Another step closer to fulfilling my promise to make all the cakes which feature in my first novel, Art and Soul. This time it’s simple old school sponge cake with water icing and sugar hundreds and thousands. This cake is a childhood classic (it brings back memories of the sponge with sprinkles they used to serve in my school canteen) and the favourite of the novel’s second-most important character: Charlie. As if that weren’t enough, it eventually becomes an important plot point. Who knew cake could be so influential? 🙂
- 200 g butter/margarine (7 oz or approx. 7/8 of a cup)
- 175 g caster sugar (6 oz or approx. 3/4 of a cup)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract (5 ml)
- 3 eggs
- 200 g self raising flour (7 oz or approx. 1+3/4 cups)
This school sponge cake is made is a rectangular tray and ideally is should rise only a little and evenly to give you a flat surface to ice.
Grease your tray and line with baking paper. My rectangular tin measures 32 x 19 cm and 3 cm deep. In inches that’s 12.5 x 7.5 and just over an inch deep. You can use any shape baking tin for this recipe as long as it has a similar volume to the one I used.
Pre-heat your oven to 160 degrees C (140 fan)/ 325 degrees F or Gas Mark 3.
If making the old school sponge cake by hand, I’d suggest creaming together the butter and sugar first, then adding the eggs, then the flour. If you’re using a mixer, you can put all the ingredients in and combine in one go.
Pour your sponge cake mixture into your tray and bake for 25-35 minutes. Keep an eye on your cake. When it goes a golden brown it’s time to take it out. If in doubt, stick a knife into the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean, your sponge cake is done.
I left mine in the tin for about 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.
Now the fun part – the icing! I used ordinary icing sugar and added a little water until I got the consistency I wanted (not too runny or it will all slide off the cake leaving only a translucent layer). Sorry I don’t have exact quantities for the icing sugar and water, I just did it all by eye… I would guess it was around 250 g / 9 oz icing sugar, then I added a teaspoon of water at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition until I got the thickness I wanted (it should coat the back of the spoon you’re using to mix the icing). Don’t panic if yours goes too thin: you can “rescue ” it by adding a little more icing sugar to thicken it up again. Of course, if you’d like pink icing, or any other colour, you only need to add a few drops of food colouring to your basic white icing mix. Once your school sponge cake is covered in the icing, sprinkle over your hundreds and thousands, coloured sugar strands, sprinkles or any other decorations you fancy.
If you cut the school sponge cake into squares, you should be able to get 15-20 servings out of it (depending on how generous you are). I cut mine into triangles, as that’s how it’s served in Art and Soul and was how the canteen used to serve it when I was at school. But it tastes just as good whatever the shape and goes particularly well with a cup of tea 🙂
Claire Huston / Art and Soul