It is a truth universally acknowledged - well, acknowledged by me and mum - that you cannot go wrong with an Australian Women's Weekly recipe. You can have your Donna Hays, swear on your stack of Jamie Olivers; they are but the upstarts nipping at the heels of a kitchen legend. The Women's Weekly cookbooks need to recognised for their proper place in the hierarchy of recipe collections, and for me, this is at the very pinnacle.
'You can't go wrong with the Women's Weekly' is oft-quoted, as I said (to be truthful, usually more by me than mum, who probably agrees so I'll stop chanting this). Tried and triple tested, there are decades of experience behind this Australian institution that wraps every instruction and measurement with trust and faith that it will work, as it has worked for generations of home cooks. Want to know the best technique, what ratio of ingredients, what temperature? Pull a Women's Weekly off the shelf. That's part of the appeal for me - the history and authority that weighs in.
There are lots of wonderful collections: embracing old favourites and trying new cuisines; dinner party elegance to BBQ casual; casseroles to cakes and everything in between.
So when mum and I decided to bake an old-fashioned sponge cake, we naturally turned to a well-thumbed Women's Weekly cookbook. Anticipating all your needs, the recipe provided quantities for a 2 egg, 3 egg and 4 eggs sponge. The 2 egg mix would make a single 20 cm round cake; the 4 egg two, perfect for sandwiching and filling with jam and cream, and this is what we chose, because that really is the quintessential sponge cake, is it not?
Multiple siftings later, two light-as-air cakes were ready to fill and assemble, which was rather fun for me a I'm usually a gal who can't be bothered icing or decorating a cake.
And isn't a good old-fashioned sponge cake like this rather impressive to behold? So we had to get the footed cake stand out. Wonderful with a good cup of tea - as we trusted it would be, coming from the Women's Weekly.
Australian Women's Weekly best ever sponge cake
Before you start, make sure your eggs are at room temperature. I don't know the reason for this, but if the Women's Weekly tells me to do this, I do it.
- Preheat oven to 180. Grease and line two 20 cm round cake tins.
- Whisk together 4 eggs plus 2/3 cups white sugar on a medium high speed for about 7 minutes. A freestanding mixer will save your biceps here! Use a small bowl if your mixer allows; it helps whip up the volume quicker.
- Meanwhile, sift your dry ingredients - 1/3 cup each of cornflour, plain flour and SR flour - three times, back and forth between two bowls.
- Transfer the egg and sugar mix to a larger bowl then sift the flours yet again over this. Then, using a very light hand, fold the flours in. Take your time and be gentle; don't use your usual figure-of-8 bashing motion. However, still make certain you get all the pockets of flour incorporated.
- Then distribute the batter evenly between the two tins and bake for 20 minutes; swap and rotate tins halfway thru to ensure even baking. The cakes are done when they start to pull away from the edges and a skewer comes out clean.
- While they are baking, you have time to whip your cream, choose your favourite jam and get some icing sugar ready. And put the kettle on for a pot of tea.
- Once the cakes are ready, cool them in the tins for a few minutes then pop them out to cool a bit more; they won't take long. Then spread one with jam, then cream, then place the other on top. Dust with icing sugar. Stand back and admire the old-fashioned loveliness of it all.
- Sponges do not keep well (because there is no fat from butter or oil), so you have to eat them as quickly as possible! As if you need a reason...