Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Mum's Walnut Gateau with Wartime Cream

My Mum was the best baker in the world ! I know of-course that everyone's Mum is the best baker, but Mum was !!
We took her sweet delights so much for granted, but I was blessed to follow in her foot steps with her love for baking, and the ability to re-create her unique recipes from her hand written notes which are my prized possession today.
Mum made this Walnut Gateau frequently, and she would bake several at a time for Church functions....they never made it to the bake table as people would stop by and put orders in at the house, so they were always sold before the function even took place !!
The sponge is a very easy Victoria Sandwich Cake recipe and the cream is an old World War 11 recipe when Heavy Cream was not available among other things, due to Rationing during the War years. Mum simply named it 'Cream for Cakes' and she used it in abundance in various desserts which she made throughout my childhood. It is made with Cornflour [cornstarch], milk, butter[margarine in those days], sugar and Vanilla Essence[extract].

This recipe has never been shared before outside of my family, and in fact, I am the only family member who has ever made this cake with Mum's Cream. The last time was approx 18 years ago in our family restaurant.
Mum passed away 2 years ago at the grand age of 94 !! I had always thought that I would never make the cake again, and I certainly would NEVER share her recipes. But you know....the world was so much sweeter with her here, and I feel that now I have the opportunity to share her sweetness with the world in this small way ! She would want that....not for her recipe books to become dust covered memories. I think she would be very proud today that I am carrying on with all the fine lessons she taught me. I can't imagine what she would think of my blog....too 'high tech' !
So Mum, this is a Celebration and Tribute to you....I made the cake for my sister, Frances's Birthday !

Walnut Gateau Recipe

Sponge Ingredients

6oz Butter, room temperature
6oz Sugar
6oz Self-Rising Flour
3 large Eggs


Grease and line 2x 8 inch baking pans with parchment paper.
Cream together the butter and sugar until light in colour.
Add eggs one at a time, lightly beating until incorporated.
Add flour gradually, beating with each addition until combined.
Divide mixture between the two pans, spreading out evenly. [For a level sponge, spread mixture slightly away from the center].
Bake in 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until golden and toothpick poked in center comes out clean.
Remove from oven and allow to sit in pans for 5 minutes to shrink slightly from sides.
Transfer to cooling rack, peeling off parchment and allow to cool completely before frosting.

Here are some visuals and how to line a pan with parchment paper.
My pride and joy....Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer in Pistachio [waited for 1 year to get this colour !]

Beat the sugar and butter

Add the eggs one at a time....[the second one slipped in for the photo!]

Fold in the flour.
Grease 2x baking pans..

Cut out 2 circles of parchment paper and cut strips at least tall enough to come above pan sides. When you cut out the circles, you should have enough excess to cut strips. Fold approx 1/4 inch of strips and snip diagonal cuts as you see here. 

Place strips around inside of pans, overlapping to cover area. Strips should fit snugly when you spread the cut fold around the base.

Place circle of cut parchment on top. Smooth paper to fit.

Divide mixture between 2 pans

Spread mixture slightly away from center which will result in a more level cake once baked

Pretty.....leave cake in pan for 5 minutes to shrink slightly away from pan

Turn out pan onto cooling rack and peel away parchment paper

Leave cake to cool completely

Meanwhile make Mum's Cream......

Mum's Cream for Cakes


1 1/2 cups Milk
2 tablespoons Cornstarch
2 oz Sugar
3 oz Butter [unsalted]
Vanilla Extract [2 to 3 drops] 


Pour milk into small pot, reserving a couple of tablespoons.
Mix reserved milk with cornstarch to form a loose cream.
Place pot on stove and warm milk to scalding point [you should see bubbles form on the surface] DO NOT BOIL.
Pull pot from stove and slowly pour cornstarch mixture into pot whisking ALL THE TIME to avoid lumps.
Return pot to stove, continue to stir constantly, bring to just bubbling, then pull back off stove.
Transfer mixture to container, cover and chill, occasionally giving a good whisk so that a skin does not form, and mix is creamy.
Meanwhile, beat sugar and butter until pale in colour.
When cornstarch mix is cool, remove from fridge and beat into butter and sugar until all mixture is blended.
Add Vanilla Extract, beat to incorporate.
The mixture looks kind of grainy.....this is how it should be ! Remember - this is War-time Cream, a substitute for Heavy Cream in those days.....tastes delicious and sweet !
Refrigerate till ready to use.  

Cornstarch mixture in pot
Cream all blended together in bowl

Cake Assembly

Additional Ingredients

2 cups Chopped Walnuts
A few Glace Cherries for Garnish
1/2 cup fruit juice to soak [I use juice from canned pineapples]
Sugar Glaze - 2 cups Powdered Sugar mixed with approx 2 tablespoons water to form thick icing for top of cake.

Directions for Assembly

Slice through both cakes to give 4 layers
Spread 3/4 of Mum's Cream between layers, finishing with the bottom of one cake facing upwards [nice and flat]
Poke a few holes through the cake with a skewer, then slowly pour fruit juice over top of cake to soak. 
Pour Sugar Glaze over top of cake, spreading carefully to edges.
Spread rest of Mum's Cream around the outside of cake.
Cover outside of cake with chopped Walnuts.
Garnish top with Glace Cherries.
Refrigerate to set cake for about one hour.

Slice cakes to give 4 layers

Spread Mum's Cream between layers leaving 1/4 mixture for sides

VOILA !!! 
Hope everybody enjoys one of our Mum's Special Creations, it's been so much fun to share !

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  1. What a great "historic" recipe. Post some pictures of your Mum sometime.

  2. Hi Rebecca, thanks so much ! Funny you should say that...I have been going through some family pics tonight to see if I can scan or upload them, and I have some now to share in future posts. She was quite a lady and very beautiful, my family sure was blessed !

  3. Mary, this is such a beautiful cake. I can't wait to try that cream. I love the old old recipes from back in war days when things were rationed and also when they were much simpler. 4 ingredient in the cake and 5 in the icing, how fabulous! Thank you so much for sharing sweetie and what a beautiful way to remember your mom!

  4. Donna, How kind of you to stop by and take a look at my Mum's recipe !! I am looking through another of her handwritten recipe books right now, which was tucked away with some other memories in a box ! All I can say is...I have a baking adventure ahead of me !! Mary x

  5. What a beautiful cake! I love to think of your mom making this cake for your family during the war years. thanks for sharing ~ I have this bookmarked, because I love cakes!