feeling retro

swiss roll

swiss roll

In January, I feel the need to sort and organise. One year we cleared the bookshelves and took boxes of books to the charity bookshop. Last year, I sorted through my recipes and tried to bring order to the motley collection of cards, newspaper clippings and scribbled notes.

This year I decided to tackle Number 2 Filing Cabinet. Every few years, I purge Number 1 Filing Cabinet in the office and dispose of any paperwork that’s no longer needed. The trouble is that I also accumulate a pile of “not necessarily of any use but I don’t want to throw it away just in case …” along with sentimental things like old family photographs of people whose names I don’t know. All these are carried out to Number 2 Filing Cabinet where I open a drawer and stuff in everything with no regard to alphabet, topic or year. This system has worked incredibly well for the past twenty years but alas, the drawers were full and there could be no more stuffing until at least one drawer had been partially emptied.

Sorting through the old school reports and certificates, I came across an old school exercise book. The wallpaper cover was ripped (why was the first homework of the year to cover all our books?) but Anne Howard – Domestic Science was still clearly visible. This was from an era when the boys learnt manly things like Woodwork and Metalwork while we girls learnt how to sew, cook and hand wash jumpers. In our first practical cookery lesson we grilled a piece of bread to make toast and heated milk in a saucepan to make a cup of instant coffee. Heady stuff. In the exercise book, recipes are painstakingly copied out for Chelsea Buns, Lemon Meringue Pie and Sausage Plait all in pounds and ounces and Fahrenheit. We progressed through shortcrust, suet, rough puff and puff pastry, made sweet and savoury dishes and used an abundance of margarine and lard. There’s no mention of pasta, no pinch of chilli powder or the merest splash of olive oil. How times change.

The cake recipes included Pineapple Upside Down Cake (yeuch), Fairy Cakes and Swiss Roll. We baked the fairy cakes in flowery paper cases (that we were instructed to buy from a stationer) and iced them with a teaspoonful of glace icing. Toppings were optional; half a glace cherry or a scattering of hundreds and thousands with some tiny silver balls, destined to catch the unwary adult with dodgy teeth. Nowadays the fairy cake has been ousted by the cupcake, a monstrous “individual” dry cake beneath an enormous glob of sickly buttercream icing and the Swiss Roll overtaken by roulade, in its many guises. A light bite of sponge and jam replaced by a glorious confection of flavoured sponge or meringue and cream. Chocolate Swiss Roll made from chocolate flavoured sponge with a buttercream filling or a rich chocolate flourless cake rolled around chocolate ganache and billowing cream masquerading as Chocolate Roulade. Hmm, I’m beginning to understand why.

swiss roll recipe

Sometimes though, you just have to see if things taste how you remember, so I made a Swiss Roll. It looked very retro, but it was delicious. It was a fairly plain cake but that’s no bad thing. In keeping with its provenance, I feel it should be served on a pretty china plate and accompanied by a cup of tea. That’s a proper cup and saucer with tea poured from a teapot. Not for you? Then replace the jam with whipped cream, pile in some soft fruit and dust with icing sugar. But would that make it a roulade?

Do you stick to the classic family favourites or are you always trying out new recipes?

27 thoughts on “feeling retro

  1. andreamynard says:

    Definitely remember pineapple (obviously from a tin) upside down cake and sausage plait from home economics! Your swiss roll looks lovely though, proof that sometimes retro is delicious.


  2. Jane says:

    I can’t imagine anyone saying no to a jam roll, then or now! Yum. Only thing that would make it better would be to cut it up and bung it in a trifle 🙂 I have been cleaning out filing cabinets, too! Hard work but satisfying. I needed to make room for my sewing pattern collection. I think that deserves space more than tax files etc!


  3. Sarah says:

    I’ve never really understood the attraction of retro (except for VW camper vans of course!), but that photo has convinced me that retro can be good… and delicious.


