My parents emigrated from the UK and brought their Britishness with them, which they hung onto for dear life. Growing up, our roasts came with Yorkshire pudding, the only fish we ate was battered and none of us knew
what a pavlova was. If we weren’t devouring apple pie for dessert, it was a Victorian sponge cake, which is the first thing my mum taught me to cook. The recipe came from an old cookbook given to my mother by her Aunt Mary and the colour plates of tarts and roasts and strange fish terrines would fascinate me and instilled in me a sense of wonder about recipes. “Could I make this,” I would continually ask myself. The book is sadly lost.
Funds were slim when I was young and we didn’t have an electric mixer. I creamed the butter and sugar by hand, beating in the eggs with a wooden spoon – I don’t recall owning a whisk – and lastly adding the flour.
I found when Mum transitioned to a mixer, the texture of the cake changed slightly and became a little lighter. I always loved the buttery density of the sponge made by hand. The resulting cake was toothsome
and dense, buttery with a slightly chewy crust. For a special occasion, the sponge, made in two sandwich tins, was filled with strawberries and cream, but usually, it was just strawberry jam, which I prefer.