It was in the summer holidays that I first learned to bake with my mother.
I have happy memories of apple tart, sponge cake, and shortcake flapjacks. These days I have had children as young as six in the cookery school and it is great to see their enthusiasm.
Today’s recipes are ideal for children to learn in the holidays. By 11 or 12 lots of children will be able to make them on their own, under a watchful eye.
Both are desserts that can be made and eaten soon after and that is a great way to get hooked on cooking. Children can also learn how to make delicious food from scratch and know all of the ingredients it contains. The ice cream sandwiches are a lovely treat and if you don’t want to serve them immediately, they can be wrapped tightly in clingfilm and frozen.
There is a lot of good Irish fruit available at the moment for this Victoria sponge. As you know I am a great fan of Pat Clarke’s fruit. It is always reliable and the best for making jam. This cake takes only half an hour to make and bake and is delicious with lots of fruits such as raspberries or strawberries and I have even used a drained tin of peach slices.
Monster Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches
375g (13oz) light muscovado sugar
225g (8oz) butter, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
350g (12oz) plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bread soda
½ tsp salt
150g (5oz) Smarties
2 x 500ml (18fl oz) cartons vanilla ice cream
1 Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/gas mark 4). Line four baking sheets with parchment paper.
2 Using a hand-held mixer, cream the sugar and butter in a large bowl until soft and fluffy. Whisk the eggs lightly with the vanilla extract and then gradually beat into the butter mixture.
3 Sieve the flour, baking powder, bread soda and salt into a separate bowl, then beat into the butter and egg mixture.
4 Use dampened hands to shape the cookie mixture into 20 even-sized balls and then arrange on the lined baking sheets.
5 Flatten the balls slightly, allowing plenty of room for spreading (aim for four balls of dough per sheet; you’ll need to bake the cookies in batches).
6 Dot with the Smarties and bake for 10–12 minutes, until rich golden all over and firm at the edges but still a little soft to the touch in the centre.
7 Leave to cool a little, then using a metal fish slice or spatula, carefully transfer to a wire rack while they are still hot (otherwise they tend to stick).
8 To serve, place a scoop of ice cream on the flat side of half of the cookies. Cover with the rest of the cookies and then press each one down gently to make a sandwich.
Victoria sponge with strawberries
knob of butter, for greasing
150g (5oz) caster sugar
5 eggs, at room temperature
1 vanilla pod, split in half lengthways and seeds scraped out
175g (6oz) self-raising flour, sifted
250g (9oz) strawberries
150ml (¼ pint) cream
3-4 tbsp strawberry conserve or jam
icing sugar, to dust
1 Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/gas mark 4). Lightly grease 2 x 20cm (8in) sponge cake tins with butter and line with nonstick baking paper.
2 Place the sugar, eggs and vanilla seeds in a large bowl. Using either a hand or electric whisk, beat the mixture until it fills over half the bowl and has the consistency of lightly whipped cream.
3 Using a dessert spoon, gently fold in the sifted flour and continue folding until all the flour is fully absorbed. Divide the batter between the prepared cake tins and cook for 15–20 minutes, until well risen and golden brown and the cake comes slightly away from the tin.
4 Turn out onto wire racks and leave to cool completely.
5 To serve, hull the strawberries, then dice two-thirds and cut the remainder into quarters.
6 Whip the cream in a bowl until soft peaks form.
7 Spread the strawberry conserve or jam on one side of a sponge, almost but not quite to the edge, and scatter over the diced strawberries, then cover with half of the whipped cream.
8 Carefully place the other sponge on top to cover the filling completely.
9 Add a light dusting of icing sugar and place on a cake stand. Put the rest of the whipped cream into a piping bag and pipe rosettes around the edge of the cake, then top each one with a strawberry quarter.
10 Put straight on the table and cut into slices to serve.