FRIDAY FEAST with Jenny Schwarz

Happy Friday and welcome to another fabulous edition of Friday Feast. And what a treat we have this week!

Break out the good china and cock those pinkies because Carina Press author and proud West Australian Jenny Schwarz is here to talk about that most delicious and civilised of traditions, afternoon tea.

Jenny has the most marvellous book out at the moment. It’s a steampunk. Don’t know what steampunk is? Think a Victorian-era parallel world full of brilliant contraptions and technology advanced way beyond what we understand from the time, sometimes even beyond our own modern technology. A great example is the graphic novel series and film, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but there are many more. Google and ye shall find.

But you know what makes Jenny’s book different and even more exciting? It’s Australian steampunk. How cool is that!

Check it out…

Wanted: One Scoundrel

All suffragette Esme Smith wants is a man. A scoundrel to be precise. Someone who can be persuaded to represent her political views at men-only clubs. As the daughter of the richest man in Australia, Esme can afford to make it worth the right man’s while.


Fresh off the boat, American inventor Jed Reeve is intrigued by Esme’s proposal, but even more interested in the beauty herself. Amused that she takes him for a man who lives by his wits, he accepts the job—made easier by the fact that he already shares her ideals. Soon, he finds himself caught up in political intrigue, kidnapping and blackmail, and trying to convince his employer he’s more than just a scoundrel…

Isn’t that fantastic? Definitely one for the to-be-read pile and available right now with a speedy click.

As usual I’ve rabbited on far too much, so time for me to shut up and hand you over to Jenny.

Hi, Cathryn!

Thanks for inviting me to Friday Feast. I’m here to celebrate the joys of afternoon tea, memory and writers’ inspiration—plus Mum’s custard sponge cake recipe 🙂

Last year I wrote a steampunk story, Wanted: One Scoundrel set in Western Australia during the goldrush of 1895. Back then, WA was known as the Swan River Colony and ambitious and/or desperate men from the eastern colonies flooded over here to try their luck. My great-granddad was one of them.

Strangely, when I wrote my history-with-a-twist story I didn’t realise great-granddad had arrived in the state that early or that my great-grandma had grown up here. Amazing what you can find out with three tools: Google search, Births, Deaths and Marriages registers and Trove.

But as I thought about my family history I realised that its traditions had been the basis for the afternoon tea scene in Wanted: One Scoundrel. Not that my family were rich—far from it! Great-granddad worked on the railways. But they did enjoy their afternoon tea.

As a kid in the ’70s and ’80s I grew up with Sunday afternoon tea at Grandma’s every other week. Three generations of an extended family would gather around Grandma’s kitchen table to eat, talk and then wander around the garden for more talking!

Social commentators and historians label things “colonial” or “interwar” or “modern”, but in real life, people don’t stop doing something just because the calendar or century has changed. I grew up with the experience of a working class Sunday afternoon tea tradition that started in the colonial days—and it was fun.

The best days were in winter. Grandma had a wood stove and I was allowed to feed it. Once tea was made in a big brown teapot and covered in a tea cosy to steep, another kettle of water was kept simmering on the stove for top ups. We ate scones—yes, even pumpkin ones!—sandwiches (ham and tomato, which when I think about it, maybe went all the way back to great-granddad’s habit of raising his own pigs and smoking his own ham), various biscuits and cakes that changed over time, but I really remember the lamingtons.

Ah, lamingtons. Mum experimented with them once. She’s Polish—which means an entirely different food tradition that Dad’s family never adjusted to. She used a light cupcake mix in place of the traditional sponge cake. It made dipping the squares in the chocolate syrupy mess and then in the coconut much easier. I wonder if anyone has ever taken that idea to the next step and made lamington cupcakes, dipping the mini-cakes?

But when I look back at childhood cakes, my favourite has to be Mum’s custard sponge. Even now, she still uses it as the basis for her famous Christmas trifle. The recipe is decades old, so I’ve no idea where she found it—apologies if I’m trespassing on someone’s copyright, but here is the yummy recipe.

