a bakers dozen of lessons from my grandmother’s kitchen

nan's victoria sponge cake recipenan's victoria sponge cake recipe2
nan's victoria sponge cake recipe4nan's victoria sponge cake recipe3
nan's victoria sponge cake recipe6nan's victoria sponge cake recipe5
nan's victoria sponge cake recipe7nan's victoria sponge cake recipe8

A few years ago, I had the good fortune to attend a class called ‘How to Market Your Book and Make It a Best Seller’. And while I did learn a thing or two about books and marketing, I got something way more important out of my tuition. A new friend.

I still remember our first class. The teacher was going around the room asking everyone about themselves and their book project. So I introduced myself as Jules and that I was self publishing a book of my mum’s recipes. Next was a gorgeous girl called Laura who was self publishing a collection of her Grandmother’s recipes. Great minds.

Since then, the lovely Laura and I have shared countless cups of tea seasoned with much enthusiasm and support. It’s given me great joy to follow Laura’s journey to becoming a published author.

And I’m super excited to share some of the lessons I’ve learned from Laura’s wonderful book, My Grandmother’s Kitchen: Recipes for Love, Life, Happiness and Food from Grandmothers Around the World.

Especially because I don’t really have any lessons from my own grandmothers. My maternal grandmother wasn’t really into cooking which, luckily for me, turned my mum into an amazing cook. My paternal nanna died when I was little, and although my dad great at eating, he isn’t much good at remembering recipes.

So it’s a real treat to read the stories of Laura’s grandmother and the other grandmothers from around the world. Inspirational doesn’t even begin to do it justice.

The thing I love most is that even though the book celebrates grandmothers from around the world with many different backgrounds, there is a common theme to their wisdom. Love, apparently is the answer regardless of where you live.

13 lessons from my grandmothers kitchen.

1. on cooking & love
both should be undertaken with wild abandon.

2. the secret to stir fried water spinach
I’ve been trying to replicate the water spinach dish from my favourite dumpling house for years and haven’t ever been able to get it quite right. I just thought the white stuff was garlic, but now I know it’s chilli bean curd. Can’t wait to try it out.

3. home is where the heart is
I’ve head this before of course, but it’s really been something I’ve learned since my Dad sold our family farm last year. It’s true you can create a home anywhere, it’s all about the people.

4. devonshire cream tea controversy
I love scones (biscuits) with jam and cream but I hadn’t ever thought about the importance of which comes first. Apparently the Cornish put the cream on the scones before the jam, but in Devon it’s the other way around.

5. tea tastes better from fine china
I couldn’t live without my tea but generally just drink it from a mug. Love the idea of using proper bone china.

6. on career – follow your heart
Your true strength comes from following your passion.

7. from mother teresa
“We cannot do great things on this earth, only small things with great love”.

8. toad in the hole
Apparently no one knows where the name for this English classic came from but one grandmother suggests it’s because the sausage sticking out of the crispy batter looks a little like a toad sticking its head out of a hole. To cute.

9. the best potatoes for gnocchi
are desiree, apparently because they absorb less water than other potatoes.

10. the secret to parenthood
To be a good parent it’s important to teach children that it’s OK to make mistakes.

11. you can bake porridge
Love the idea of getting the oven to do the work.

12. there’s such a thing as mermaid pie
One of my favourite recipes in the book is a fish pie that is topped with potato crisps known as Mermaid Pie. A good reminder that creativity in the kitchen goes beyond just the act of cooking.

13. nothing shows love like a grandmother’s cooking

And if you’d like to learn more, or pick up a copy of this treasure of a book, head over to mygrandmotherskitchen.net.

nan's victoria sponge cake recipe9
nan's victoria sponge cake recipe


video version of the recipe


Don’t forget if you sign up for a class at The Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School before Thursday 17th March you’ll also get a FREE copy of my eCookbook 5 ingredients 10 minutes – Video Edition valued at $77.

CLICK HERE to make the most of this great offer.


lauras nan’s not-so-enormous victorian sponge recipe
serves 6

300g (10.5oz) butter, softened
300g (10.5oz) caster sugar
300g (10.5oz) self raising flour
5 eggs

1. Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Grease and line the bases of 2 x 18cm (7in) cake tins.

2. Cream butter & sugar with a stand mixer until pale and fluffy.

3. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well between each. Then add the flour and gently fold in with a spoon.

4. When the mixture passes the ‘spoon test’ (see head note), divide the mixture between the 2 tins.

5. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

6. Cool in the tins for a few minutes, then turn out and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Sandwich with jam & cream and serve with tea in your best china.


  • This sounds like a gem of a book and I’ll be keeping an eye out for it.
    And I couldn’t agree more about tea and bone china. I replaced all of our mugs with bone china ones – you will be surprised at the difference it makes!

  • This book definitely sounds like a good one – I love reading old family recipes. I’ve only made the bone china conversion to cereal bowls, I’m definitely going to invest in some mugs too. And the Victoria Sponge – heavenly, it looks so buttery and soft, and with all that cream and jam in the middle, I’m in love!

  • It looks delicious!! But how does one help oneself to a slice of that cake without squishing all the jam and cream out of it?

    And I totally agree with Laura – birthday cakes should be home made.

  • We have this book already and my teenage daughter just loves cooking from it…. She got it for Christmas and stayed up late into the Christmas night reading all of the stories and planning when and where she would cook each recipe. Her favourite “go to” is the ” ripped underwear” a chilean pastry dish perfect for afternoon snacks. Simple, tasty and always makes her popular with her 6yr old sister. This book offers so much more than just good food (although that is a bonus) it has been a perfect substitute for not having my grandmother around to show my passionate foodie of a daughter just how much fun being in the kitchen can actually be. So precious to see my childhood replicated for her through the love of others Grandmothers and straight from Laura and Claire’s heart to her!