  4. Maeve Heneke says:

    What lovely memories you have brought back for me… My great-aunt, Tienie, always celebrated her birthday with an afternoon tea in her tiny sitting room for all her friends and neighbours. Over the years (she lived to the good age of 81 when that was still unusual) the one constant at these gatherings was the Swiss roll, placed in the centre of a laden table. The afternoon usually finished with a rousing rendition of “Shall we gather at the river” or “How great Thou art -she was a staunch member of her church. She died in Cape Town nearly forty years ago but in many ways she is here in London with me. I wear her wedding ring; I sleep in her brass bed and on the book shelf is a copy of “Little Women” that she won as first prize in 1900.


  5. Christina says:

    I am going to bake this Swiss Roll tomorrow, thanks for the recipe. We do have Swiss Rolls in Switzerland (at least when I was still living there) but we always called them roulade…. ahead of times? Probably not but isn’t it funny how a cake that I always thought off as French would be called Swiss 🙂


  6. Mrs Thomasina Tittlemouse says:

    Your Swiss roll looks so professional! Mine never roll up that beautifully. There’s something very pleasing about the simplicity of some of these recipes from bygone eras and they were often less heavy than their modern counterparts in terms of fat & sugar – I’m thinking of the heavily iced cupcake phenomenon here. I too had to cover all my books and remember chafing considerably that my mother wouldn’t buy wrapping paper to do the job (waste of money) and we had to make do with cutting up used paper bags! All the other girls seemed to have (clearly spendthrift) parents who did not mind splashing out on pretty and glossy paper – I can still feel the indignant resentment I had for this sensible and green maternal policy! E x


  7. dianeskitchentable says:

    Oh did this post bring back memories. I’m also from the days when girls took what we called Home Ec and typing although some boys did take typing too. Boys took what was just called ‘shop’ – and that wasn’t short for shopping. Seems like they all made bookends while the girls made A-line skirts. You covered a lot more in you cooking classes but we also had to sit for lectures on manners (oh I wish they would bring that back), introducing people at various functions, and how to sit properly (ankles crossed, not legs).
    My filing system is also a multi-stage process but you sound like you have it down to a science.
    I’ve never made a jelly roll in my life but it was a staple of my mother’s desserts.
    I’ve been so daring lately since reading blogs from around the world but I do go back to the easy standby classics for most meals. Sometimes it’s nice to not follow a recipe.


  8. Glenda says:

    Hi Anne, I have been very interested in reading the comments, especially from Celia and Jane who call them jam rolls. Here in the West we call them Swiss rolls. Language is funny. Is it hard to roll up the sponge without it breaking? It certainly sounds hard.


    • Anne @ Life in Mud Spattered Boots says:

      I wonder how far east in Australia you have to go before you eat a Jam Roll. So long as you roll up the sponge when it’s just out of the oven it’s easy. I don’t do delicate (as you may have noticed) so you know it can stand up to some pretty rough handling.


      • Glenda says:

        Very interesting thought. I am going to ask some South Australians what they call them. I was at a kitchen shop today and there were plenty of Swiss roll tins for sale so clearly someone still makes them.


  9. Sally says:

    I do a bit of both – classic recipes and trying out new things. Can’t agree with your yeuch on pineapple upside down cake though – it’s a delicious if retro favourite.


  10. Pat Machin says:

    Memories! We did all those things in school AND covered our books as well. That looks like a seriously good Swiss Roll.

    By the way : You are all making me feel much better about my *cough* filing system!


  11. Sarah says:

    Loving this trip down memory lane! The first thing we (boys and girls) made in Home Ec was pizza including the dough. I also remember cheese straws, fruit salad and rock cakes! I have to cover both Figlet’s books with this evil product similar to sticky back plastic. However this one has a foil like texture that creases at every turn. It clings in all the wrong places and rips when you try and remove it….. Every year I put through an SOS call to Mr Fig to “bl***y well come home and help me cover these bl***y books!”


  12. nancy@jamjnr says:

    Oh you sent me right back to 1978 and haven to cover all my paper back books with….more paper. What was that about? I can’t wrap a present for love nor money now so it was obviously wasted on me. I think in my first Home Ec term we had to do scones, baked apples and cupcakes. And we had to alternate cooking with sewing weeks – now I can sew a button on a shirt and knit so that stood me in good stead.
    Right now I’ll have to cook the jammy roll.


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