Custard Sponge Cake

Oven temp: Heat oven to 220C (reduced to 160C when cake goes in)

4 eggs

6 oz sugar

4 oz custard powder

1 oz plain flour

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 teaspoon bicarb soda

2 tablespoons water

Beat eggs and sugar together till thick and creamy, add water and continue beating for a few minutes. While the lovely mix master beats the concoction, sift the dry ingredients together 3 or 4 times then fold gently into the beaten concoction. Pour into a 9 inch greased tin. Heat oven to 220C then reduce to 160C when the cake goes in. Bake for 30 minutes. Don’t let anyone jump up and down in front of the oven during baking, though this actually a fairly robust sponge. Store in fridge, or better yet, in tummy!

I hope I’ve stirred up your memories of afternoon teas and childhood treats. I’d love to go all nostalgic with you, so please share them! Chocolate crackles, anyone? And looking to the future, well, how can we resist afternoon tea at the Writer’s Bar at the Raffles in Singapore? One day…when I’m rich and famous…or when I win Lotto…I hope to see you there!


Well, I can vouch for this cake because I made it yesterday and it turned out lovely, as you can see from the pics above and to the right. Naturally, I then had to make pot of tea cut myself a slice for my morning break. Gorgeous flavour and wonderfully light texture. I’ll be making this again and perhaps using it in a trifle as Jenny mentioned. Hmm…

Thank you so much for coming on Friday Feast, Jenny. It’s been a delight.

Does any else have any afternoon tea or childhood treat traditions? Honey crackles are mine. Oh, I LOVED those, and don’t get me started on caramel tart. To this day I still can’t resist its sticky sweet lusciousness. What triggers your childhood memories and turns you gooey with want? Please share. We’d love to hear.

If you would like to hear more about Jenny and her wonderful Australian steampunk and paranormal romances, please visit her website. You can also connect via Twitter, Facebook and Google+

0 thoughts on “FRIDAY FEAST with Jenny Schwarz

  1. AvatarFiona Palmer

    Oh my Gran always made a custard sponge. Maybe its a WA thing Jenny?
    And Cathryn I love honey crackles (honey joys) too. I still make them for my kids, and I tend to eat just as many as they do lol

      1. AvatarCathryn Hein

        I’m not sure it’s a WA speciality. I think I remember my South Australian godmother having a custard sponge recipe…or maybe it was my aunt. Either way, Fiona, you can’t claim it!

        All this talk of honey crackles (my other half calls them honey joys too) makes me want to whip a batch up. Without hundreds and thousands, Ms Jenny. Don’t you know that’s the exclusive territory of that most gourmet of children’s delights, fairy bread!

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      All the best with your baking, Sheree. I found Jenny’s recipe dead easy, so you should have no problems. Most importantly it’s very tasty, which is what really counts.

      Thanks for visiting Friday Feast.

      1. AvatarSheree

        Well… it was a success. It’s still Thursday night where I live. 🙂 But, my guys enjoyed your Friday Feast recipe very much. We had it for dessert tonight.

        I didn’t have a round tin with removable sides. But, I had just bought some Temp-Tations stone bakeware. So, I used that, with a bit of concern since I saw that you had baking tin with removable sides. I wondered if I would be able to easily get it out. But, the cake slid completely out of the Temp-Tations bakeware. I turned it upside down and out it slipped. So, now my new bakeware and this new recipe are a hit with me.

        Thanks again.

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      Excellent! Thanks for reporting back, Sheree. And thanks for the tip about the bakeware. I haven’t heard of Temp-Tations but I think Maxwell & Williams do something similar with their Microstoven range, which I’ve been curious about.

      Am off to google!

  2. AvatarLouise Reynolds

    Hi Jenny,
    That cake sounds wonderful. Definitely going to give it a try. My favourite memory is a chocolate biscuit slice my mother used to make when we were kids. She hasn’t made it in decades (and can’t even remember making it) but I’m sure the recipe is in her papers somewhere. But what I really love is the slice tin she STILL has – now 60 years old and with a fantastic aged patina that tells you thousands of family treats were cooked in that tin.

