A GRANDMOTHER IS FONDLY REMEMBERED AS HAVING A FLAIR FOR BAKING CAKES AND BISCUITS.
Bronwyn Cocks shares a cinnamon sponge cake recipe from her grandmother’s cookbook.
A LOFTY SUBURB WITH OCEAN VIEWS and an increasingly affluent population, Merewether Heights, in Newcastle, NSW, was a very different place when Bronwyn Cocks lived there in the 1950s. Back then it was a small miners’ settlement known as Hillcrest, which consisted of about 10 weatherboard cottages with corrugated-iron roofs and no electricity or town water. “It was a lovely place to grow up,” says 65-year-old Bronwyn, or Bon for short. “There was bush all around and we could roam in the bush as long as we were home for tea. It was a very carefree childhood.” When Bon was a little girl, her grandmother Delphine Perrett (pictured above) came to live with the family. “Although I was very young, I still remember her. She was a no-nonsense lady with a sharp tongue and a fiery temper. We children knew to be on our best behaviour when Grandma was close by.” But one thing that endeared Delphine to her four grandchildren was her ability to cook hearty baked dinners and beautiful cakes. “She was always cooking,” recalls Bon. “Grandma had a big mixing bowl and a wooden spoon. She would balance the bowl on her hip and mix furiously and, in no time at all, she’d have butter and sugar mixed to a smooth consistency.” The coal-fuelled stove in the kitchen was always going, even on sweltering summer days, and Bon remembers her mother, Ivy, and Delphine churning out cakes, biscuits and scones. “Hospitality was a huge thing,” says Bon. “They’d have the baking done early, so there were cakes and biscuits on hand in case people popped in. And there was always a large black kettle on the boil for cups of tea.” Of all the homemade sweet treats, the children’s favourite were jam drops. “We’d hang around the big wooden table in the kitchen after they came out of the oven, waiting for them to cool down.” Although Bon has inherited her grandmother’s handwritten cookbook — which includes recipes with fascinating names such as flatters cake, orange crumb pie, Mayfield tart and coffee kisses — she did not acquire her baking skills. “I prefer to sew rather than cook, but I can make cakes,” says Bon, who occasionally makes this cinnamon sponge from Delphine’s cookbook. “But I cannot for the life of me work out how my mother and grandmother were able to cook everything to perfection on that fuel stove, as there was no temperature gauge. It’s a very good thing, for my family’s sake, that they are not relying on me to cook for them on a fuel stove. I think all of us would be quite hungry!”