Now that Miss Bags is a wee bit older, she is showing a great interest in cooking in general, but especially Home Baking. Now while I have my recipe collection (a wee binder stuffed full of hand written notes and magazine cuttings) to pass on to her, I thought I’d preserve a few of the recipes here for posterity.
When I was a wee girl, my Nanny taught me to make fairy cakes. She came from good Welsh farming stock, so food played a huge part in family life and celebrations. I remember Nanny being a great cook (not fancy schmanzy stuff – but good honest home-cooking). My favourite story about Nanny and food (apart from the eating competitions at Christmas!) is one my Dad fondly recounts. He had gone to Nanny’s house for Christmas, with my Mum. As Nanny was his mother-in-law he wanted to make a good impression. Christmas at Nanny’s involved a LOT of food! (eating competitions?!) So, after tucking into a HUGE plate of Christmas dinner, turkey with all the trimmings,…. There was then tea – which consisted of sandwiches Christmas cake, mince pies and well – tea! Phew – Dad was stuffed and was only too pleased that he thought the eating was over…… THEN Nanny rolled out supper – salads, cold meats, pickles and pile of bread, not to mention blancmange, jelly and MORE CAKE! To this day, my Dad looks every so slightly green about the gills as he describes just how FULL he was, but how he felt he had to keep eating in order to be polite!! That’s what I remember about Nanny’s house too - plentiful food; and she was always packing you off home with leftovers (not really leftovers – more like the products of over-catering!) and trying to get you to eat “just one more” slice of bread/cake/sandwich! Anyone who has ever come over for food at my house also knows that I am also a culprit of serious over-catering! I wonder where I get that from!
Anyway – back to those fairy cakes…
The way Nanny taught me, and this is the way I still make them today, is measure your ingredients – “Everything to the weight of two eggs” Now this is easier if you have one of those retro kitchen scales where you put the weights (in this case your eggs) on one side, and measure your other ingredients on the other. I don’t have scales like that, so I weigh my eggs first and then measure out Self-Raising flour, butter and caster sugar, each to the same quantity as the weight of the two eggs.
2 eggs (at room temperature)
Self-Raising Flour (to the weight of 2 eggs)
Butter/Stork (to the weight of 2 eggs – if using butter you will find it easier if this is at room temperature)
Caster Sugar (to the weight of 2 eggs)
2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Vanilla Essence (optional)
Makes – approx 12 fairy cakes – it depends how big your eggs and paper cases are!
1/ Preheat your oven to 180/160 fan/ Gas Mark 4.
2/ Line a baking tray with cupcake cases.
3/ In a large mixing bowl, cream together your butter and sugar until well mixed and pale. (Nanny used to do this with a wooden spoon – I use my trusty Dualit Hand Mixer – this is probably why 1950’s housewives were thinner than us!)
4/ Crack the eggs into a separate bowl and whisk gently.
5/ Add your eggs to the creamed butter and sugar, mixing well (again, I use my hand mixer). If the mixture begins to curdle add a spoonful of the flour to prevent this.
6/ Sift together your flour and baking powder and gently fold into the eggs, sugar and butter mix, using a METAL SPOON.
7/ Add your vanilla essence if using, and mix well.
8/ Once your ingredients are mixed – divide the mixture between approximately 12 paper cases and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the cakes are golden brown and springy to the touch.
9/ Remove from oven, and leave to cool slightly in the tin before transferring to a wire rack. Allow to cool completely before storing or icing.
Note: This recipe makes plain, good, old fashioned fairy cakes, perfect for icing with glace icing and hundreds and thousands. If you are feeling adventurous you can even whip up some flavoured buttercream and make butterfly cakes!