This year Alice in Wonderland is 150 years old. My daughter's school decided to mark this with an Alice in Wonderland day. All the children were encouraged to go to school dressed as one of the characters and they took part in various themed activities throughout the day. One of these was a picnic and the children were told they could bring in cakes to share with their friends if they wanted.
I always like an excuse to make cake so I pondered possible cakes one evening whilst soaking in the bath. I had an image in my head of a square piece of sponge, topped with a layer of jam and then desiccated coconut. I have my suspicions that this might be a memory from school dinners when cakes like this were served up from enormous metal tins. Away, to give it the "Alice" twist, I thought it would be neat to leave playing card symbol shapes in the coconut so that the jam formed the suit shape.
A couple of days before Alice day, I set about making the sponge cake. It just needed to be a plain sponge so I decided to use a Victoria Sandwich Cake recipe but to cook it in a small square cake tin and cook it for longer then normal as it was all one cake, not too thinner cakes. Once cooled, I wrapped it up in grease proof paper and foil and stored it until the next day. Then I cut the cake into 9 smaller square pieces and spread 9 of them with Summer Fruit Jam (red) and 8 pieces with Blackcurrant Jam (black). Then came the tricky bit - sprinkling over the desiccated coconut, leaving the suit shape in the middle. Heart and diamond shapes weren't too bad but clubs and spades are very hard! I think it would be easier to use a pastry cutter in these shapes to use as a guide and even possibly to place the cutter on the cake, cover it with a piece of paper cut to the shape and then sprinkle the coconut over. Definitely worth trying next time I have the need to make playing card shapes in jam!
So in the end, my vision didn't quite translate as perfectly in reality as I imagined. Still, my daughter was happy with my efforts and she duly dressed herself up as Alice and went off for her picnic. I'm pleased to say that her friends enjoyed the cakes too and that she brought 3 pieces home with her so I was able to try a piece too. The flavour of sponge cake, jam and coconut did take me right back to school days.
Nonetheless, I did feel slightly bothered by my less than perfect presentation so I am keen to give the concept another go. In the meantime, however, I have been watching Mary Berry's latest TV series and I found myself drawn to one of her favourite recipes: Lucy's Strawberry Slices. This is essentially a plain sponge, cooked in a square tin and cut into pieces. I was interested to see that her recipe was very similar to a Victoria Sandwich Cake too but with added milk and more baking powder. So I found myself wondering if I should try this recipe and adapt it for my playing card cakes. However, by the time she had got to the end of her recipe, it looked so tasty that I thought I would just like to make them as they were... complete with freshly picked strawberries and strawberry jam.
So this morning, I made the sponge cake then this afternoon my girls and I went out and picked some strawberries, and this evening I served up Lucy's Strawberry Slices for dessert. Delicious! Maybe one day I will revisit the playing card cakes but in the meantime, we shall be enjoying our strawberry slices.