Don’t you just hate “Never Fail” recipes! They conjure up one image in my mind, “failure!!!” It took me three attempts to get a decent soufflé from a “Never fail soufflé” recipe.
So I should have been nervous when I received an email from my niece, Fleur, entitled “Never fail sponge”. I had asked her for the recipe she used for her son’s first birthday cake. It was Maus’ birthday yesterday and I thought it would be nice if I made her a birthday cake.
I remember Alex’s birthday party. You know what it is like. You have already feasted on party pies, quiches and sausage rolls and, probably, had more than one fairy cake and, maybe, a piece of fairy bread when the mother of the birthday boy offers you a piece of birthday cake. You want to say “No”, but there is no way to say “No” gracefully to a one year old’s birthday cake, so you smile and say “Yes, please”. You are, of course, expecting commercial sponge, sickly sweet icing and smarties. Well, on this occasion, I found myself digging into a lovely home-made sponge. I was impressed. It must have left a favourable impression because, when I needed a sponge recipe for Maus’ cake, I sent Fleur a text request for the recipe.
A few days later, I received an email, the subject of which was “Never fail sponge”. I should have run a mile but I have a healthy ego and thought, “How hard can it be?” I must admit, Fleur’s instructions left a bit to be desired so I rang her for clarification. Do I have to double the recipe if I want two sponges? What size tins do I need? “Oh, Aunty Glen”, she says, “Don’t worry, it is so easy. I always triple it. I make it for every birthday party. You can’t go wrong”. Fleur suggested I double the recipe. She assured me she used about three inches of batter and it didn’t rise much.
I must admit, I was nervous. I am no cake cook and I had guests coming and no Plan B. Shit, why do I always make something new when people are coming? I read the instructions several times (and many “tips” for making sponges on the web) before I started.
Firstly, Fleur, let me assure you, it does rise a lot. Mine ended up, at least, three times the height of the batter. The cakes started rising and never stopped until they got to the top of the tin and then oozed all over the sides. Alas, when I took them out of the oven, they collapsed. They looked like deflated basket balls.
There was only one way to get them out of the tin and that was to cut them out. Notice how both have one high side and one collapsed side. That gave me an idea.
Look! They fit together, almost perfectly.
I was very concerned about the grey/green bit in the centre on the base. The cake felt cooked but something was going on in there. Oh, well, in for a penny, in for a pound. Like I said, there was no Plan B. I decided to ice it – we needed a birthday cake.
At this stage, Maus decided we needed a Plan B. She suggested I drive into town and buy some icecream. To which I agreed. We figured our friends were coming for the company, as well as the food, so they wouldn’t object to commercial ice cream for dessert.
I didn’t expect anyone to partake of my masterpiece but Maus said she was willing to try it. (I think she felt sorry for me because she knew how much effort I had put in). Then everyone else said they would have a piece. As it turned out, it didn’t taste too bad, except the grey/green jelly bit.
I went on-line today and read lots of cake baking forums (who ever knew such things existed) and a lot of explanations were offered. My guess is, because I had so much batter, the bottom wasn’t as hot as the top so an ingredient separated and sank to the bottom. Another explanation offered was that grey tins don’t get as hot as dark tins (which is interesting because I had one dark tin and one grey tin and it was worse in the grey tin). The ingredients in the grey tin did not get hot enough, quickly enough, so they separated and sank.
I had intended to post the recipe for this cake, classifying it under Family Favourites. Fleur told me she got the recipe from her mum (my sister) who, in turn, got it from Aunty Dor who was a great cake cook. I think I will have to try again before I am brave enough to do post the recipe.