    1. AvatarJenny Schwartz (@Jenny_Schwartz)

      Those old cake tins are amazing! and they remind us of cakes that have gone out of fashion. A friend’s grandma had a three layer cake the had metal dividers in it so you could pour the three differently coloured layers in, then remove the dividers and bake a single multi-coloured cake. She’d even kept the old and gorgeous cardboard packaging that included instructions.

      1. AvatarCathryn Hein

        How fantastic she still has that tin, Louise. I adore old, much used and loved things like that. They’re so full of memories. I have my great, great grandmother’s stone pickling jar and wouldn’t part with it for the world.

        Jenny, I’m intrigued by this tin you mention. I’ve never heard nor seen anything like that. What an easy way to make a layered cake! You could whip up one of those Neapolitan cakes in a jiffy.

  3. AvatarMaria Zannini

    Thank you for the recipe. It looks like a great company cake. We didn’t have any tea traditions. As a matter of fact, I didn’t learn about tea until after I met my husband. He’s the one that civilized me. 🙂

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      That’s such a perfect description, Maria. A company cake. Yes, that’s exactly what this custard sponge is. Smother it in cream, throw in a bunch of giggly friends and a lovely pot of tea and there’s a wonderful afternoon.

      Thanks so much for coming by and commenting.

  4. AvatarGreta van der Rol

    Oh, yes, the old wood stove. A wondrous thing in the middle of a Perth summer. Thanks for the memory 🙂 My mum was a great cook, too. She made traditional Dutch cakes – one look and you put another kilogram on your hips. But so yummy. She did fabulous profiteroles with choux pastry. Nice idea for the lamington cup cakes, too

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      Hi, Greta. Thanks for popping by Friday Feast. Oh, I can just imagine how stinking that kitchen must have been. I don’t know how women used to cope. It must have been exhausting.

      Profiteroles…oh, yum. But so bad for the waistline. Sometimes, though, you just have to say stuffit and enjoy!

      1. AvatarJenny Schwartz (@Jenny_Schwartz)

        Those wood stoves were torture … but Dutch cakes…yum! So few bakeries make them, and I’ve never tried myself. But you’ve hit my weak point…I adore eclairs. I’ve made them myself in the past, but now we have this superb bakery that specialises in choux pastry and it’s really close by and…well, just call me “butterball” 🙂

  5. AvatarJenny Schwartz (@Jenny_Schwartz)

    I went out to shop — broke my glasses! but only lost a screw, thank goodness. All fixed now. Still. So happy to be home, and then, to see all these lovely comments! 🙂 Now, let’s hope I can work out this “reply” function so I don’t get confused in who and what I’m chatting about 🙂

  6. AvatarJenny Schwartz (@Jenny_Schwartz)

    Cathryn, life can NEVER have too many sprinkles! 😉 (and I discovered that after 3 comment-replies, I can’t add a 4th, so excuse my confused replies all over the shop!)

    “Neapolitan” was exactly the cake name I was trying to remember! Aren’t you clever — or cake-obsessed 😉

  7. AvatarJenny Schwartz (@Jenny_Schwartz)

    Sheree, interesting to hear about the stone bakeware. I’ve never used any. Is it very heavy — I’m such a wuss about heavy cooking equipment. How does anyone ever lift those gigantic stockpots?!! And I’m super glad everyone enjoyed dessert 🙂

  8. AvatarHelene

    Oh Jenny, afternoon tea at my Grandmother’s was an institution in our family too! We were some of the youngest cousins so were constantly in trouble for being too loud but the food?? I still can’t eat lemon meringue pie without thinking of Grandma Millett… And ANZAC biscuits, shortbread, treacle cake… the list is endless. Afternoon tea is a wonderful tradition:-)

    And your story sounds fabulous!

      1. AvatarCathryn Hein

        Oh, lemon meringue pie! LOVE! My grandmother made a very moreish version which used condensed milk in the filling so it was like a lemony-caramely thing. My mouth goes watery just thinking about it.

        Thanks so much for sharing your memories, Helene. I am now going to have to look up treacle cake in my CWA books. Sounds too deliciously naughty to resist.

  9. AvatarAnnie West

    Hi Jenny, I love the premis of your story. And an Aussie steampunk is even better!

