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Raising funds for Alzheimer's charity will be a piece of cake

 

Campaign support: Dorothy McLoughlin has vascular dementia
Campaign support: Dorothy McLoughlin has vascular dementia
Helping hands: Mary Best (centre) who has dementia, with her daughter Fiona Fee and David Moore
All smiles: Evelyn McClurg at home in Belfast

By Judith Cole

As an increasing number of people face a diagnosis of dementia, the Alzheimer's Society has designated today as Cupcake Day in a bid to increase awareness. Judith Cole talks to three women with dementia about how it affects their lives.

‘You need to be positive and know that life isn’t over with a diagnosis’

Dorothy McLoughlin (74) lives in Portadown. She says:

I think that the Alzheimer's Society's Cupcake Day is a great idea. We need to raise awareness of dementia as people just don't understand it. Everyone should be educated about dementia - what it is and how it affects people.

Before I was diagnosed with vascular dementia (in 2014) my family had noticed changes in me and I knew myself that something was wrong. But when I was diagnosed, it was a shock for my whole family. They didn't know anything about dementia and now I just want to help others and I want to help people understand what it is. You need to be positive and you need to know that life isn't over with a diagnosis of dementia.

Cupcake Day is very interesting to me. When I was younger we didn't have cupcakes like there are today, we just called them all buns. Cream buns were the closest thing I suppose.

I worked in Irwin's bakery in Portadown after I left school at 14. In the morning the first job was mixing gravy up for the gravy rings.

I started at about 6am so that everything was ready for the bread men to collect. My husband was a baker, but my job was to decorate everything - the iced fingers, the coconut fingers, the cream buns.

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I decorated wedding cakes and piped royal icing on to them. Recently, my niece had a birthday and my daughter-in-law ordered a cake for it, and then decorated it herself. She bought the decorations on the internet for £5 because she asked how much it would be to get it decorated and one place told her it would be £90 just for the decorating. I'd have made a fortune if I'd been able to charge that!

At home, I used to bake chocolate cakes. Now, I sometimes bake at the day centre we go to. It's a great place because you do things to keep your mind active and you use your creative talents. They had us making pancakes there - I hadn't made them in years. They were lovely and we had them with syrup and gave one to all the staff and the volunteers.

Some days I do a wee cup of tea for people in the day centre. And sometimes we bake - there would be four of us around a table and one person will measure and one person will stir. We do it all together so we all get a turn.

One of the biggest things I've found with dementia is the frustration, like when I lose something I just don't understand how I don't know where it is.

Also, every year I would go out on a day trip to Newtownards with a group, and I would always go to the same bookshop. But last time I went I couldn't find my way, even though I know Newtownards well. I was with a lady who was 90 and she didn't know where we were going and in the end we just sat on a wall. We were there for hours, because we didn't know where we were or where to go. There was an ice-cream place opposite, so we went and got an ice-cream - fortunately it was a nice day and we sat there until it was time to get the bus and they found us. It was very frightening, I couldn't go back there now.

And sometimes people don't understand that you don't recognise them. They say 'oh but you speak to me all the time', but I don't know who they are and they get offended.

What helps? Time - if people would just give you time, and understanding. And I would say that my faith and the support of the Alzheimer's Society have got me through. I really love their Side by Side service, in which a volunteer comes and visits, and we go places together. It's the best thing ever.

I want to raise awareness now and to help people understand that you can still live a good life."

'Some days are better than others ... it's just my short-term memory isn't great'

Mary Best (68) lives in Belfast. She has two children and four grandchildren. She says:

I love baking - nothing too fancy, but my grandchildren love my coffee cake. I taught myself through trial and error after I got married.

I used to make buns and cakes for the children when they were small, and I made my own bread. The children loved my baking - I used to make 24 little buns in one go, then I'd look around and they'd be gone!

I made butterfly cakes - you cut the top off, add a little bit of jam and cream, and then you put the little wings on top. I also did my own version of Christmas cake, which was lighter than the usual recipe, and I made a lot of boiled cakes.

My granddaughter, who's 12 now, is interested in baking - she enjoys watching me.

I really hope that people get to learn more about dementia and the Alzheimer's Society through Cupcake Day. I was diagnosed with dementia two years ago. I was always a good speller but I noticed that I was asking my (late) husband Henry and my daughter how to spell something that I should have known myself.

