Sheffield Clandestine Cake Club – Back to the 1950s
In these austere times the Sheffield Clandestine Cake Club decided to return to a time when Britain was still trying to recover from the ravages of the War. For the first time I was accompanied by my six year old daughter who informed me that she wanted to do a chocolate cake. While I didn’t doubt that there would have been some chocolate cakes in the 1950s I felt it needed to fall more in line with the theme. While reading one night (yes, it was a cycling book) there was a mention of Rock ‘N’ Roll and then I realised we had to make a chocolate Swiss roll or a Choc ‘N’ Roll.
The first attempt didn’t go well as the recipe says to whisk 4 whole eggs with caster sugar until frothy and light. After this sieve in the flour and cocoa powder. However, the egg mixture was still runny at the bottom when we put it into the tin as it hadn’t been whisked enough and it had taken too long to sieve in the flour. Once cooked the cake had an eggy pancake like coating on the bottom. I tried to peel it away and then roll it but it just ended up falling apart. A quick glance at another recipe and it said to whisk for 10 minutes and prepare the flour first. Thankfully, take two worked and the light, chocolate sponge was a delight. Daughter wanted to fill it with homemade strawberry jam (which I can’t take credit for) and chocolate buttercream and finally we had a cake to take with us.
For my cake I decided to make a banana, pecan and maple syrup cake. Bananas were the last item to come out of rationing in 1954. My Mother has told me that she remembers eating her first banana and my Nan had to show her how to peel it.The VW Camper Van is reference to their first appearance in 1950.
I don’t actually like bananas once they have ripened (and that’s putting it mildly) so Daughter had to mash them for me. All the ingredients went into the loaf tin and the recipe said to to top it with the remaining pecans plus dried banana chips and a drizzle of maple syrup. I was a bit a dubious about this as I thought the topping would get crozzled. After the baking time was up my instinct had been right as although the cake was cooked through the top was burnt. I had to salvage the pecans, as I had no more, and the banana chips as there were no more left in my packet of fruit and fibre (remember – austere times). The top was cut off and the pecans and bananas replaced. Back a decade to ‘Make do and mend’!
Once the cakes had cooled there was just enough time to put on a lick of bright red lipstick (shade ‘scarlet velvet’) and make our way to The Vintage Tableware Company (www.thevintagetablewarecompany.co.uk) on Sharrowvale Road. Our room for the afternoon was beautifully laid out with authentic china teacups and saucers plus lashings of English Breakfast and Earl Grey tea and pots of coffee.
Our organiser, Life Coach, Karen Perkins (@fabcoach) made us a Victoria Sponge Cake using the 1950s housewife’s favourite of Stork margarine. The first television advert for Stork was shown in 1955. Karen had baked her cake in her mum’s 1950s’ non non-stick sandwich tins. It was filled with homemade raspberry jam and displayed on a 1950s’ glass cake stand.
Jane brought with her an eggless sponge based on a Marguerite Patten recipe. Jane first looked to her mum’s Good Housekeeping cookbooks from the era for inspiration. However, she found them to be quite plain cakes except for a few photos showing some iced cakes with some crystallised jelly fruits on top.
The attendance of Hannah, a student dentist, proved to us that cake eating obviously has no detrimental effect on oral health. Hannah had made a chiffon cake which became popular in the 1950s after the recipe was first published to the public in 1948. Hannah’s was a lovely lemon feast with a lemon curd filling and lemon icing. Sadly Hannah wasn’t able to take home any of her cake to her hungry student friends as we scoffed the lot.
Just as ‘Great Britsh Bake Off’ has a showstopper we were treated to our own version with Karen Willsmer’s ‘Orange Creamsicle Cake’.
Karen had found that towards the end of the 1950s with the austerity years ending cakes started to become a bit OTT. Inside the amazing piped frosting was four layers of sponge with a secret ingredient of orange gelatine injected into it.
It was Sian’s second appearance at a Clandestine Cake Club gathering and therefore her second homemade cake in about 10 years! Sian went back to her childhood with her ‘School Victorian Sponge’.
‘Baby boomer’ Paul remembers growing up in Glasgow in the 1950s when cake making ingredients were still at a premium. Anyone who could cobble together enough eggs, flour, sugar and butter for a cake must have been doing well. Paul’s mother didn’t use recipes but was able to make cakes by sight of a picture and add whatever she had. Paul for his cake added cherries.
Deb made her Grandma’s favourite of a fruit Genoa cake which requires the eggs to be separated and the whites whisked in. This cake was a must for Sunday tea at her Grandma’s house.
Betsy made her version of Caraway Seed Cake based on Jane Grigson’s recipe in her book ‘English Food’. This has ground almonds in it and proved very popular with the cake eaters.
Christine used a Date and Walnut Cake recipe from Guardian columnist Dan Lepard. Apparently he got the recipe from a lady who had an antiques shop on Kensington High Street and she used to give it out to her customers. The cake had an added ingredient of malt extract in it.
Nine year old Fleur went full retro with her perfectly presented Pineapple Upside Down Cake. The cake had extra zing with some ginger and the pineapples were brightened up further with some glace cherries.
Last but not least was our second Jane of the day with our second Date and Walnut Cake. This one was a round cake topped with a lemon icing.
It was difficult to get a taste of all the cakes in the time allowed especially as we were tempted by the gorgeous vintage china in the adjacent shop. Good job that we had the chance to fill our tins with cake treats to take home. Thank you to Karen for finding us yet another great location and thanks to The Vintage Tableware Company for hosting us and keeping those wonderful teapots filled with tea and coffee.