> Skip to content

Article  •  5 April 2023


Is the reign of the cream sponge over?

Author Amanda Hampson reflects on her fond memories of this delightful cake.

When I was a kid growing up on a farm, Christmas carols, concerts, dances, and farmer meetings were all held in the hall of our two-room school. The Country Women’s Association managed all social events and, at the end of the evening, a supper was served. The star of those suppers was Mrs Parnell’s light-as-air cream sponge.

The cream sponge seems to have been around forever. It first became popular when Queen Victoria (an early influencer) embraced the new custom of ‘afternoon tea’. She was such a fan of the cream sponge it was renamed the Victoria Sponge in her honour and remained a British staple for decades. British migrants shipped this taste of home throughout the Commonwealth, where it retained its title as the queen of cakes.

The beloved classic has two layers of light, fluffy sponge with cream between, topped with icing sugar and added extras like peach slices, strawberries and jam. There’s an ongoing debate about fresh cream or buttercream, jam on top or under the cream, but the original recipe has been a consistent favourite.

But, at some point, it became old-fashioned, reminiscent of childhood afternoon teas with grandparents. Or perhaps it fell victim to the avalanche of choice we have now, and the attraction of novelty over the familiar.

Back in the days of Mrs Parnell’s famous concoction, choices were limited. The only other home-baked items I can recall were chocolate cake and classic biscuits like shortbread and Anzac biscuits. Now there are so many other possibilities, how can we remain loyal to one cake?

If you’re after a slice of nostalgia, The Tea Ladies will take you back to 1965, when the cream sponge reigned supreme. Tea lady, Merl Dewsnap is the undisputed champion with Easter Show ribbons to prove it. It’s been so much fun to look back on those simpler days and capture them on the page, but it’s really left me with a hankering for a fresh cream sponge.


Article originally posted on amandahampson.com.

Feature Title

The Tea Ladies
A wickedly witty cosy crime novel set in Sydney in the swinging sixties, ideal for fans of Richard Osman and Bonnie Garmus.
Read more

More features

See all
Meet the characters from The Tea Ladies

Meet the tea ladies from Amanda Hampson’s Tea Ladies series.

Discover the new releases that book critics are loving this autumn

See what reviewers are saying about books published in April and May 2023.

Why are we still in love with sixties fashion?

Amanda Hampson revisits the era in her upcoming novel, 'The Tea Ladies'.

The rise & fall of the tea lady: a brief history

Who were tea ladies and how did they come to be a part of our workday routines?

Some of the most anticipated books of 2024

From authors including Rachael Johns, Amor Towles, Leigh Bardugo and so many others!

Didn't get to Europe this year? These 3 books will transport you there

Revisit three Amanda Hampson books to experience European summer from the comfort of your living room.

Female authors talk about the women writers who have inspired them

In honour of International Women’s Day, we asked female authors to talk about the women writers who have inspired them.

Travelling through time

Amanda Hampson reflects on travelling in the past and present, plus the research she undertook to bring Maggie, Fran and Rose to life in Sixty Summers.

My writing life

Amanda Hampson recalls her personal journey through reading, journalism and writing fiction.

Penguin Random House AU celebrates first-ever Penguin Noir event

On 9 August 2023, Penguin Random House AU hosted our first-ever in-house author event for Penguin Noir: A Crime Author Showcase.

Book clubs
The Tea Ladies book club questions

A book club read that’s perfect for fans of Richard Osman and Bonnie Garmus.

Book clubs
The Cryptic Clue book club questions

The second book in The Tea Ladies series is a fun mystery to read with your book club.

Looking for more articles?

See all articles