vintage baking

Vintage baking.

The exams from hell are over (I passed), and for a month there I was left feeling run over by a train, several trucks, and a medium sized campervan.  But with the last four weeks of uni left forever, and work soon to start in January, it’s time to forget all that and have some fun!

One of my favourite things to do is pore over The Barossa Cookery Book.  In a nutshell, this little gem was created to raise money for the soldiers, first in 1917, then again in 1932 for WWII (which is the edition I have).  It differs from other Australian cookbooks of the time (the food was extremely basic) in a major way.  The settlers of the Barossa were largely German.  Which means a large proportion, if not most, recipes in the book are steeply rooted in European heritage.  According to this article, a lot of the names of the recipes had to be changed from their German originals to more ‘Australian’ sounding ones given the anti-German sentiment at the time.  Imagine my surprise the first time I made ‘honey cookies’, and what came out was gingerbread!  And not just any gingerbread – according to the aforementioned article, it was a 16th century recipe for it.

Today I made ‘honeycomb cake’, and the beginning of the recipe it says ‘bienenstich’, which means bee-sting.  The only bee-sting cake I’ve ever seen has been a mile tall and stuffed with cream, but this is unfilled and more like a coffee-cake.  I Googled the German word, and discovered that this recipe is favoured by elderly German women, and that the cream filled version is a more modern take.  I’m a bit old fashioned in my tastes.

The recipes in the book aren’t for the faint-hearted.  They’re written in a sentence.  They expect you to know what a ‘moderate oven’ and ‘a little bit longer’ mean.  But I don’t mind – there’s no pictures, and you have no idea what you’re going to get.

This is me getting a bit arty with the camera.  The top of the cake caramelised and was chewy while the inside was dense and cakey.   I admit, it was a little dry – I assumed a moderate oven meant 180C but I’ll try 160 next time.

It was a minor complaint!  Did you know that Italians eat cake or cookies for breakfast (exercising portion control of course!) with a caffe latte or espresso?  For the rest of the day there is no sweets.  It makes sense in a way, if you eat your sugar and fat in the morning, you’re sure to use it!  If you eat it right before bed, what’s your body going to do with it?  We all know the answer to that!

Here is the recipe in it’s original form

Bienenstich:  Bake in a dish of which the rim can be taken off.  For Cake:  Three and one-third ozs butter, 3 and one-third ozs sugar, 1 egg, 1/2 lbs S.R. flour, 3 tablespoons milk.  Cream butter, sugar and egg.  Press the dough into dish about 1/4 inch thick.  For the Top of Cake:  Three and one-third ozs butter and sugar, 1 1/2 ozs finely grated almonds, essence of vanilla, 2 tablespoons milk.  Melt the butter, add other ingredients, let all boil up and pour over cake.  Bake in moderate oven for 1/2 hour (or a little more).  Should be made the day it is wanted.

Mrs. M Menz, Norwood.

Here’s what I did with that:


  • 95 grams butter
  • 95 grams sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 230 grams SR flour
  • 3 tablespoons milk


  • 95 grams butter
  • 95 grams sugar (I used brown, other recipes use honey)
  • 45 grams flaked almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 1/4 tsp vanilla paste)
  • 2 tbsp milk

Preheat the oven to 160C.  Cream the butter and sugar then add the egg and mix until combined.  Add the milk, then the flour – it should be like a sticky dough.  Put into a cake tin with a removable base and pat out until it’s about half a cm thick.

For the top of the cake, melt the butter, then add the other ingredients, bring to the boil, then pour all over the cake.  Bake in the oven for about half an hour.

Enjoy!  (I may just, for breakfast!)