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)
For the decoration
- 225g icing sugar (8oz or approx. 1+3/4 cups), preferably sieved
- 2-3 tbsp water (start with 1 and build up gradually so your icing isn’t too thin)
- Coloured sugar sprinkles/ sugar strands of your choice
- Optional food colouring if you’d like colourful icing
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 if using a fan oven)/ 325 degrees F (275F fan) or Gas Mark 3.
If making the old school sponge cake by hand (or if you don’t mind spending a little more time on the steps), I’d suggest creaming together the butter and sugar first, until light and fluffy. This can take several minutes of mixing, even if using electric beaters. Add the eggs, beating the cake mixture after each egg. And the vanilla, then stir the flour in gently until all the ingredients have combined into a smooth mixture. Watch out for hidden pockets of flour lurking at the bottom of the bowl! If you’re using an electric stand mixer to make the cake, you can put all the ingredients in it and combine in one go.
Pour your sponge cake mixture into your prepared baking 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.
When your cake has cooled you can get to 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). I would recommend starting with 225 g / 8 oz icing sugar (preferably sieved) and adding 1 tablespoon of water to the sugar as a start. Stir the water into the sugar, then add another spoonful of water, mix thoroughly again, and keep going in this way until you get the thickess of icing you want (it should coat the back of the spoon you’re using to mix the icing and run off slowly). Don’t panic if your icing 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.
Pour the icing all over the top of your cake. 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