Cake of Monday: In Search of Grandma’s Sponge


My Grandma on my Dad's side was a champion sponge cake maker. Not a Royal Easter Show-type champion, but a Berry Show regular First. A sponge beloved by all who ate it. And remembered today, for heaven's sake. Is there likely to be anything you make that people will remember thirty years after you're gone? It's a sponge cake I really really really want to find.

I don't remember making the sponge with my Grandma. She wasn't really a cooking-with-kids lady. The cake itself I remember though, it was pale and very very light. Sprinkled with icing sugar, filled with jam.

We don't have Grandma's recipe book here, you know, the hand-written one everyone's Gran had. But I have some of her handwritten recipes in amongst Mum's recipes.


I love the way she always signed things "Grandma" in inverted commas, including books she gave me that I now read to my kids. Like "Grandma" was an identity she wore particularly lightly, being Gladys, always, at heart. She was Geoffry's Gladys particularly. My Grandfather died before I was born, and she always missed him.


This sponge recipe excited me for a second, but you can see it's not Grandma's writing, and not Mum's either. Mum usually attributed recipes when she wrote them in her book.

I got distracted when I found this one, that's Nan's handwriting! I haven't seen that spidery script for years now. Nan would have turned 100 last week. Scones, mmmm. And so I stopped in my investigation and made a batch.

A batch that was inhaled by family and visiting friends so quickly that no photographic evidence of their existence remains. Pity. They were pretty. 

Then I found this. At the bottom of a scone recipe that wasn't Nan's which makes it likely to be Grandma's. Mum's handwriting, and she thinks this might be The Sponge. Oh my goodness the HOT WATER in the recipe. Yes, I remember the hot water! But it uses self-raising flour and my Auntie Narelle has always said that Grandma's recipe was based on cornflour. Still. I also looked up the Gerringong Mayflower Cookbook sponge – it's quite possible they asked Grandma for her recipe, hers was the best known at the time of publishing. It uses self-raising flour too! And hot water! This might be it!


And so I baked the one we think is Grandma's recipe. We gobbled it up over a couple of days. We agreed it was good, although it wasn't pale or incredibly light. It was actually pretty close to this one, previously blogged. 

I rang Auntie Narelle. She said she would remember it by taste and that she was virtually certain Grandma used the recipe from the side of the Fielder's cornflour box, if they still print a sponge recipe there? 

I said I'd find out, make a selection of sponges and bring them over for her to taste test. I think I better take Dad too. 

To be continued. 




4 eggs

6oz sugar

6 oz SR flour + half a tsp baking powder

3 tbls water


Method (directly transcribed):

Beat whites, add sugar, beat in yolks. Add hot water to round sides of basin, then flour using plastic knife, slowly. 350-400°  15 mins. (I assume you add a tsp of vanilla at the end. Mum was obviously told this recipe without specific instructions? Or perhaps wrote it down assuming she'd never make it, much like I don't make her shortcake? Ah whatever. It's delicious fun figuring this out.)




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