And now when I'm baking I have to have my daughter with me as I sometimes forget what I put in and what I haven't.

Another thing that I noticed was, when I was driving, if I made a wrong turn I would get agitated - whereas I wouldn't have before. I then gave up driving as it wasn't worth it.

When I was diagnosed with Alzheimer's I couldn't tell you how I felt - I was finally able to know what it was and to have the tools to fight it.

It was a relief. Before I didn't know what it was, I began to think I was losing my mind and I was so relieved to have it confirmed that I wasn't. Some days are better than others - it's just my short-term memory that isn't great.

If I remember something I have to get it out straight away, otherwise it will go.

At the moment I'm not too bad, I can manage ok. And I've got a lot of great support from the Alzheimer's Society.

I go to a day centre three times a week and you get your dinner there. And there's a lady who comes and visits every fortnight.

She's a volunteer through the Alzheimer's Society - they run an amazing service called Side by Side which helps people like me continue to lead active lives.

They match people up with volunteers who have similar interests or outlook on life.

So my volunteer, Margaret, and I meet up and we go out together, do things together and she's brilliant and she's a great friend to me."

Anyone can host a Cupcake Day in aid of the Alzheimer's Society today or any day this month. For more information visit https://cupcakeday.alzheimers.org.uk. If you are interested in volunteering for Side by Side, email volunteers@alzheimers.org.uk or call 0300 222 5706. Anyone with concerns about dementia can call the Alzheimer's Society free National Dementia Helpline on 0300 222 1122 or visit alzheimers.org.uk for information on dementia and services throughout Northern Ireland

'Their Side by Side service is simply wonderful and has been a great help'

Evelyn McClurg (90) lives in Belfast. She has three daughters, seven grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren. She says:

Cupcake Day is a marvellous way to support the Alzheimer's Society and raise funds and awareness. I love baking - we were taught it at school and I've done quite a lot throughout my life.

After I was married to my husband, Frank, I always made a mince steak pie on a Friday and an apple tart.

And I lined wee tins with the remainder of my pastry, put in a drop of jam, and then I did the sponge and put that in, and if I was lucky enough to have icing sugar I'd make a wee drop of icing and put that on top.

I also made a lemon meringue pie - my favourite! I don't think we had fresh lemons but the egg yolks went into the filling and then I used the white to make the meringue.

Frank, my husband, used to park the car at the side of the house and then come into the kitchen and he'd say 'Oh Evelyn' - just the smell and the heat because with the oven on the kitchen was warmer than the rest of the house.

When I got married I had a two-tier cake but it was only the bottom tier that was cake.

All the icing was in turquoise because I had a turquoise wedding dress and my sister had a mauve dress.

Everybody was getting married in a blue dress with their bridesmaids in pink but I wanted something different so I went for turquoise and primrose.

Frank didn't have a morning suit and he wasn't going to hire one so he wore a dark grey suit with a white shirt. We went to that beautiful island in the sun, the Isle of Man, for our honeymoon and it rained every day.

When we were there the TT was on and that was the sport Frank loved - he loved motorbike racing.

My husband ate more sweets than I did.

His favourite was caramel. I liked chocolate, especially Fry's cream.

Frank always bought me sweets, even right up until he died (in 2014). And he loved ice-cream.

We would have had a carton of ice-cream in the freezer and if I'd had no time to make a pudding, that and a bit of fruit did very well.

There were no sweets about when I was a child, as there was rationing on.

I remember going down the road one day to do a message and there were American soldiers parked in tents at the back of the City Hospital.

The sentry was there and he called me over and said 'Put out your hand'. He gave me a sweet, a caramel, and I said 'Oh thank you'. When I went home I told my mum an American soldier gave me the sweet and she said 'Did you say thank you?' We were able to cut the sweet into pieces and I shared it with my younger sister.

My Aunt Lily lived just across the road and she had a wee shop in her house and you could go in and buy a penny worth of sweets - you'd get dolly mixtures or chocolate drops for that. She'd wrap the sweets in newspaper pokes.

Kids would come in with one penny and they'd take ages deciding what to spend their penny on.

I hope that Cupcake Day really does raise awareness of the great work the Alzheimer's Society does.

I avail of its Side by Side service which is simply wonderful and has been a great help to me since I was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2012."

