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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.

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