Some of my oldest memories of food are cooking with Mum in the kitchen when I was around 5 or 6 years old. Mum was and still is an amazing cook. Our house always had lingering scents of tomato sauce bubbling away at the stove ready to dress that night’s pasta. But what I remember most were the days when Mum would cook her cakes. Those were the times I was allowed in the kitchen to ‘help’ and how proud and grown up it felt to be helping Mum. I’m not sure how much actual help I was, but I do remember licking the beaters! What is it about raw cake mix that transports us back to our childhood? To this day I still can’t help but lick the batter from my fingers that somehow ‘accidentally’ get there when I bake. It’s the part of cake making my kids (and I’m sure most kids) love the best.
When I was young it seemed that all the women in my family were good at making a certain cake, which was their specialty. Each one had a tried and true recipe that they had perfected and were known for. My Mum’s specialty was and still is her sponge cake. So light and fluffy, it forms the basis for her famous liqueur torte. I remember watching her carefully add the sugar to the eggs and whip them with her old Kenwood mixer for what seemed like forever to me. ‘Is it ready yet?’ I would ask. ‘No, a bit longer’ she would reply. Those eggs and sugar were always whisked to perfection, tripling in volume. Then the sifted flours would be ever so lightly folded in . Mum always used custard powder as well as cornflour. The smell is amazing and the sponge has a slight yellow hue.
Mum would always make an extra sponge so I could eat it the way I liked it, plain and still warm straight from the oven. It’s smell tantalising me while I waited for it to cool down enough for me to eat it. The rest would be filled with jam and cream, or her custard cream and Italian liqueur. I can’t even imagine how many sponges she has made in her lifetime, but there have been so many it is no wonder they are perfect each and every time.
I love making Mum’s sponge cake as it’s now become a legacy recipe for me. Handed down to me from her, it will be one I hand down to my own children. My kids, like me as a child, prefer it plain, and so I , like my Mum did for me, make an extra one so they can enjoy it the way they like it too. I know one day they will learn to appreciate it filled with raspberry compote and vanilla cream, which is how I love to serve it now. Light as air sponge with a hint of custard flavour, sweet vanilla whipped cream, and a little tartness from the raspberry compote. I love the way the raspberries stain the sponge with it’s ruby red hue. All it needs is a dusting of icing sugar and it is ready to share .
A few really simple tips with making sponges. Always add the sugar to eggs slowly, and beat for about 8 minutes in total. This ensures maximum volume and plenty of air in the sponge cake, which is what keeps it light. All dry ingredients need to be sifted, some say three times. I only ever sift once. Sift in batches over the egg mixture. Gently fold the mix until incorporated. But don’t be too scared and panicky about it, just use common sense. You’re trying to keep as much air in the mix as possible, so relax and take it easy. Light hands equals a light sponge .
Click here for my recipe: Mum’s custard sponge with raspberry compote and vanilla cream