Friday, March 21, 2014

The Proper Way to Make a Sponge

When I was a young child my grandmother taught me how to make a victoria sponge the proper old-fashioned way. It was just the basic 4 4 4 2 recipe, but the secret was, apparently, all in the use of the verbs and the utensils. Cream the butter and sugar with a fork, beat in the eggs, fold in the flour with a wooden spoon.

Her sponge cakes were awesome, light, moist and delicious. She would make only a single layer cake - none of the overtly decadent buttercream filling. Then she would spread a thin layer of jam over the top and sprinkle on a generous helping of dessicated coconut. Sometimes, for special occasions, the topping would be plain icing, again with the coconut. 

My other grandma, my nanna, was all about the scones. Best scones I've ever tasted. She always served up something yummy and cakey when we visited. I was a particular fan of battenberg too, but it's the scones I remember. She would ask if I wanted margarine on them or "best butter". I had little idea what the difference was to be honest, but one of them had "best" in the name, so that's what I always went for!

I have never successfully made a scone, but I carried on the sponge cake making into my adulthood, although mine have never been as luscious as I remember my grandma's being, however much I creamed, beat and folded.

Once OB was old enough to stand beside me in the kitchen, I made a conscious decision to learn to bake properly - not just sponges, but scones, pastries and everything else in the book. In fact I asked for Mary Berry's Baking Bible for Christmas and pledged to work through it recipe by recipe - the results of some of my attempts are scattered through this blog (see the tag on the top menu). 

I'm not the most domesticated person in the world, to say the least, but I really wanted OB to have those warm childhood memories that I treasure - standing in the kitchen beside my grandmothers and my mum too, stirring, mixing and, most importantly, licking!

And despite all the recipes that Mary Berry has offered up, that basic 4 4 4 and 2 sponge cake is still my go-to recipe. It's simple, I nearly always have the ingredients in the cupboard and it's so easy to scale up and down, not to mention that it can easily be re-invented as cupcakes, made into a pudding with the addition of jam or syrup, or layered up for a lavish celebration cake. So this is the recipe I have chosen for #WASO's recipe week.

These days I usually take the easy way out and mix the ingredients with an electric mixer using the all-in-one method, but for the sake of nostalgia, here is the recipe as my grandmother taught me:

4oz self raising flour
4oz butter
4oz sugar
2 eggs

Cream together the butter and sugar using a fork until smooth and creamy and then beat in the eggs. Add the sieved flour little by little, folding in with a wooden spoon. Pour the mix into a greased cake tin and bake for 15 minutes at gas mark 4 followed by 20 mins at gas mark 3. 

I have literally no idea what actual temperatures those old gas mark measurements equate to which is probably why my sponges never come out quite as good these days!

2 comments:

  1. That sounds mouth-wateringly delicious :)

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  2. You've made me hungry and keen to get into the kitchen and bake!!! One to try with the kids in the holidays me thinks!!

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