Grandma’s fat free sponge cake – Frugal War Rations Recipes Wednesday

Filed in Blog by on January 26, 2011 9 Comments
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Fat Free Sponge Cake

Fat Free Sponge Cake

Today’s war time rations recipe comes not from Marguerite Patten, but from one of our readers!

Jean left a comment on the site and shared her Grandma’s fat free sponge cake recipe for me to try.

Containing only 3 ingredients we put it to the test:

Grandma’s Fat Free Sponge Cake Recipe


2 eggs, weighed with shells on
Equivalent weight of the 2 eggs in sugar (roughly 4 oz but do check!)
Equivalent weight of 2 eggs in Self Raising flour


Beat eggs and sugar together until pale and thick
Fold in the sifted flour gently with a metal spoon
Bake in a bottom-lined tin in a hot oven (I used 180 in a fan oven) for about half an hour till done


I didn’t tell Mr Green and Little Miss Green that it was made with only 3 ingredients and it looked great when it came out of the oven – a bit like a flatish loaf of bread (I used a loaf tin). It was also incredibly easy and quick to make.

I tried to stick with the ‘war recipe’ idea but did resort to topping it with stewed fruit and serving with custard. Both members of the family really enjoyed it but Mr Green couldn’t have eaten it without a topping as it was a bit bland for him. Little Miss Green, however, happily took plain slices of it in her lunch box to school during the rest of the week!

Jean points out that if you’re not concerned about your weight, this sponge is good cut it in half and slathered with jam and butter cream! She uses 2oz softened butter or equivalent and as much icing sugar as you can beat into it to make her butter cream.

What about you? Any frugal or ‘war rations’ recipes to share?

Sliced and topped with stewed fruit

Sliced and topped with stewed fruit

and served with custard!

and served with custard!

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (9)

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  1. Jo says:

    Looks good, and so simple too. Just wanted to point out – for those who are watching that sort of thing – it isn’t “fat free” due to the saturated fat in the eggs. But isn’t it an amazing recipe! Almost like making something out of nothing 🙂

  2. Hazel says:

    I must give that a go! Compared to the amount of fat in a regular sponge cake, that’s amazing!

    What about Lord Woolton Pie?

    I’ve made versions of it before, though probably not as austere as the original. Lord Woolton was the Minister for Food during the war, and had the unenviable job of encouraging the population to eat frugally and stick to their rations. And I’ve no idea about the carrot museum- it just came up when I googled the recipe!

    Incidentally, there’s an interesting piece in this months Kitchen Garden magazine by Bob Flowerdew about gardening for climate change and he mentions how this compares with WW2’s Gardening for Victory. (You can tell it’s nearly Spring when I start buying gardening mags!).
    Essentially, they knew during the war that they were in it for a defined period of time; though they didn’t realise how long, they never thought it would be forever. This (together with less knowledge of nutrition) meant things like fruit got ousted as luxuries- there are no strawberry or raspberry wartime recipes. If we try to garden for increased self-sufficiency now, it’s a permanent change and living on cabbages, potatoes, carrots and onions with no end in sight may be a tad dispiriting. It doesn’t go into detail, but it’s an interesting point. I know you’re not suggesting we all eat a la WWII permanently, BTW! I use my Grans post war cookbook for frugal ideas, and I think these recipes are great!

  3. Ailbhe says:

    That’s the kind of cake I grew up on, make two and sandwich them with raspberry jam and whipped cream. It goes stale quite quickly, and takes an awful lot of whisking, but it’s lovely fresh.

  4. Karin says:

    I remember that recipe too, and as Ailbhe says, without the fat it goes stale more quickly. I’m not sure what kind of fat is in eggs, but the current thinking seems to be that eggs are healthy after all. I think eggs from grass-fed hens are meant to be better for you than those from hens with a high grain diet, so that probably means that Free Range is better for us as well as the chickens. There are even some that claim to be high in Omega 3.

  5. Mrs Green says:

    @Jo: Thanks for the clarification Jo 🙂

    @Hazel: Thanks for the Woolton pie recipe, I bought a swede and cauli today, so will give it a go – it does sound incredibly austere though! The Bob Flowerdew article sounds very interesting; I’ll look out for it – thank you! Do you know which books you have used good recipes from? I’m looking to extend my collection…

    @Ailbhe: Thanks Ailbhe; I love whisking cakes by hand – I like to think of my love and energy going into the food 🙂

    @Karin: I agree – it’s free range and organic all the way and I’ve never bought into the idea that eggs are bad for us …

  6. Hazel says:

    @Mrs Green: Yes, I think I’ve added cheese sauce more often than not!

    I have a bit of a weakness for cookbooks. I do try hard, and I really do use all the ones I own, honestly! You may wish that you hadn’t asked though…

    The book of my Gran’s is fabulous, but out of print. It’s the recipes collected from The Farmers Weekly in the late ’40’s. Lots of ‘first kill your pig’ and ‘when milking a freshly calved cow’, but also the recipes are all credited, so you know you’re making the stew that Miss C. Milne of Aberdeenshire (she contributed a lot of recipes!) made in 1948, which I just love! Our ‘family’ Green Tomato Chutney (My brother and I mark autumn by smelling this cooking) comes from the book.

