Posted by: Lisa Hill | September 30, 2015

Lovely Loot in my Letter Box

Many years ago when The Offspring was only in his teens, we made a trip to Western Australia, and because he was too young to share the driving on long trips, we took day bus tours to visit Wave Rock and the Pinnacles.  These were eight hour 600km round trips, and both involved travelling very long distances between remote small towns where there were no commercial eateries to provide a bus load of tourists with refreshments en route.

It was the Country Women’s Association that came to the rescue.  These canny ladies had stitched up a deal with the tour bus company to provide morning and afternoon tea, all proceeds going to the local community.  (Lunch was a picnic at our destinations, where the international tourists learned what an Esky was).  As Aussies know, there are very few small towns that don’t have a sports oval with some sort of grandstand, and it was there that the CWA put on the most splendid morning teas I have ever had. It was old fashioned and homely, but their cakes were sublime and their sponges became the gold standard by which I have judged sponges ever since.  (And by that standard, my mother-in-law, now in her nineties, is the only person I know who can make a decent sponge cake.)

Calendar of CakesAnyway, all of that is a roundabout way of alerting you to a new publication from Wakefield Press. It is a Calendar of Cakes with ‘recipes, tips and tricks’ from the South Australian Country Women’s Association.  It is a cook book that will teach you how to make cakes properly so that they taste the way cakes should taste, and there’s a recipe for every week of the year, including some for special events like Father’s Day, St Patrick’s Day and Valentine’s Day

Now, it only arrived in my letterbox today so I have not yet tried a single one of the recipes. But I don’t need to, because I can see that it’s full of practical advice and that the recipes are all do-able with fresh ingredients that are seasonally available. You make Peach Melba cake in February because that is when peaches are cheap and in season (not when you feel like using a tin out of the pantry). August is when you make cakes using root vegetables such as German Streusel Spiced Potato Cake or the Chocolate, Beetroot and Almond Dessert cake.  (Using fresh beetroot not that tasteless stuff that comes in tins).

Of course if you subscribe to the Marco Pierre-White why-not-use-pre-prepared-stuff out of packets and tins philosophy of cooking, then Calendar of Cakes is probably not for you.  But you will never know the taste of truly delicious cakes.  And I doubt if the good ladies of the SA CWA would buy the excuse that you don’t have time, because these country ladies know all about being busy … and still they find time to bake for their families in the old-fashioned way, using recipes passed on to them by their grandmothers who were even more busy.  (On the other hand, there are limits to the old-fashioned way.  One of the WA CWA ladies told me, all those years ago, that she always beat her egg-whites by hand because she got better results that way.  Well, although she was right about that, because I’ve tried it, I have to confess that my trusty Kenwood, now over 40 years old, is a ‘new-fangled’ appliance I couldn’t do without).

But truth be told, it doesn’t actually take any significant amount of time longer to measure out a cup of flour and a bit of butter than it does to open a packet full of stabilisers and flavour enhancers and other dubious ingredients.  If you factor in your time at the supermarket buying packaged cake mix it probably takes less time.  What adds time with home baking is the washing up afterwards but with a dishwasher that’s not a problem anyway.  I discovered this myth about so-called time-saving processed food as a very young bride when I brought home a packet of Rice-a-Riso Nasi Goreng, made an awful mess in the kitchen and had to wash up three pans afterwards.  I was working two jobs then, setting out at eight in the morning and getting home after ten at night during the week, and I soon learned that it was much easier to cook fresh food simply and it was infinitely cheaper too.

#Ok, Off my soapbox.

The only recipe that I am doubtful about in Calendar of Cakes is the gluten-free cake because I am yet to eat anything gluten-free that tastes any good, and I feel really sorry for people with coeliac disease who have to limit their culinary adventures in this way.  But the Gluten-Free Christmas Wreath looks quite pretty and the Gluten-free Lamingtons are probably a good choice if you need to take a plate somewhere where it might be an issue. There’s also a Gluten-free Ginger Fluff Sponge but since I’m not keen on ginger I won’t be baking that one.

Orange cakeNo, the recipe I’m going to try first, because our tree is groaning with lemons, is the Lemon Curd and Cream Sponge Cake, and there’s also a Zingy Marmalade Cake that I’m going to try, to see how it compares with my usual Orange Marmalade Cake (which I make using my own home-made marmalade).  It goes very nicely with  home-made Lime Ice-cream from Stephanie Alexander’s Cook’s Companion, which tastes better than Heston Blumenthal’s ice-cream and is a zillion times easier to make).

