SWEET HEART

A GRAND­MOTHER IS FONDLY RE­MEM­BERED AS HAV­ING A FLAIR FOR BAK­ING CAKES AND BIS­CUITS.

Country Style - - CONTENS - WORDS SARAH NEIL PHO­TOG­RA­PHY AND STYLING CHINA SQUIR­REL

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!”

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