I love butter. I love butter so much it sometimes seems as if I have stuff with my butter rather than the other way round. Toast is simply a vehicle to carry the butter to my mouth, mashed potato just a means of getting as much butter into me as possible, I bathe lobster in drawn butter, anoint asparagus with melted butter, add a butter sauce to fish and would suggest that my favourite sandwich filling is, you might have guessed, butter adorned only with a little Maldon salt for seasoning. So that is why I am a little shamefaced about today’s post. Yesterday I made a sponge cake using Stork margarine.
Now that confession is out of the way I can explain the mitigating circumstances. I have a friend called Sue. She and I met when we were training to be nurses and have been good friends ever since. We couldn’t be more different. She is married to a farmer, lives in Norfolk and loves country life whereas I am truly, deeply metropolitan. She is a very plain cook, it does her no disservice to say this as, whilst she only has a couple of recipes at her fingertips, one of which is know as “Sue’s Goo” and involves sherry, cream and ginger biscuits, her dinner parties and lunches are legendary. Large roasts and a mountain of potatoes plus a lake of wine, what’s not to like?
I’m not sure she’s ever cooked pasta, she has a spice rack stocked with jars whose labels and contents are so faded it seems pointless to worry about what is within and she buys sliced bread.
But, and the but here is huge, Sue makes the best sponge cakes I have ever eaten. If you have visited the tea rooms at Holkham Hall you too might have eaten them, her cakes have recently starred in an auction for a cancer charity where £150 was offered for Sue to bake a cake a month over the year. These are good cakes. They come in three flavours: plain, coffee and chocolate. None of your red velvet, pumpkin spice, rose petal jam malarky for Sue it’s sponge that’s it.
I was reminded of just how good the cake is when my daughter Amber asked Sue to bring one over for my recent birthday. Sue is Amber’s godmother and so naturally said yes. The cake was splendid. There is not a lot of room in my life for cake what with the 5:2 diet plus my well documented passion for chips, it’s cake that slips far down the list. But that cake awoke a need in me, not quite Proustian but something similar, a reminder that few things are better than a slice of cake and a cup of tea with an old friend.
Yesterday I phoned Sue to ask for her recipe. Once she had stopped laughing at the role reversal she admitted that she only ever used soft margarine for her cakes, Stork being the marge of choice, that she made them in a free standing mixer and having put the marge and sugar in, switches the power on and goes off and does something else for 10 minutes. Eggs are added alternately with self-raising flour and thats it.
I am a snob about butter in cakes so it took a bit of effort to buy the margarine but in Sue’s opinion it gives a much lighter texture to the sponge. I followed Sue’s recipe to the letter. The cake is delicious. Confession over.
Sue’s Sponge cake
Weigh three large eggs and then use that weight to measure the rest of your ingredients: margarine, castor sugar and self-raising flour.
Mix the margarine and castor sugar and beat until very light and fluffy. Break the eggs into the bowl, one at a time and beat in with approximately one third of the flour. Give the mix a final whisk once all the eggs/flour are in and then divide between two greased and floured sponge tins.
Bake at 170 for 25-30 minutes or until a mid golden brown. Allow to cool on a rack before filling with jam and cream.
For coffee sponge dissolve a tablespoon instant coffee in a little hot water and add with the eggs, for chocolate substitute an once of flour with an ounce of cocoa.