Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Rise of Banking; Making Your Own Sponge Is All the Rage. and It's a Piece of Cake, Finds Nick Curtis

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Rise of Banking; Making Your Own Sponge Is All the Rage. and It's a Piece of Cake, Finds Nick Curtis

Article excerpt

Byline: Nick Curtis

THERE is something in the air: the smell of freshly made cakes. Home baking is the latest skill from yesteryear to enjoy a revival in the face of recession. Associated British Foods reported this week that, after years of decline, sales of home baking ingredients have taken a big leap. Sales of bun trays alone are up 35 per cent on last year.

Online baking guru Dan Lepard tells me, "Our website traffic is up a third from a few years ago. It's home cooks wanting to do more than bake their first scone." And last October the Women's Institute -- that home of all things sweet and spongy -- reported a 60 per cent rise in applications for its baking courses.

It's not hard to see why. As well as making sound economic sense (a homemade cake costs around a third of a shopbought one), baking is a soothing and nurturing activity that accords well with the times. "People gulp at the price of a fancy cake in a shop today and wonder if they couldn't do better," Lepard adds. "I know several people who skip dessert at restaurants and invite everyone back to their house for a bit of homemade cake and cognac. With a little practice it's really not hard to do well." Well, that's easy for you to say, Mr Lepard, but I'm a man who last put wooden spoon to mixing bowl some 30 years ago. I am not, however, a coward, so

I decided to grasp the credit crunch cake challenge with both oven-mitted hands.

I opt for a Victoria sponge. For one thing it's supposedly simple, and for another, it will impress my mother-in-law. The Box Hill WI once disqualified her from a competition for baking a single cake and slicing it in two rather than making two and sandwiching them together.

I preheat the oven to 180C, mix 220g each of caster sugar and butter, beat in four eggs, then sift and stir in 220g of selfraising flour. At the last moment I add a teaspoon each of milk and vanilla essence (tips posted online by actress Tamsin Greig, no less). While the cakes are baking I whip up 500ml of cream and slice some fresh strawberries. Ha, no jam filling here, thank you, mum-in-law..

Within 20 minutes the cakes are done.

One breaks up a bit when I turn it out onto a wire rack, instantly consigning itself to the bottom tier. …

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