In recent years, home baking has become something of an obsession here in the UK...or at least watching TV shows about baking has. In New Zealand, when I was growing up, home baking was de rigueur, and every home had a copy of the Edmonds Cookery Book. An updated edition appears every few years and, to date, 3 million copies have been sold. My first one (purchased in the 1970s) probably looked something like this.
Edmonds was a company that made a number of products, such as custard powder and cake mixes. But first and foremost in a land where self-raising flour didn't exist they were known for their baking powder.
According to their excellent website, the first Edmonds Cookery Book was given away for free. "Housewives could receive a free copy by written request and young couples were sent a complimentary copy on announcement of their engagement. It contains 50 pages of 'economical everyday recipes and cooking hints'." Such great, forward thinking marketing!
When I left art school and returned to Wellington, I worked as the weekend cook for two years at a small private psychogeriatric hospital that my mother managed. I also lived there in the basement flat that Rose, the matron/owner, had vacated because she wanted some independence from the hospital. At that point she was renting a flat across the road from her good friends Glyn and Sally (the couple who used to host the afternoon garden Pimms parties).
I cooked morning tea (which was traditionally scones), a main meal for lunch with a dessert, afternoon tea, and a light-ish supper for both the patients and the staff. The night nurses would handle the breakfasts. Most of the patients at the hospital were elderly (many no longer had their own teeth) so everything I cooked needed the meat, fish, and vegetables to be tender beyond belief and required lots of sauce or gravy.
The afternoon teas were where I could shine, and the Edmonds Cookery Book proved invaluable. Though everything still had to be soft in texture, I could make cream puffs with choux pastry, various cookies, and today's recipe: Louise Cake, a bit of a misnomer since it's a slice to rival any of those by Mr Kipling rather than a cake. A shortcake base topped with raspberry jam and a coconut meringue. Perfection!
Full disclosure: this recipe - and the following three recipes that come from the book - went wrong. In two cases, it was my fault. An oven that was too hot one week, and being out of practice baking cakes another. But this recipe and next week's should have worked well though yet didn't. Was it because I used metric measurements for the first time? Was it because I used scales for the first time as opposed to cups for sugar and flour and eyes to measure the butter? I've thought long and hard about this and in both cases I've concluded it's the tin I was using. It doesn't seem to conduct heat evenly or well.
These problems aside, I beg you to give the Edmonds website a look. I'm thrilled to see Louise Cake up there on their homepage!
Makes 12 slices.
For the shortcake base:
65g butter, at room temperature
the yolks of 2 eggs
150g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
For the topping:
the whites of 2 eggs
50g desiccated coconut
Cream the butter and sugar. Carefully separate the yolks from the whites of the eggs, making sure the whites get no trace of yolk in them. Beat the yolks into the sugar and butter.
Mix the flour with the baking powder and sift it into butter/sugar/egg-yolk mixture.
Work it gently together to form a pastry.
Press it into the base of a shallow tin (roughly 8" x 10").
Spread it with raspberry jam.
Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, then gradually beat in the sugar, and finally the desiccated coconut.
Spread it over the top of the base and bake in a preheated oven at gas mark 4, 180ºC for 30 minutes.
Cut into 12 slices while still hot. Leave to cool in the pan before removing.
Any questions? You can use the comments form at the bottom of the page.
Did you know?
You'll find recipes at the back of all the books in the Send for Octavius Guy series: