Meroogal sponge

 

Celebrate Mother’s Day with some cherished favourites – made with love over the generations ­– from our new book,Eat your history: stories and recipes from Australian kitchens. 

According to family tradition, the tea table at Meroogal was not considered complete until it was laden with the family’s ‘signature’ sponge cake, which was baked in a loaf tin and served perfectly plain. The sponge was one of many delicious offerings served by the ‘misses Thorburn’ – sisters Belle (Annabella), Kate (Jessie Catherine), Georgina and Tottie (Kennina) – at their ‘At Home’ tea parties in the early 1900s.

Sepia toned black & white photo of four women - two kneeling, two standing - on lawn in front of picket fence

The Thorburn sisters on the lawn at Meroogal, around 1922, photographer unknown. Left to right: Tot, Belle, Kate and Georgie. Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection, June Wallace Papers.

 ‘At homes’ were easier to manage than a sit-down luncheon or dinner. According to Mrs Beeton’s all about cookery (1902),

‘knowing [that guests] will not all assemble at the same time, a great many may be welcomed …’

There was no formal invitation at Meroogal. The first Monday of every month was set aside to receive friends and relatives who knew it was the appropriate time to call. Guests were ‘properly’ greeted at the front door, rather than at the side door, and then ushered into the drawing room with its Victorian-style bay windows.

White painted gate with Meroogal painted ornately in black lettering, with house in background.

Meroogal. Photo © Leo Rocker for Sydney Living Museums.

To prepare for their guests, the Thorburn sisters would rise early, as per their usual custom, and bake their special scones, biscuits and cakes including the signature sponge. Tottie and Kate would make the cake together, Tottie beating the egg yolks while Kate whisked the whites on a large flat dinner plate with the blade of a dinner knife. This technique for whipping egg whites is now a lost art, but one well known among traditional cooks – you need a steady arm and plenty of patience.

You can watch the sponge cake being made in the kitchen at Meroogal by the house’s last owner, June Wallace, in this video:

About the Author

Sydney Living Museums Image
Jacqui Newling
Gastronomer/Interpretation curator
Creative Services
Jacqui explores our history and heritage through food. Our historic properties have been home to many hundreds of people and they all had to eat. And while we can’t meet them for a chat, we can get a taste of their lives!

Framed piece of embroidery with geometric and other motifs.

Meroogal

Meroogal Women’s Art Prize entries closeFriday 3 August 2018

Entries have closed for the 17th Meroogal Women’s Art Prize with a record number of artists submitting works. Pre-selection of the works takes place soon with the announcement of finalists on Friday 24 August.

Group in kitchen with fresh produce on table.

Education

Thousands of students Butter their BreadWednesday 15 August 2018

In July, we held our first ever video conference to schools live from Vaucluse House. We received an enormous response to the program, with over 3000 students connecting to us from 93 schools across NSW.

Group of four women in period costumes in front of sandstone steps.

The Mint

NIDA students in costume at the Barracks & The MintTuesday 14 August 2018

NIDA costume design students were seen modelling the costumes that they designed at Hyde Park Barracks Museum and The Mint.

Employment Opportunity promo tile

Employment

18/SE032 Senior Digital ProducerMonday 6 August 2018