When I was a child, once a year we would make the 300km journey to stay with my grandparents for a week during the summer school holidays. There were five of us—Mum, Dad, my sister, brother and me, and we travelled in a small Hillman Imp with our dog, Topsy, on Mum’s knee.
I have fond memories of those holidays, and especially of Grandma’s cooking. To this day, the smell of mint takes me back to Grandma’s roast lamb with mint sauce. Every night she would cook a delicious pudding. There were steamed puddings with custard, Apple Roll, Lemon Surprise Pudding, rice puddings, and Pretending Tommy made with homemade jam or fruit.
I remember the stewed plums for breakfast, and scones or ginger gems for lunch. For afternoon tea there would be homemade biscuits and cakes. Two that remain etched in my memory are Canadian Date Cake and Seed Cake. Grandma’s is the only place I can ever remember having eaten seed cake.
Recently my mother and I were going through Grandma’s old recipe books and we found one from the 1920’s. Although it is moth-eaten and stained, it was fascinating looking through the recipes, some of which we still make today. The cover of the book was missing, but we could tell from the advertisements that it was a local recipe book with recipes contributed from members of the community. It was amusing to see ads for the ‘latest’ motor cars. The recipe book is truly a slice of history and a family heirloom to treasure.
After finding Grandma’s Seed Cake recipe in one of her books, I bought some caraway seeds to try it out. The recipe is simple to make, yet has a unique taste and texture, and as I bite into it I am transported back to those childhood holidays spent at Grandma and Granddad’s during those hot, humid summers. While my grandparents are no longer with us, those memories will remain with me forever, ignited by the smell of mint, the crunch of a caraway seed, the comfort of a warm steamed pudding with custard.
125 g butter (I used dairy-free spread)
125 g sugar
1 teaspoon whisky or brandy
175 g flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
Cream butter and sugar. Stir in whisky or brandy. Add beaten eggs alternately with flour, baking powder and caraway seeds previously mixed.
Bake 45 minutes at 180ºC.
Instead of whisky or brandy, I used ½ teaspoon vanilla essence. I don’t remember if Grandma ever iced hers, but I iced mine with lemon icing.