Un Village FrancaisThe other thing that came in my letter box today is a DVD.  As you know I have been working my way through Zola’s Rougon-Macquart cycle, and also exploring the work of French Nobel-prize winning author Patrick Modiano, and it is my heart’s desire to read these books in French.  To complement my French lessons with Laura Laffitte Salis-Gabbiani at the Hampton Community Centre, I’ve been watching this and that on French TV, and I came across a great TV series called Un Village Français – but it’s horrible to watch on YouTube because of all the intrusive adsJB Hifi got the Series One DVD in for me, and I am starting again with Episode 1 as soon as I finish watching the BBC adaptation of Wolf Hall, which is a very good adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize-winning novel.

You don’t need to be plodding along learning French like I am to watch Un Village Français because it has English sub-titles.  It is wildly popular in France where it is just going into its seventh series.  As it says on the blurb, it confronts the difficult subject of French collaboration with the Germans during WW2, and it details the lives of the people of a fictional town in rural France, and shows how the machinations of war lead some to collaborate with the Nazis.  It’s a very sophisticated treatment of a difficult period in French history and it shows just how hard it must have been and how sitting in judgement about it is a really stupid thing to do.

So there you are!  Thank you Australia Post!

PS You can buy Calendar of Cakes direct from Wakefield Press or via this link Calendar of Cakes: Recipes, Tips and Tricks from the South Australian Country Women’s Association from Fishpond. And probably lots of other places too.

PPS 8/10/15

Apricot Loaf (Calendar of Cakes)In the event, I decided to try the apricot loaf first instead.  It is dead easy. The only tips I would like to pass on are:

  • you can leave preheating the oven until after you’ve brought the apricots, butter and water to the boil because it takes quite a while to cool down enough for the next step in the recipe, and there’s no point in having the oven on all that time; and
  • and it’s best to use a larger saucepan for the apricots because it’s easier to mix the flour in, in a bigger  saucepan.


  1. Thanks Lisa – Christmas present for The Husband all sorted!


    • Oh excellent! The cookbook or the DVD?


      • The cookbook. He’s the chief cook and bottle washer at our place. My expertise does not extend far beyond Vegemite toast.


        • *chuckle* Alas, while The Spouse is mostly the cook at our place (except for baking) I am the bottle washer. On the other hand I don’t do the shopping and take delight in not knowing the cost of anything, and not having to take responsibility for getting a meal on the table.


          • Same! Yet when I tell people this I am very often told how lucky I am. Yes, I am lucky to have a terrific husband but luck has very little to do with the allocation of household chores… Hmm, I’m in danger of soapboxing! I’ll step down now, ha ha.


            • We’re channelling each other! Why are women ‘lucky’ to have negotiated a fair distribution of household responsibilities? Does this mean the men are lucky too, or unlucky? *Sigh* we have a long way to go…


              • We sure do have a long way to go. I love it when men say they are babysitting their children!! Honestly. As you say it should be about a discussion re who does what and not a matter of luck.


                • And that discussion should take place *before* setting up house together.


  2. I want try anf watch Un village Fancais myself at some point I m suprised it hasn’t been shown in uk by one smaller channels


    • You’d love it, Stu. The characterisation is so good! In the first episode this little village doesn’t realise what’s coming until a Stuker fires on some children in a field and the Nazis roll into town with their tanks. The way different people react to this is done so well, no wonder the series is so popular in France.


  3. I have a very good gluten free raspberry shortcake recipe which I make for a friend’s son who has coeliac disease. I have to fight off people from eating it before he gets here. Looks like a great cookbook. I have the big red CWA cookbook they released a couple of years ago. It gas some great baking recipes in it.


    • I used to make GF stuff for colleagues at work, but I stuck to savoury recipes. Out of curiosity I tried some of the cakes and biscuits that other people brought (we all went to so much trouble, for these three people, it was amazing!) but I was never impressed.
      Though as Sue says below, cakes made with almond meal are very nice, it’s the recipes using flour substitutes that are hit and miss.


  4. Loved your write-up of the cookbook, but I must defend GF cooking. I do agree that a lot of GF baking leaves something to be desired but there are traditional cakes that don’t use flour at all such as various cakes based on almond flour. I have also made some brownies with GF flour substitutes that work. GF substitutes are getting better but I agree that it’s hit and miss, and that when you get into GF cooking you discover why wheat flour is the flour of choice for most baking!

    (I’m not coeliac, and can tolerate some gluten, but I have followed a wheat-free diet since 1986 for a chronic condition. My food intolerance diet – which is fairly complex – changed my life).


    • I don’t envy you that, Sue. It must make travelling quite difficult too.


      • it does, some places more than others. It’s also more expensive as you can’t usually eat cheap options. The things I can eat on menus are usually the expensive ones. But it’s a small price to pay for health.

        Liked by 1 person

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