    My MIL gave me this book: that she didn’t want anymore, and it’s quite interesting. It has Lord Woolton Pie in it and I’ve just seen they’ve added cheese sauce because they found the original too dry and they also say he developed a special fatless pastry (!) but they’ve used shortcrust.

    I’m not one for ‘celebrity’ chef books (we once had a Gary Rhodes book that took about 3 days to make Macaroni Cheese) but I do like Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and Nigel Slater. They’ve both written a million books which are all worth looking at.
    I love cooking, but can’t be doing with too much faffing!

    I also like Rose Prince; I have The New English Kitchen which is big on seasonal eating, not wasting food and using up gluts without being the sort of cook who spends days making jam. I confess that I am the sort of person who spends days making jam, and I still think she’s got some good stuff in it. Her sister is Sam Clarke from Moro, but it’s not at all cheffy. She has a new book out, but I deliberately haven’t looked at it!

    I’ve recently discovered Darina Allen,. She runs Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland, along with her DIL Rachel Allen. My friends daughter wants to be a chef; she went for for 3 months and didn’t want to come home!
    I love Forgotten Skills of Cooking and have used it a lot since I got it for Christmas a year ago. It includes foraged recipes, along with preserving and anything else you might want to know.
    I found The Ballymaloe Cookery Course in our local discount book shop (The Works) for £9.99, intending to give it to a friend for her birthday. I may have to go and buy her another one. It is a (?)simplified version of the course, with lots of ‘basic’ recipes and then variations on them, but covers all aspects of cookery, and again is not too cheffy.

    These are all general cookbooks, but I’ve a feeling you are vegetarian? Have I got that right? Or at least veggie leanings… I now eat (happy) meat after being veggie for 25 years, but still try to include plenty of meat free meals (the rest of the family have always eaten meat) and use Rose Elliott’s books for ideas. They’re the kind of books that often turn up in Charity Shops. I have Bean Feast and Vegan Feasts which both have lots of recipes for pulses.
    Another good Charity Shop find is The Pauper’s Cookbook by Jocasta Innes.

    Finally (I promise!) I really recommend Animal, Vegetable Mineral by Barbara Kingsolver. It’s a book to read, but does have recipes in it. In fact, I may have recommended it before! Her family eat seasonally for a year (with the exceptions of coffee, dried fruit, chocolate and spices, I think) and it’s very thought provoking. Her chapter on meat is partly why I started eating meat again. I can eat imported tofu or I can eat pork from a farm I can see from my bedroom window, raised on barley grown on the same farm which is fertilised by the pig manure. It’s a complex area, but for me this was the final nail in the argument that the answer is somewhere down the middle of meat eating and veganism. Beans with a little pork is a popular meal in our family- keeps everyone happy!

    I told you you may wish you hadn’t asked! Sorry for the long post, but hope you find something useful in there somewhere!

  7. Mrs Green says:

    @Hazel: That’s fantastic – thank you SO much Hazel. I’m off to Amazon this morning to fill up my wishlist! Funny you mention about veggie food. yes, I’m vegetarian but I have been thinking about eating some local, organic chicken again – I may have touched on this on the site. Like you I’m figuring I could eat local meat or my lentils and rice come from the other side of the world …. I like the Rose Elliot books too. Tell me, how did you find the switch from Veggie to meat? Did you eat just a tiny bit to start with and gradually build it up?

  8. Hazel says:

    @Mrs Green: I just switched, and was fine, but I know that’s not the case for everybody. Friends and family kept asking if everything was “…you know…alright?…” once I’d started eating meat again, but I didn’t have any side effects at all. :o)

    I did eat roast chicken first, but purely because that was what was in the oven! I’ve never disliked meat, and I suspect if I was 14 again now that I would eat only organic/free range meat, but as that wasn’t an option then I went for vegetarianism.
    I’d got to a point where I felt that I had to either become vegan or start eating meat again. I felt I was sitting on the fence by still eating dairy and eggs because of the whole issue of the fate of male calves and male chicks in the dairy and poultry system.
    So…the chicken was roasting and once again I realised it was nearly ready and I hadn’t done anything for me to go with the veg. Actually, I could quite happily just eat an enormous plate of the roast veg, but DH worries! I only ever bought free range meat as a minimum, so having recently re-read A,V,M, I ate the chicken! DH and the children nearly fell off their chairs and mealtimes have been much simpler since as I only ever cook one option! Except DD1 is 12 so I probably have 2 years until I have to do it all again!

    I still eat the veggie option in restaurants though, unless they can guarantee it’s at least free range.

    Happy shopping, and best wishes with whatever you decide to do.

  9. Mrs Green says:

    @Hazel: Hmmm, ok, just had an Amazon spree, a successful library tour and I managed to get a version of Farmhouse Fare too from a secondhand bookstore; it’s the 3rd edition, so not the original, but it should be good. Can’t wait to get stuck into those sweet smelling pages! Thanks for sharing your story about switching to meat. Interestingly I’ve been toying with the vegan vs meat thing too – I feel I’m at a half way point!

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