Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Vintage Lane - Cherry Afternoon Tea Cakes from the WMU Cookery Book

How sweet are these little babies?

I made them from this gorgeous WMU Cookery Book from 1952. I can't remember where I got it from, but it's become one of my favourites. This is the 18th edition, printed in Brisbane.

First page is this charming advertisement for a hotel - with hot and cold running water! Other luxuries designed to sweep guests off their feet were reading lamps beside the bed and telephones.

Funnily enough, although it is never mentioned, The Canberra Hotel was actually created as an alcohol-free hotel, as part of the prohibition movement. They named it The Canberra as they thought it sounded terribly patriotic.

The index has chapters including Soup, Fish, Entries, Breakfast Dishes and Meats, Beef and Veal, Bacon and Pork, Lamb and Mutton, Game and Poultry, Gravies and Sauces, Salads and Dressings, Vegetables, Vegetarian Cookery, Boiled Puddings, Baked Puddings, Cold Puddings, Jellies and Creams, Pastry, Pies and Tarts, Sweet Sauces, Cakes, Fruit and Pound Cakes, Sponge Cakes and Sandwiches, Spice Cakes, Afternoon Tea Cakes, Biscuits, Bread and Scones, Icings and Fillings for Cakes, Sandwiches and Savouries, Omelettes and Pancakes, Jams Jellies and Marmalades, Pickles and Chutneys, Beverages, Sweets, Ices, Household Hints and Miscellaneous.


In addition to these categories, they've helpfully included weights and measures, a timetable for roasting and boiling meats, vegetables and various other things; and some hints for the inexperienced cook:

Here we learn how to make Beef Tea (whatever happened to that, anyway? It's in every vintage cookbook I own... seemed popular!), how to bake/roast meat, how to make soup, grill, how to make boiled custard, white sauce, glaze for pastry, meringue topping, whipped cream and how to make tea:

Warm teapot by rinsing it out with boiling water. Allow half teaspoon of tea to each person and half for the pot. Use fresh boiling water and pour it on the leaves without moving kettle from stove. Allow to infuse for 5 minutes and stir before serving. See the water has just reached boiling point before pouring it onto the tea leaves.

We're also told what accompaniments go with what meat, and what to do to "help out on occasions when interruptions set catering plans or unexpected visitors arrive", including stocking up with tinned sardines and asparagus tips, and a few quick recipes for such occasions.

I love the "Brief Hints" that throw together some random bits and pieces that the home cook would be glad to know. Such gems like:

A tempting dish for a hot day - Slice finely 2 or 3 onions and brown them in butter, adding salt and pepper to taste. Beat 2 eggs, stir into pan with the onions and cook til set. Serve with hot buttered toast.
If you add the juice of a lemon when making a cake with dripping, the cake will taste, when cooked, as though it had been made with butter.
Cook dried apricots in a syrup made of half liquid in which they were soaked and half of fresh cold water. Cooked this way they take less sugar and taste like fresh apricots.

There are a few Brisbane-centric ads, which are all delightfully typical of their time.

so cute!

This picture is indicative of the beginnings of each chapter.

Several recipes raise my eyebrows every time I see them, from each chapter. Things like Sheep's Head Broth, Marmite Soup, Bloater Paste, Kidney Mould, Petit Toe Pie, and Queensland Duck which is actually roast mutton and onions.

We're told in the "Garnishings" section that the art is "sadly neglected". Several options are provided to revive the practice, including tufts of parsley and tomatoes cut into shapes for cold meats, Fish should be garnished with tufts of parsley and sliced lemon, and that tinned fruits such as apricots and peaches look dainty with a preserved cherry in the centre of each.

I don't know about you, but I'm bringing back the garnish.

Lots of my recipe books have these little snippets tucked away among the pages.

And this one contains some hand-written extras such as pikelets, lemon meringue pie, chocolate crackles, ginger cake, biscuit pastry, Jean's patty cakes, sponge sandwich, caramel biscuits and ched burgers.

Toward the back we're given some household hints on how to clean the bath, make furniture polish/soap/fruit salts/camphor oil, the value of Borax (every country housewife should keep a supply on hand, as no other article will be found of equal value), and how handy salt is for stains.

Whatever couldn't be fit into various topics were collated in the Miscellaneous section. Hints such as:

Rosine is as good as cochineal, one drop is enough
Raw white of egg or boracic acid for cuts
A raw egg, if swallowed immediately, will effectually catch a fish bone that has stuck in the throat
Damp salt will remove the discolouring of cups and saucers caused by tea and careless washing
A little method is worth a good deal of memory
Nervous people will find time, used as tea, give them relief
Methylated spirits rubbed into tired feet will greatly relieve them; also dust with boracic powder before putting on stockings
An excellent way to cook an old fowl is to place a piece of fat bacon inside the fowl, roast or boil, and the flesh will be quite tender

I took the liberty of baking you the cherry cakes from the Afternoon Tea Cakes section. You're welcome.

Beat 4ozs. of butter and 4ozs. sugar together, add 3 eggs, one by one, beating well, then add 6ozs. of flour, with 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder. Shake in a little grated lemon rind and 4ozs. crystallised cherries cut up. Bake in fancy tins, and when cold ice and top each cake with a glace cherry.

I didn't have any preserved cherries, so I used maraschino cherries from a jar, and used the syrup to mix with icing sugar for the icing.

They were actually delicious. Not light and fluffy, but soft and moist and dense, with a gorgeous crunchy crust. I absolutely loved them because of it. The crust was the best part, and the cherries were very cute flecked pink throughout.

There are so many other things I've made and will make from this book, so stay tuned! If you want to see some more of my vintage cookbook collection, go here, or click "vintage" in the navigation bar at the top of the page :)


  1. Can't wait to get home and rub some metho into my feet! I love how you followed their directions of baking in "fancy tins" :)

  2. What a great little book! And helpful too!
    I'll have to remember to keep a raw egg handy for those tricky fish bones and methylated spirits… my tired feet could do with a good dose of that! ;)

    The little cherry cakes look delicious! I'm looking forward to seeing more delights from this book.

  3. Beautiful on so many levels. Loooove vintage cookbooks, I have my grandmother's old Finnish cookbooks. That last picture of the cake is adorable!

  4. oh god! i love a vintage cookbook! those little cakes are perfect. i'm googling "beef tea" now, haha.

  5. I love these! My mum has a lot of vintage cookbooks - you've inspired me to go and dig them out - fabulous :)

  6. I have a book that says fake brandy cures heart failure - looks like alcohol is the super fix for everything!

  7. erg, that's one thing I'm definitely not trying haha :)

  8. Ohhhh you totally need to tell me what you find!!!