  • Beautiful looking cake and what is more fun to have recipes being passed on through the generations… That is unfortunately not the case for me since neither my gran nor my mum were very much into cooking… So I’ll just have to use the wisdom brought to me by others!

  • Jules, I have been chasing a do-able sponge-cake recipe for a couple of years now without much success. I’ve had discs and I’ve had fluffy RUBBER sponges.

    How can I ensure that the sponges end up feathery and not like a sponge you’d use to wash your car or dishes? Have you ever tried a sponge using only cornflour?

  • Amber – I have a spongecake recipe from my mother which has NEVER let me down. And I’ve been making it for 40 years. Maybe this is the one you’re looking for?

    1 egg
    40 gr sugar pr. egg
    30 gr plain flour pr. egg
    (for a birthday cake for 6-8 people, I’d use three eggs)

    Carefully separate the egg whites from the yolks. Beat the whites with half of the sugar amount till all stiff, white and meringuey.
    Sprinkle the rest of the sugar over, and whisk in.
    Add the yolks and whisk in (notice that the mixture stays stiff).
    Sift the flour over and fold in carefully, so as not to burst too many of the air bubbles.

    Grease and flour a tin (22 cm is fine for a 3-egg cake), and gently pour the mixture into it.
    Put in oven at 175c for ~20 minutes. Check to see if set.

    Leave in tin for 5 minutes, then remove and allow to cool completely.

    This is “Sugarbread” in Norwegian – the starting point for all birthday cakes. Divide it in three and fill the layers with jam (or fresh fruit) and whipped cream.

    Hope this works for you!

  • I am so glad to have learned about this cookbook through your blog! I love the list of grandmother’s lessons…especially the bone china, cooking/loving with abandon, and career advice. This cake looks absolutely gorgeous and yet in that classically simple way that guarantees satisfaction. Thanks for sharing!

  • thanks for the feedback everyone!

    great question – you’ll notice there isn’t a shot of the cake after it’s cut!
    a delicate hand and a good sharp knife can help – but scooping up the jam and cream on the side is the way forward

    my mum’s sponge recipe only uses cornflour and it’s definitely lighter. But I’d really recommend trying laura’s recipe – it’s lovely and buttery and not rubbery in the slightest.

    thanks for writing about stonesoup! really appreciate it

  • I have another book on the same theme – The Good Granny Cookbook which was written by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (River Cottage)’s mum. And it’s fabulous. It’s my go-to book when time differences make calling my mum impossible. Have a look!

  • Beautiful photos and wonderful blog! Love great sponge cakes – they are so underrated, everyone always hides bad cakes with sugar-loaded frosting. This looks wonderfully light and easy. Will try with blackberries and lemon cream as a filling.

  • I think your friend’s cookbook might be a must have for me. My living grandmother doesn’t really cook and my mother just makes BLTs and frozen pizzas but I’ve always loved cooking and trying new, wonderful recipes. I want nothing more than to be the kind of grandmother that hands downs well loved recipes and hand sewn quilts. Of course my boys are 1 and 7 so I have many many years to perfect my cooking and baking. Thank you for your lovely post!

  • That jam looks divine – did you make it? If so, recipe please! And if you bought it, where from? Can I get it in Sydney?

  • Your blog is amazing! I love that each recipe on has five ingredients; that makes it so much simpler when it comes to grocery shopping. And your pictures are just beautiful.

  • Really enjoyed this post and look forward to checking out the book. My 93-year-old grandmother died just a few weeks ago and I’ve been thinking a lot about her and craving foods from her kitchen. What I wouldn’t give to be sitting with her right having a cup of tea and slice of warm from the oven homemade bread slathered with butter and dripping with molasses.

  • martha
    so sorry to heat about your grandmother… I wish I could come and drink tea and eat delicious treats with you as well… but sometimes thinking about it is the best treat of all. love jules xx

  • Lovely post, lovely, lovely pics but I’m afraid I must take issue with one point.

    I am Cornish and we put out jam on first and then the cream. Up Devon way they do things the other way round, weirdos!

  • Suzy!
    I can’t believe I mixed up the Jam/Cream controversy… thanks for setting the record straight!
    And I’m actually with you on the jam first… means you can fit more cream on ;)

    • I’d be hesitant to double the recipe Lindsay because I’d be worried about even cooking.
      But there’s only one way to find out!
      Just be prepared to increase the cooking time considerably.

  • The larger issue is, how do you get the romance
    back?When she reads it, she will automatically be sent
    into a dream exactly where she replays the memory in which you are speaking about.
    Show of hands, how lots of guys will hit the couch and fall asleep like content cats following that superb meal?
    Go someplace fancy.When it comes to the card attached to it say some thing sweet.
    The other trouble is that all relationships are
    distinctive, so everyone’s concept of romance is various.But, it’s not actually the significant repair for continued romance,
    and these items don’t demand any effort from men.However you may possibly be in a position to get some suggestions from your nearby connection guru too but just understand it’s a unique
    variety of guidance.But, as time goes by you get comfy in the day to day routines,
    job stresses, youngsters and other commitments that take up all your time.
    It’s the thought and just that tiny work that makes us really feel special!Drive to where the carriage is.Which would be ok and truly definitely sweet.Ice skating is a romantic activity.Little text messages that would make them think of you all day long.From there you can pretty substantially take over.If you have a fire spot make certain that is lit.Some folks are just a bit “slow” when it comes to romance and romantic gestures, which can make salvaging a partnership a lot tougher than it must be.

    • I like the flavour better with unsalted Dee.

      But you can use salted if you like – it will tone down some of the sweetness.

Comments are closed.