Mum was a brilliant baker – for others but not for us. For charity, for church, she would bake, bake, bake but on the home front, she always limited confectionary. There was no philosophy to it – she simply didn’t lavish us with sweet treats. Pals reminisce about how fascinated they were to always find biscuits in our house when they’d be scoffed within minutes of leaving the shopping trolley in their homes.
We did get treats some Sundays – a couple of chocolate biscuits and a glass of cold milk. Jelly and long life cream. Tinned fruit salad and…eh…long life cream. A sliver of HB Vanilla ice-cream served between two wafers or covered with broken Flake chocolate. Angel Delight. And a dessert I have never encountered anywhere else – never, ever – whipped jelly (long life cream optional). Dad was a little more in tune with the sweet tooth needs of youngsters, sneaking in the odd Kit Kat or bar of chocolate, neatly tucking the contraband into the creases of the Evening Press newspaper.
In the run up to Christmas, Mum would religiously slave over a cake and puddings, intoxicating the fruit with oodles of alcohol taken from a generously (over)stocked drinks cabinet. Then she would get annoyed when no one ate any – that included herself! One time it all got too much for her. She threw down her wooden spoon in a fit of rage, refusing to be a slave to tradition and so no cake or puds were prepared that year as she continued her one-woman-protest. Her sense of victory was immense but short lived. Picture the poor woman’s face when she received not one, but seven, Christmas cakes as gifts. We sat with the hoard of iced blocks adorned with snowmen and plumb Santas in the middle of the table – looking at them aghast. Mum hated waste and we feared we might be forcibly fed the whole lot. Re-gifting was the only sensible way to go.
On her all too rare moments of madness, she would make chocolate cake. Light and delicate, we would savour each rationed piece. I would marvel at the criss-cross pattern on the top. In later years, I learnt there was no great mystery to this but merely the result of cooling sponges on a wire rack!
The Teen likes this cake too but only as a mildly acceptable alternative to my own recipe (which teeters on the verge of being throttled to death by chocolate!). For her, it is an option but never a substitute. Not being a mad fan of chocolate, I prefer this lighter version. It is all a question of taste.
When the Teen was a tot she was horrified at my dislike for all things chocolate. At the tender age of three, she proclaimed that ‘Real mummies like chocolate, drink tea, wear skirts and walking shoes.’ As I complied with none of these conditions at the time, I failed to make the ‘Really Mummy’ grade! Thankfully, the tiny tot wasn’t as disappointed with the cake.
Mum’s Chocolate Cake
For the sponge
8 ounces self-raising flour
10 ounces margarine
8 ounces castor sugar
4 large eggs
4 level tablespoons of powdered drinking chocolate
2 tablespoons of milk
For the filling
4 ounces butter
8 ounces icing sugar
Few drops of vanilla essence
1 tablespoon of milk
1½ tablespoons of powdered drinking chocolate
1. Preheat the oven at 175 C
2. Combine flour, margarine, castor sugar, eggs, drinking chocolate and milk in a bowl and beat well for two minutes with a cake mixer
3. Put into two greased and floured 8 inch tins
4. Bake in the oven for 35 minutes
5. Turn out on a wire rack to cool
6. To make the filling – cream together the butter, 8 oz icing sugar and powdered drinking chocolate
7. Add the vanilla essence and milk until blended
8. When the sponges are cold, spread the icing on one side and sandwich the two together
9. Lightly dust the top with icing sugar.