Last week I was asked the question “Do you have any vintage hobbies?” I pondered this for a moment, I do the odd bit of sewing, and I’m partial to the occasional lindy hop class, but then someone suggested “Well, you bake, don’t you?”
So that, paired with our Mother’s Day tea party extraordinaire last week, where we showed you a table groaning under the weight of scones, Victoria sponges, lemon drizzles, and other baked goods, prompted me to dedicate a post to the wonderful art of baking.
I don’t bake because it’s vintage. There, phew, I said it. It’s a generational thing; my grandmother was a wonderful baker, my mother is a wonderful baker, and I have been baking (or licking the spoon, at least) for as long as I can remember. I won’t confess to being particularly spectacular, but I can rustle up a decent Victoria Sponge, and spent my summer baking for Topsham Lock Cottage.
For me, baking is therapeutic, I don’t see it as an art, but nor to I see it as a glamorous throwback to the bygone era. I’m under no illusion that the retro photographs we see of women whisking up something special in the kitchen are true to life. All you Downton Abbey fans out there should think of Mrs Patmore for a more realistic picture. Sadly, with my ginger locks I scarily resemble said cook, under the glare of a hot oven, and more often than not covered in flour.
I’ve heard stories of my grandmother whipping up a batch of scones, whilst entertaining guests whilst keeping an eye on several young children. Nowadays of course, it is, for some, a luxury. I like nothing better than to turn on the radio, pre-heat the oven, and spend an afternoon in a haze of flour, egg whites, and clouds of icing sugar.
I’m not going to bore you with basic sponge recipes. You can’t go wrong with 6oz of everything, 3 eggs, and a teaspoon of baking powder. My top tip, however, for a Victoria Sponge that, quite literally, oozes elegance, is a good helping of Strawberry and Champagne Jam. I would recommend the National Trust’s offering from Lyme Park. It’s the perfect finish for a Regency-style tea. Just add some fine china and you’re away.
Grow Your Own, Can Your Own
Now here comes the part a little more synonymous with What They Wore Yesterday, it wouldn’t be the same without looking back to our favourite wartime era, featuring a fashionable twist.
I love seasonal baking, inspired by the Grow Your Own, Can Your Own slogan, so heavily featured in Wartime campaigns. So many people became self-sufficient, a dying trend nowadays, with a supermarket on every corner selling products all year round.
You cannot beat blackberry picking in late summer, wherever you are in the country, you can find them anywhere. Topsham Lock was shrouded in brambles, perfectly idyllic, whilst back home in the city, I have to avoid broken beer bottles, either way, it still makes for a fun afternoon. A Blackberry Tea Loaf is simply divine, and goes perfectly with stewed apples.
Strawberry plants, spread like wildfire, before you know it, they’ll cover half your garden, and in the height of summer make for a delicious White chocolate and Strawberry cake.
Finally, it wouldn’t be What They Wore Yesterday without something a little stylish for the kitchen. Our wonderfully talented Auntie made these for us, and they really are something else, aren’t they? With their full skirts and beautiful fabric, you could be wearing a pair of jeans underneath and still pull off the perfect vintage look! They’re almost too beautiful to bake it, but only almost, mine has seen its fair share of flour, icing sugar, blackberry juice. If you’re interested in Clare’s marvellous creations, do let us know, and we can put you in touch. They, are, after all, spectacular.
Recipes will hopefully follow, we won’t be straying too much into ‘What They Baked Yesterday’ territory, but do keep your eye out for some teatime treats along the way!