LEMON MERINGUE CUPCAKES

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

125g unsalted butter, softened

250g caster sugar

grated zest of 1 lemon

2 eggs, beaten

150g self-raising flour

2 tbsp milk

3-4 tbsp lemon curd

2 egg whites

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C fan, Gas mark 4. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases.

Place the butter, 150g of the sugar and lemon zest in a bowl and cream together until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs, flour and milk and mix to a smooth batter.

Spoon the batter into the paper cases and bake for 20-22 minutes, until springy to the touch. Leave to cool on a cooling rack.

Using a teaspoon, spoon out a hole about 1 cm deep in the middle of each cupcake. Spoon 1 tsp of the lemon curd into each hole.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff then gradually whisk in the remaining sugar, a little at a time, until you have thick glossy meringue.

Spoon the meringue onto the top of each cake, adding spikes with a fork or the back of the spoon.

Cook the meringue either with a chef’s blowtorch or under a hot grill — keep an eye as they can burn very quickly!

SERVES 12

MARBLED CUPCAKES

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

300g unsalted butter, softened

150g caster sugar

175g self-raising flour

3 eggs, beaten

3 tablespoons milk

3 tbsp cocoa powder

250g icing sugar, sifted

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C fan, Gas mark 4. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases.

Place 150g of the butter and the sugar in a mixing bowl and cream together with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy.

Gradually add the eggs a little at a time, adding a little flour each time if the mixture starts to curdle.

Sift in the remaining flour and mix in with 2 tbsp of the milk. Divide the mixture into two bowls and add the remaining milk and 2 tbsp of the cocoa powder to one of the bowls and mix well.

Using a teaspoon, take small dollops of each mixture alternately and spoon them into the muffin cases. Using a skewer or kebab stick, make a cross a couple of times in each cupcake, this will give the marbling effect when the cake is broken into.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, when the cakes feel springy to the touch.

Leave to cool on a cooling rack. Meanwhile, to make the icing, mix the remaining butter with the icing sugar, until thick and creamy. Divide into two bowls, adding the remaining milk and cocoa powder to one of them. Spoon the two icings into two separate small icing bags, then place both of the small icing bags into a large icing bag with a star nozzle, ensuring that the ends of the small icing bags are together in the nozzle.

Ice the cakes in a circular motion, giving a two-tone effect of both icings coming out together.

SERVES 12

CHERRY BAKEWELL CUPCAKES

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

150g unsalted butter, softened

150g caster sugar

100g self-raising flour

2 eggs, beaten

60g ground almonds

2 tbsp milk

3-4 tbsp raspberry jam

250g icing sugar, sifted

3 tbsp lemon juice

6 glace cherries, halved

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C fan, Gas mark 4. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases.

Place the butter and sugar into a bowl and cream together until light and fluffy.

Add the flour, eggs, ground almonds and milk and mix together until you have a smooth batter.

Spoon into the paper cases and bake for 20-22 minutes, until springy to the touch. Leave to cool on a cooling rack.

Using a teaspoon, spoon a hole approx 1 cm deep in the centre of each cupcake. Spoon 1 tsp of the raspberry jam into each cupcake.

Mix together the icing sugar and lemon juice then spoon over each cupcake.

Top with a half of glace cherry in the middle and leave for approx one hour to set.

SERVES 12

TRIFLE CUPCAKES

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

100g unsalted butter

150g caster sugar

150g self-raising flour

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

3 tbsp milk

3 tbsp seedless strawberry or raspberry jelly

3 tbsp ready-made custard

200ml double cream

4 strawberries, cut into wedges

Sprinkles for decorating

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C fan, Gas mark 4. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with 12 paper or silicone cases.

In a bowl, cream together the butter and caster sugar, until light and fluffy. Add the flour, eggs, vanilla and milk and mix well until you have a smooth batter.

Spoon the batter into the cupcake cases and bake for 20-22 minutes, until springy to the touch. Leave to cool on a rack and then remove from the cupcake cases.

Using a teaspoon, cut out the middle of each cupcake, leaving the base intact. Fill each hole with a teaspoon of jam and then custard.

Whisk the double cream until stiff and spoon into a piping bag with a star nozzle.

Pipe the cream onto the cakes and top each one with a piece of strawberry and sprinkles.

SERVES 12

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