Sunday, 27 March 2011

Jane Austen Quote of the Week 145

This weekend’s quote was taken from Jane Austen’s letter in 1808 which was written for Cassandra Austen. It was a simple, no-brainer quote that I searched for because today I just tried a new green tea cake recipe. I am pleased to report that the cake did not disappoint me, although a slightly more moist texture would be preferable. The quote was directly taken from

Godmersham: Wednesday (June 15)

Your account of Anna gives me pleasure. Tell her, with my love, that I like her for liking the quay. Mrs. J. A. seems rather surprised at the Maitlands drinking tea with you, but that does not prevent my approving it. I hope you had not a disagreeable evening with Miss Austen and her niece. You know how interesting the purchase of a sponge-cake is to me.

So there you go. Miss Jane Austen loved sponge cake. I’m not certain that we can find a sponge cake recipe here in the Jane Austen Cookbook , but it’s always worth a try. Anyone has an award-winning sponge cake recipe they'd like to share?

Pic: Cover of the Jane Austen Cookbook (by Maggie Black & Deirdre le Faye)


Linda Fern said...

After reading your post I had quite an adventure! So, step by step and in order as you posted, here we go. First, you mentioned “a new green tea cake recipe”. Is there a recipe for making a cake with ‘green tea’?

Next is a mention of a “quay” in the letter. I had a vague notion that it has something to do with a waterfront. So to be certain, I Googled and found out it is a wharf. Still unsure, I opened my Webster’s Dictionary of 1828 to verify it. Evidently, the context is lacking in explaining that someone had recently seen a ‘quay’ and it doesn’t have anything to do with food.

Next, in the letter is the mention of the ‘purchase of a sponge-cake’ which led to Icha asking about sponge cake recipes. So I go on a wild goose chase looking for a recipe since I had made a couple in my time. Because I thought that a recipe from Jane Austen’s time line might be found, I remembered that a dear Janeite friend in England had sent me a cookbook. The title is “Good Things in England” by Florence White, originally published in 1932 with recipes ‘contributed by English Men and Women between1399 and1932’. I promptly located it and searched for ‘sponge cake’. There is a recipe for ‘Rich Lemon Sponge’ and ‘A Cheaper Lemon Sponge’. The list of ingredients was familiar except for one ingredient called ‘isinglass’. Not having the slightest idea what that was, I embarked on another search. Wikipedia says it is ‘a substance obtained from the dried swim bladders of fish’ and was the forerunner of our gelatin. The finishing touch of this old recipe was to ‘strain into well wetted moulds.’ Then it hit me – they were talking about what we now call “Jell-O”! It was not really a ‘cake’. So, I am not really sure that her mention of ‘sponge-cake’ is what we call ‘cake’ because flour was not one of the ingredients in that old recipe.

Therefore, dear Icha, I am not at all certain that Jane liked what we today call ‘sponge cake’. I leave it for you to determine. End of search.

Yrs aff’ly,
Linda the Librarian

Icha said...

Ooh... a very comprehensive research! Thank you my dear Librarian.

I should have underlined the sponge cake only, for I wasn't interested in the "quay" at all. Will edit the post accordingly (bolding it).

Ah, and I was wondering if JA was talking abt the same 'sponge cake' as our modern sponge cake. I don't seem to like eating a cake containing something from the dried swim bladders of fish. I like Jell-o, but really, that's not a cake.

And yes, my green tea cake is a pound cake with 1 tablespoon of powder green tea ('matcha'). I added another teaspoon of matcha because I like strong green tea flavour, but it is optional. The recipe is here:

I will try to melt the butter first next time. I did it with my banana cake. It seems to create a more moist cake than if I just beat the butter at room temperature.

Rachel said...

Fantastic research Linda. I did abit myself and couldnt find anything relevant to show whether Jane Austen's sponge cake is what we know as sponge cake. Does anyone else know?

I am very intrigued by the green tea cake, I was hoping you would post the link to the recipe so thanks Icha. I love anything related to green tea.

What an uplifting quote of the week.