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…
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.
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)
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.