Soak up this sweet taste of home

SWEETEST THING: Honey sandwich cake.
SWEETEST THING: Honey sandwich cake.

After such a short time in this garden we are off to start again. Another baby means another bedroom is required so, shortly, this mega-pregnant lady will up sticks and move house once again.

I like to blame our short stay here as the reason why my garden is not spectacular. This garden's report card might read: "Good contributor to general seasonal kitchen duties, but failed to reach long-term goals or show evidence of hard work."

But the report card is far more glowing over at the charity "Hand over a Hundy" garden I developed with teen mums.

There, there is healthy food for babies and mums alike. Wild fennel has flowered for the bees, and to support lactation.

Strawberries, rhubarb and raspberries flourish for puddings and treats, and beetroot as big as my head is destined for the relish pot.

All this was achieved in less time than I have had in my own garden, but with much more laughter and many more willing hands.

I will be sad in the spring when my year is up with that garden. It has been a happy constant while my own homelife has enjoyed so much change and growth.

Although my own garden has not been such a roaring success, it is very pretty. My streetside vegetable patch is planted with bee flowers and these are now all blooming like a small square of meadow beneath green beans, tomatoes and cucumbers.

The German camomile that I liberated from small pots grew into a huge prolific bush, the flowers of which have been dried in the hallway, filling the house with their sweet and calming scent. Now packed away in ziplock bags and jars, I have already enjoyed a few pots of this special tea. Homegrown camomile tea takes nearly 10 minutes to steep, but rewards you with a sweet and summery drink.

My back garden was pretty for long enough to do the press interviews for my book launch last year, and one such interview led to the discovery of this cake.

Having just slogged through serving over 2500 rice dishes at Taste of Auckland for the new SunRice Organic range, I was too exhausted to create a new recipe.

Instead, I fell back on the Victoria sandwich one from my cooking school days. (Leiths Cookery Bible, New Edition, by Prue Leith and Caroline Waldergrave.)

Being too knackered to head to the shops, I used what was kicking around; white caster became a mixture of organic golden caster and manuka honey, stoneground flour and baking powder substituted for self-raising flour.

The result was so delicious that, after one slice each, the interviewer's dog managed to knock it off the table and consume the rest.

No longer a pale and fey Victoria sandwich, the changes make this the perfect cake for rewarding friends who have helped you move house yet again.

Darker and more robust, it stands up to whipped double cream and roughly chopped strawberries as a filling and, handily, can be eaten without a fork.

I also employed lemon-scented geranium leaves as garnish. Just don't let the movers eat them - and keep the cake itself away from large dogs.


170g butter, softened
150g golden caster sugar
1 Tbsp manuka honey
3 free range or organic eggs, beaten together
170g flour
1 tsp baking powder
double cream and strawberries for filling
caster sugar and geranium leaves to garnish

1. Preheat oven to 180C, and line the base and sides of two 20cm cake tins with baking paper.

2. Cream the butter, sugar and honey together until pale and fluffy. This will take 5-7 minutes in a cake mixer, but 10 with an electric beater.

3. Sift together the flour and baking powder. Gradually beat the eggs in with the creamed butter and sugars. If it looks like curdling, add a good spoonful of the flour.

4. Fold flour into the creamed mixture, adding 1-2 tablespoons of water to loosen the batter.

5. Divide the batter between tins. (I weigh them to check that they are even.)

6. Bake for 20-25 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. They will not spring back to the touch.

7. Cool in the tin, then sandwich together with cream and strawberries. Sprinkle the top with a little caster sugar to serve.

Sunday Star Times