Cakes our mothers (and grandmothers) taught us


This coming July, I'll be heading south to the kitchen of Tamsin Carvan. Tamsin runs a program of lunches and workshops from her Gippsland home and I've been wanting to visit for years. Actually, readers of this blog might remember meeting her here in a guest post last year.

In any case, as part of a series of workshops called 'Cakes our mother taught us', on July 25 I'll be at Tamsin's Table, with my own Mum as well, to share some of our family baking favourites.

When thinking about what to cook and share for this workshop, I instinctively turned to the Danish recipes that tie me to my mothers' family. Like Gran's apple cake for example; a buttery, crumbly confection layered with spiced apples. And the soft, sweet buttermilk rolls that to me, signify the generosity and homeliness of Danish baking. Both my grandmothers were wonderful cooks and some of my most treasured possessions are the recipes they handed down to us all, in particular the books and cards I inherited from my maternal grandmother Helen.

The blue book above was an engagement gift from Gran's friends. They gave it to her just before she sailed to Copenhagen in the late thirties to marry my Danish grandfather Paul.

Paul and Helen met in Sydney and courted then corresponded when Far continued on his travels. After many letters across many continents he sent one with a proposal that she accepted. So, in 1939 Gran left the northern beaches of Sydney and her big, close family to sail for Denmark where she'd marry and meet her new family. She took with her this book of recipes, a collection of handwritten favourites from her circle of friends.

The book is a treasure. It's full of love, humor and all the dishes that her friends were successfully cooking for their new husbands and families. I read through them often; there's so much friendship on each page and so much goodwill, and I love the different (but always beautiful) penmanship and writing style. I also love seeing how Gran added to this book then started on another, the recipes shifting gradually to reflect the privations of war time and words changing to Danish as she mastered her new language.

One day I'll write more about Gran and the incredible stories she and Far lived through the war and beyond. But for now I think I'll just make that apple cake again so my kitchen will smell like hers used to, at least for the afternoon.

If free and able to come along to this workshop at Tamsin's Table on July 25, we'd so love to see you there. It'll be an afternoon of baking, stories and shared treats. x

Love the instructions below for washing up. Nothing like spelling it out!
 Food photography of the fifties...that savoury


  1. Gorgeous much family treasure and so much goodness x

  2. The blue book above was an engagement gift from Gran's friends. They gave it to her just before she sailed to Copenhagen in the late thirties to marry my Danish grandfather Paul.
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  3. Oh that's special! I just made jam drop biscuits from my grandmothers Nambour branch CWA cookbook published in 1939. It was given to her by her fellow nurses when she left the sunny coast for nsw (where she met my grandfather). I contains handwritten notes, splashes of this and that and tangible link to my nan Bettie!

  4. MY god.... it must be something.... the original of the original thing.

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  5. Dusting out the old goodies.... please share a few??? They are the original wonders.
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