines over the top of the cake. Allow the white chocolate to set and then cut the cake into 16 thin slices.

Sunday Indo Life Magazine