My dad is the number one chef in our family, but it hasn’t always been that way.
When I was little and he was working long old hours at his Marketing job (I always wanted to follow in his footsteps because he had a photocopier and coffee machine in his office – so proud) my mum was the main cook in our family. It was the 90s and she had a brilliantly solid repertoire of food that, at the time, seemed pretty darned exotic: lasagne, spag bol, shepherd’s pie, toad in the hole with Bisto… mostly originating from the magnificence that was Delia’s Original Cookery Course books.
Sidenote: I should point out here that I text mum last night to ask what she remembered about cooking for us kids when we were little. Her answer? “Fish fingers, peas and crinkly oven chips. I feel like a failure!”. Don’t worry mum, I have no memory of those crinkly oven chips ;)
Dad’s always in the kitchen now at family meals, cooking up something insane and exotic via Gizzi Erskine or Yotam Ottolenghi, but my memories are made of Delia’s staples. In the kitchen with mum is where my passion for cooking was born.
One of the very first things I learned to cook with mum was a decent Victoria Sponge. It was our favourite post-school treat as kids: a huge slab of deliciously light cake, sandwiched with strawberry jam and dusted liberally with icing sugar. I can still see myself tucking into that now in front of Byker Grove – those were the days, eh? I loved to give my mum ‘a rest’ at the weekend and have a go at making the cake myself, which always resulted in a bit of a telling off as I left the numerous mixing bowls ‘to soak’ in the sink for as long as possible before washing them up (preferably forever).
My kitchen helper
I think this is the dish I’ll always remember cooking with mum. It’s one I make with my own daughter (and son, when he stands still long enough) and will continue to do so for as long as they’ll let me. We sometimes fancy it up now with fruit and chantilly cream but I’ll always revert to the classic: the sponge, the jam, the icing sugar, eating it in front of the tv. Perfect.
This week Waitrose launched their #ThanksMum campaign in time for Mother’s Day . To celebrate mums and all they do they’re surprising their Social communities with gifts to make Mother’s Day even more special, like bouquets of flowers, gift hampers and a grand prize of a day trip to the Waitrose Kings Cross Cookery school. To launch #ThanksMum they asked me to share the recipe that holds the most memories for me and my lovely mum.
In honour of mum I’ve been thinking about how I can modernise our classic Victoria Sponge recipe for pudding time. I’m a bit of a veg pusher with my kids at the moment, no cake for them after school, as soon as they get through the door I press carrots and cucumber on them. Poor little babies ;) But we do like to let loose at dessert time.
I should mention now that I’ve somehow managed to convince them that a pure fruit smoothie is ‘dessert’. God I’m good.
Enter the Strawberry Sponge Mess.
This recipe is two-fold. It’s a great dessert for kids and grownups alike, but also a brilliant backup for the times when the cake you’re baking just doesn’t turn out. You know what I mean? It’s happened to me a lot since the children were born and I blame tiredness and/or distraction: you invite friends over with the best of intentions, expecting to serve a fluffy masterpiece when in actual fact the cake that emerges from the oven is more pancake than perfection. Or, you know, you make a cake for your kids but get distracted by Justin Bieber videos on YouTube. It happens to the best of us.
Never fear! I have the answer with the Strawberry Sponge mess. Think Eton mess, but with more fun and less Wimbledon. It’s the perfect way to modernise your Victoria sandwich, or style out a pancake cake ;) Plus there’s strawberries, so, you know… health.
Strawberry Sponge Mess
6oz Self-Raising Flour
6oz Caster Sugar
3 medium eggs
1tsp Baking Powder
1tsp Vanilla Essence
300ml double cream
Punnet of strawberries
- Pre-heat the oven at 170 degrees C and grease two round cake tins
- Pop the dry ingredients in a stand mixer with the eggs, butter and vanilla essence. Beat for around a minute (use a hand mixer if you don’t have a stand mixer). Add a splash of milk if the mix seems a little stiff.
- Pour the mixture into the tins and cook for 30-35 minutes (maybe 40 if you get distracted by The Bieber).
- Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
- Beat the cream until thick.
- Roughly spread jam on the sponge cake, and chop into bite-size chunks. Wash and slice the strawberries.
- Layer the sponge, cream and strawberries in a tall serving glass.
- Serve, like: I totally meant the cake to turn out this way ;)
As a bonus, here’s a little video of me and my very own daughter getting stuck into baking: