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. 350-400Β°  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.)




16 Comments on “Cake of Monday: In Search of Grandma’s Sponge

May 6, 2013 at 11:53 pm

I was going to suggest the Fielder’s Cornflour Sponge, but your Aunty Narelle got there first. I used to make that with an Aunt of mine. I can still taste it. This same Aunt made the best beef and veg soup, an opinion which did not go down well with another Aunt! Once again, memories of childhood.

May 7, 2013 at 12:11 am

You can’t beat a good sponge cake.
I love having handwritten recipes from loved ones.
After my darling dad died I found his handwritten speech from my wedding and it is one of my most treasured possessions.

Penny Hannah
May 7, 2013 at 12:18 am

It sounds as though your Grandma may have been contemporary with my Mother, and although she wasn’t a champion spongecake maker, my eldest sister WAS. The Fielder’s cornflour sponge recipe is almost certainly the one you’re looking for – very, very light and with a lovely close texture. All sponges I have tasted since are judged by that one, and nothing else comes close. Is Fielders still available? I wonder if ordinary common or garden cornflour would substitute? You’ll have fun trying out recipes though. Have fun!

May 7, 2013 at 6:39 am

Oh wow. Yes, thats an amazing piece of paper to have. xx

May 7, 2013 at 6:50 am

My mother-in-law died about 14 years ago so I never got the chance to ask for her sponge cake recipe or to have her teach me what she did. But her sponge cakes were the lightest, airiest, MOIST sponge I’ve ever had. I had given up on the idea of ever replicating hers, but perhaps your adventure might be the hope I’ve been looking for.

My sponges are always dry…light, airy, but dry.

May 7, 2013 at 7:48 am

Wow, thank you! Sounds like an amazing adventure going through the old recipes. Please appreciate the treasure you have. My grandmothers live/d in Poland. One (dad’s mum) died before my parents were married, the other is 97 but I’ve only met her five times in my life. No cake memories, no recipes passed down through generations. My dad’s SIL did find that Babcia’s old recipe books from the war. They include fascinating recipes based on severe rationing, but alas, I can’t read a word of her handwriting.

May 7, 2013 at 9:09 am

Mine too, EXACTLY. Light and airy, but dry. Thats the thing, isnt it. xx

Just Joyful
May 7, 2013 at 5:03 pm

Those recipes reminded me so much of my grandmother’s recipes – the handwriting is just the same!

Mind you, having my grandmother’s recipes doesn’t help much, because she herself didn’t use recipes, and only wrote them down if someone insisted they wanted to know how to make something. Invariably there were few, if any, instructions, and the ingredients often were missing something. But it IS fun experimenting to see what will happen πŸ™‚

Aunty Narelle's daughter
May 7, 2013 at 9:45 pm

I concur with Aunty Narelle that the recipe used corn flour and would have likely come from the Fielder’s box. I have memories of the same sorts of conversations. The recipe you post cannot be the “one” as it doesn’t contain corn flour.. I spent a lot of time with my Grandma and she taught me how to make scones as a young girl. Curiously, one of the sponge cake recipes looks distinctly like my other grandmother’s handwriting, and she really was a champion cake baker! The plot thickens. I made a sponge on the weekend too. Don’t forget to cut the circle in the middle when you cut it to serve!

May 8, 2013 at 11:57 am

If you google “Fielder`s Famous Sponge Cake” you will find the recipe with the cornflour. It has now become “My Famous Sponge Cake” loved by all who eat It.


May 9, 2013 at 2:29 am

My nan used to write “Nanna” or “Nanny” in inverted commas on cards and things too.

What a lovely post – thanks for making me smile Fi, as always πŸ™‚ xxx

ella d
May 9, 2013 at 9:42 am

Here is a link to your Grandmother’s sponge cake! Well… I hope so πŸ™‚ It was featured on Masterchef NZ. A well known chef here in NZ has a cookbook based off her grandmothers recipes and this is a feature. Fingers crossed it is the correct one! It also uses hot water πŸ™‚

May 9, 2013 at 10:29 am

My Grandma is 90, my sister recently tried to learn to make her most perfect scones. Arrived with pen and paper, to discover that it is a much more by feel than measure kind of process. “I use this tea cup and then… maybe a little bit more, we will see…”
She is still baking regularly, so I think we all need to make sure we enjoy her amazing company, sense of humor and baking as much as possible.

May 11, 2013 at 10:05 pm

I’ve never attempted a sponge cake… but then one of my girls spied a sponge cake mix at aldi for 90 cents and wanted to buy it, so we did. We baked it, but realised too late that we put in an extra egg (don’t let your five year old be in charge of reading ingredients) but instead of being ruined it was awesome… and now I am determined to crack the sponge cake from scratch!

I tried one recipe but it was kind of dry and dense… so am waiting with baited breath for this famous recipe!

June 6, 2013 at 7:25 pm

Can you give me a recipe fir that white mass in sponge plz πŸ™‚


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