What cake do you bake for someone turning 90? This is the question I asked Mother Dearest. It’s a lot of pressure, they have a life time of cakes to compare yours to. Mother Dearest answered ‘a sponge. Pop loves a sponge’. I both expected and dreaded this answer. Expected, because well who doesn’t love sponge cake. Dreaded, because Nana made a darn good sponge cake and sponge cakes are darn difficult! Apart from Nana’s famous Rum Balls, this is the dish that most reminds me of my Nana. I can picture her in her kitchen gently tapping the sieve to make sure that all the flour was lovely and light, and so very gently folding the mixture. That is also how I remember my Nana, so very gentle. Unlike me. . . a bull in a china shop. I had assumed that everyone in the family also remembered Nana for her sponges, but ask each person and they all have a different memory. . . Jelly Slice! Golden Syrup Pudding! Nut and Date Loaf!
I jotted down Nana Bawden’s Never Fail Ginger Sponge recipe down a few years ago. She did not have it written down, but told me from memory. I’ve always been too scared to give it a go. Which seems ridiculous, scared of a sponge cake!
So begins the sponge cake saga. I start a week early. We need to practise right? So I whip up one for the lovely ladies at work. It’s not a complete flop, but it’s really not that great. I’m immediately concerned that this might be the first time that Nana’s Bawden’s Never Fail Ginger Sponge has indeed failed.
Given the previous failure, the day before the party I enlist Mother Dearest to help me make the sponge. Mother Dearest gets a little distracted and I’m left to my own devices. Sponge comes out. . . sponge looks sad. I recount to Mother Dearest what I had done and show her the recipe. Mother Dearest reports that Nana did not do that, that or that. She would have done it like this, this and this. It is starting to dawn on me that perhaps my carefully handwritten notes are not all that accurate. Time is ticking. Is there time to make another? Yes, we will not be beaten.
Mother Dearest is very attentive during this bake. She shows me what Nana did and things are looking excellent. Batter is being poured into the pans. And then I remember. . . I forgot the darn baking soda! We attempt to rectify this and cross our fingers as the sponges go in.
They come out looking acceptable. I plan to decorate the best two in the morning. Which I do. This is not completely successful. In an attempt to hide the shabby looking sponge I go for passionfruit cream for the middle and passionfruit glaze for the top. This was not a sensible choice given that we had a 3 hour drive ahead of us. Keep it simple people! All it needed was a dusting of icing sugar.
Mother Dearest, Aunty Judy and Aunty Debbie have an idea to put Pop’s candles in the form of Roman numerals for 90. They giggled uncontrollably as they pockmarked the top of the sponge with failed formations and were finally saved by my cousin’s young daughter.
We sing happy birthday to Pop. All of his great grandchildren help him blow out the candles. . . again, and again, and again. And guess what, Pop eats the cake and he likes it. And that is really all that matters really. A smile after eating the sponge was all I could ask for. I haven’t included the recipe. I’m going to search to see if she has written it down anywhere!
Flops are often far more interesting than successes, and they give everyone something to giggle about, which is pretty important too. Next time I’ll tell you what to do with failed sponge cake. Happy Birthday Pop!
Kath and Kate x