Grandma's treats for the modern home

Last updated 05:00 13/04/2014
Anzac Cake

CLASSIC: Baking an Anzac Cake this Easter would be a fitting task with Anzac Day just around the corner.

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Great-grandma would have turned in her grave.

Three-quarters of the way through A Good Baking Day and there it is: Gluten and grain-free paleo blueberry and coconut cake. It calls for "grass-fed butter".

On second thoughts, maybe great-grandma would have just died laughing. Because this is a book of the mostly tried and true. Of recipes written before anyone dreamed a cow might eat anything but grass; of sultana slices that were "quickly made and very quickly gobbled up by the shearers at Snowdon Station"; of the days before paleo diet fads required you to live like your hunter-gatherer forebears.

It's the third collection from the kitchens of Rural Women New Zealand, formed in 1925 by a group of women who were holidaying in Wellington while their husbands attended a Farmers Union conference.

"They heard of the hard lives of many farm women: the unceasing toil, the mud-track roads, rivers unbridged," recalls the postscript in this cookbook.

"But what really touched their hearts were the stories of backblock women, of their loneliness and illness and the lack of help available . . ."

They produced a household guide and gathered thousands of recipes to produce the Women's Division of Federated Farmers "blue book". Some of the favourites from that collection have made it into this new tome, which is a thick slab of social history.

Among the 500 recipes is the dixie white cake, produced by the cook at the Haast sawmill. There's a chocolate cake that begins with the instruction "grease a large meat dish".

Weetbix features heavily, and so do seasonal gluts. It might be the perfect time to bake fresh feijoa cake, but last Sunday, I wanted something simpler.

Three cups of self-raising flour, one cup of lemonade and one cup of cream later and I had the kind of scones light enough to eat the next day. It was a first for this baker who usually tells the birds to duck when she's biffing out the leftovers.

- A Good Baking Day, Rural Women New Zealand. Random House.


Heather Fowler, Wendon

125g butter
200g sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 cups self-raising flour
3 Tbsp baking cocoa
1/2 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup shredded or desiccated coconut
320g sour cream
cup strong black coffee
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar
4 Tbsp golden syrup
80g butter
1 cup flaked almonds
1/2 cup shredded or desiccated coconut
1/3 cup rolled oats
chocolate icing


Main ingredient Sugar
Type of dish Cake
Course Dessert
Cooking time 1 - 2 hours
Serves/makes 4-8
Special options Kid-friendly

1. Preheat oven to 180C. Grease a 23cm springform tin well. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

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2. Add eggs one at a time, finally beating in vanilla essence. Sift flour and cocoa and stir gently into the mix, then add almonds and coconut. Gently mix in sour cream and black coffee. Bake for one hour.

3. Topping: Meanwhile, combine sugar and water in a saucepan, and stir to dissolve the sugar well.

4. Simmer for about 5 minutes (or more), until mixture is golden. Remove from the heat, and add golden syrup, butter, almonds, coconut and rolled oats. Stir until well mixed.

5. When the cake has been in the oven for 1 hour, pour over topping mixture and return to the oven for 10 minutes, or until topping has set. Cool for 10 minutes then remove from the tin to a wire rack for cooling.

- Sunday Star Times

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