    I’m an afternoon tea fan too. I was fascinated as a little girl by the tea set my mum used for when friends came for afternoon tea. It wasn’t a set but a collection of different sets so there’d be a matching cup, saucer and plate and then another cup, saucer and plate in a different design. They made perfect gifts and were reminders of special people and places. And of course there was always great food to go with them!

  10. AvatarJenny Schwartz (@Jenny_Schwartz)

    Annie, your mum’s idea of a tea set sounds wonderful and captures the joy of afternoon tea. What a lovely memory.

    I’m always on the lookout for more Aussie steampunk. I’m waiting on Annie Seaton’s and then Coleen Kwan’s. Can you think of any others?

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      What a fab idea of your mum’s, Annie. You could even match the pattern to the friend.

      My mum played the bagpipes in the local pipe band and had sets in all different tartans. They were lovely fine china. Now I’m wondering if she still has them…

      Thanks so much for popping by.

      Jenny, I don’t know of any other Aussie steampunks but I’m thinking there should be more!

  11. AvatarKerri/Kaz

    Hi Jenny – what a fabulous cover!!! OMG – that so tempting! From your descriptions of Esme and Jed, those models seem (to me) absolutely perfect! Were you happy?

    The story sounds fascinating and I wish you all the best. Sadly, I am a Steam Punk virgin – (sorry) but I think your story will be responsible for my deflowering.

    As for the mini lamingtons – aka cupcake lamingtons? Have been making these for years – too many to count. So much easier than cutting up sponge cake – though if you freeze the cake and dip and roll the squares while frozen, it is much less messy. And as they thaw, the icing seems to seep into the cake a bit and that’s what we love best. Soft lamingtons. Yummo scrummo.

    I add cream to mine as well. And while we’re on goodies that our mums make – I made one of my mums regulars last weekend: Pineapple Meringue pie. So, so delicious. Filling made with custard powder as well…

    Thank you for the custard sponge cake recipe. Will be trying that. Might be my carrot to keep me focussed on deadlines. My reward… You’re both saying it’s easier than trad sponges? I’m not fabbo at sponges – so am so looking forward to trying this one.

    And thank you Cathryn, for mentioning the cream. I wondered what you might serve with it – or whether there was a topping or something to go with it.

    What a lovely blog – thank you both Jen and Cathryn!

    1. AvatarJenny Schwartz (@Jenny_Schwartz)

      Kerri, your tip to freeze the mini-lamingtons has made my day – well, that and your admiring the cover for Wanted: One Scoundrel. I was seriously delighted with that cover. Jed is perfect, right down to the dimple in his chin, which I didn’t know he had but just sighed with joy over when I saw it 🙂 and I loved the kangaroo on the cover. Be careful though about trying steampunk, it’s such a broad range that you’ll find something you love, and then, you’re addicted!

      1. AvatarCathryn Hein

        Oh, that tip made mine, too! Making lamingtons can be such a pain but this would make a huge difference. Thanks, Kerri.

        I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading Jenny’s Wanted: One Scoundrel and the resulting steampunk *cough* deflowering very much. As Jenny says, be careful. Once you’ve done it, you’ll want to do it again and again!

  12. AvatarMalou

    Lovely post! I love sponge cake because while growing up, that was the only cake that we can get from the baker. These days, the choices are just too many and oftentimes with lots of whipped cream and other additions. I just long for the simple cake and this is to me the best. I made a variation with a custard on top of the normal chiffon cake, a typical Philippine favorite. 😉

    1. AvatarJenny Schwartz (@Jenny_Schwartz)

      Malou, your variation on chiffon cake sounds YUM! and I have to agree about the “too much” factor at bakeries. It’s almost like cookbooks – by the time I’ve flicked through a gorgeous cookbook I’m often too “full” to think of cooking and eating anything in it. Weird, but true. I guess I do have a vivid imagination 😉

      1. AvatarCathryn Hein

        Hi Malou and thanks so much for dropping by Friday Feast. Yes, looooots of cream and other things on cakes these days. Even on a simple carrot cake you can get a thick wodge of cream cheese icing. Nice, but sometimes you can do without the embellishment. I know my hips can.

        Although I have to say a custard topped sponge sounds very, very tempting!