I’ve been thinking a lot recently about family recipes and how, despite the multitude of recipes available to us now via the internet, those that we remember from our childhood always hold a special place in our hearts and how important it is to continue the tradition of passing down these recipes from one generation to another. One of my own favourite possessions is an old recipe book that belonged to my grandmother – Margarite Patton’s Cookery in Colour – requisite with its rather garish and unappetizing photos of everything one could ever want to cook (and many things one probably never would! Shrimp and tomato in aspic, anyone?). Not only is this book dear to me for the scribbles and notes belonging to my mom and grandma, but I swear it still contains remnants of flour in the centre creases from their kitchen tables.
My grandma was particularly special to me as she was the only grandparent I ever had, my dad’s parents and my mom’s dad having already passed away before I was born. While I always felt my older sister had more of a bond with her, being the first grandchild, the times we spent together were happy and I always felt safe, loved and very well fed! When I think about my grandma’s recipes, the first thing that comes to mind are little chocolate chip cup cakes (or what the British call ‘fairy cakes’) that she would always bake and we could almost guarantee would be in good supply whenever we would visit. They were certainly nothing fancy, but they were the only place we would ever have them, usually accompanied by a cup of tea while watching Coronation Street on the TV.
When I asked my mom and my sister what recipe came to mind when thinking about her, they both immediately said ‘Victoria Sponge’, a cake which to me always seemed like something the ‘grown ups’ ate. With its plain sponge cake, jam and cream, it simply didn’t seem quite as fun as those chocolate chip ‘fairy’ cakes! But, looking back, I can appreciate now just how skilled a baker she really was – the Victoria Sponge is a very unforgiving cake and in fact, while on the surface it appears simple, is very hard to master and produce a cake that is perfectly risen, moist and airy. So, in honour of my mother’s mom, here is a recipe for Grandma’s Victoria Sponge. Named after Queen Vic herself, and reportedly invented by one of her ladies in waiting, this light, delicate cake demands to be enjoyed with a cup of tea served in your best china, preferably with your own mom and grandma and a good episode of Coronation Street!
8 oz good quality Margarine or butter
8 oz white sugar
4 eggs lightly whisked
8oz self -raising flour
Cream margarine or butter and sugar till light & fluffy, add egg with a tablespoon to prevent curdling and beat thoroughly. Gradually fold in flour and mix thoroughly. Divide between two 7" tins greased and floured. Smooth and level mixture and bake in a moderately hot oven (350F/ 180C) for 25-30 mins. When cool, sandwich together with whipped cream and your choice of jam. Dust top with icing sugar.