White Cake

A generous gift of free range eggs had me flicking through the recipe books to find something worthy of their beautiful yolks. I discovered some old recipe books from my Grandmother that I had not had a chance to experiment with yet, many were from the 1940s and rationed war era, but one book was dated mid 1920s and included recipes from the Taranaki community all those years ago. With no oven temperatures to guide me I have experimented with times a little - so you have been warned! The quality of the eggs is very important and creates a large golden cake, not dissimilar to an old fashioned pound cake, but is lighter and softer. You could add lemon zest or vanilla to the mix if you wish.


1920s White Cake

1 cup of soft butter,

2 cups of golden caster sugar

3 cups of flour,

5 very good quality eggs at room temperature (leaving out the white of one for icing) *Small eggs work well for this.

3/4 cup of milk and 1 teaspoon baking soda dissolved in it.

2 teaspoons cream of tartar. 

lemon zest or vanilla paste

Icing - "half-pound icing sugar, 2 oz butter, white of egg and essence of vanilla. Walnuts on top will make it nice".* note to self: do not use the duck egg for icing, and leave egg white out of the icing for very young or anyone who is pregnant. (you could always use your favourite butter icing instead)

and good quality jam to fill the sponge + optional walnuts or petals to decorate.


Beat the butter and sugar until well creamed (pale yellow and fluffy), add eggs slowly until well mixed (it is less likely to curdle if they are of a similar temperature to the butter). Add in flour and cream of tartar and flavourings, and then gradually mix in milk and soda gently.

That is as far as the recipe takes you in the book (with the exception of the icing) so my additional tips are that it is a large cake so you could actually make it in two 20cm tins (adjust the times a little) and sandwich together with jam. I ended up making mine in a 24 cm tin and cut it in half. The time for cooking will depend on your oven. At 180 degrees it will take around 45 - 55 mins depending on the tin size (it may sink if you test it earlier than this, you should be able to identify the smell of cake in the kitchen before you open the door) test with a skewer to see if cooked.

Allow to cool on a wire rack then cut in half or sandwich together with good quality jam (I used the last of our damson jam from summer), ice with the icing, decorate and serve.

Next on the experiment list is the military cake .... sourcing the ingredients for that could prove a little trickier.