Thursday, June 26, 2014

Old Fashioned Sand Cake....

This is a cake of my childhood. It's about to become a cake of The Divas childhood too as she is gluten intolerant and this cake is GLUTEN FREE and doesn't taste nasty for being so.
My Mum and my Nanna used to make Sand Cake for special occasions. No, it doesn't contain sand and it doesn't look like sand either. I think it's descriptive and refers to the texture of the inside of the cake which is somewhere between a butter cake and a sponge. Delicious and light with a perfect 'crumb' as they say.
I found this particular recipe in our city's Lady Mayoress Cookbook, circa 1938. The book I found at an antique store for just $1. It also has advertisements for stainless steel sinks and electric jugs and jock straps. Funny as!
Apparently that particular council regime were dumped due to corrupt activity. But I'm sure Her Excellency (is that what they're called??) was unaware of the shenanigans as she was too busy making Cream Tarts, Tongue Salad, and Sand Cake. Bless her. Her husband, the Lord Mayor...well we can only speculate.
So here's the recipe, typed exactly as it appears in the book.
Sand Cake
Quarter pound butter, 1/4lb sugar, 1/4lb arrowroot, 2 eggs, essence vanilla. Beat all together for 20 minutes (no electric beaters back then, remember) and just before time is up, add 1 teaspoon baking powder. Bake about 3/4 hour in a moderate oven. Use tin with hole in centre. Ice with a little lemon juice or tartaric acid in the icing to give a tart flavour.
I got off to a bad start converting the measurements to metric, even though I grew up in the old Imperial measurement era. I incorrectly recalled 1/4 of a pound (abbreviated as lb. for reasons no-one could ever fathom), as 250gms. It's not, is it. No. It's 125 gms. So there I had measured out 250gms each of butter, cornflour which I was using instead of Arrowroot...same-same...and sugar, added 2 eggs and a teaspoon of baking powder and even though I was mixing it with electric beaters, the darned thing was jolly stiff and thick. So I was feeling really sad for Nanna and Mum as they would have, of course, beaten it by hand.
Well, I popped it into the Kugelhopf tin which was the closest thing I have to a ring tin....which is another must...Sand cake is ALWAYS cooked in a ring tin...and stuck it in the oven. About 2 minutes later, I realised my error, and whipped it back out. I tipped the batter back in to a mixing bowl, added two more eggs and another teaspoon of baking powder and beat the heck out of it again.
I liberally greased and floured the tin again, and poured the batter back in.
Back in the oven it went, and by now I was mighty grateful for my Kugelhopf tin as this was one Mother of a cake thanks to my inadvertent doubling of the ingredients. Mine took an hour and ten minutes to cook. It was a bit difficult to judge because it's not springy like a normal cake. It's more delicate. But it was pulling away from the edges of the tin, and Mum and Nanna always used that as much as the 'springy in the middle' method to judge when a cake was ready.
Lacking any instructions on whether to turn it out of the tin hot, or wait till it cooled, I plumped for something in the middle, waited five minutes or so, then held my breath and flipped it over onto a cake plate. With a barely perceptible 'plop' it was released from the tin, and a more perfect thing I could not imagine, given it's hair raising start.
I tinted my glace` icing palest pink as when Mum or Nanna made it, it only EVER had palest pink glace` icing. I couldn't possibly contemplate Sand Cake without baby pink glace` icing. It just wouldn't be right. I didn't flavour mine with lemon as my memories don't include lemon icing. But apparently it's traditional.
Try it. You'll love it as much as we do.
By request, here it is in modern day metric...
125gms butter, 125gms sugar, 125gms non wheaten cornflour or arrowroot, 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon essence vanilla. Beat all together for 20 minutes (no electric beaters back then, remember) and just before time is up, add 1 teaspoon baking powder. Bake about 3/4 hour in an oven preheated to 170C fan forced. Use a ring tin, Bundt tin or Kugelhopf tin. Ice with pale pink glace` icing, made with a cup of sifted icing sugar, and enough water to make a runny mixture. Pour the icing over the cake to get a drizzled effect.


  1. Hi Mimi, any chance of you writing it out in metric PLEASE. xx

    1. Thank you dear Mimi, it sounds & looks beautiful. Loving your blog.

  2. Thanks, Mimi. Looks wonderful and will be great with tea or coffee.

  3. Love Love Love this recipe! I have made it so many times, and its so versatile! It is the perfect gluten-free birthday cake base for my kids, and the texture is just perfect. Thank you so much for sharing.
    (Note - the recipe doesn't work well as cupcakes in my experience... my son overfilled the cases last time and it all went beserk and we ended up with flat-topped cupcakes!!) haha

    1. Oh I'm thrilled. It really is a great cake, and perfect for decorating for celebrations. I'm so pleased for you. Mimi xxx

  4. Thank you so much. I have been looking for a Sand cake recipe for a long time.

  5. Christine from CanadaJanuary 22, 2020 at 12:46 AM

    I wanted to make this cake, and I noticed it seems very popular in AU. I also noticed that apparently most of your 'corn flour' is/was actually wheat starch and not made of corn. I am in Canada and cornstarch is really made of corn. Can I ask if you made this with corn (maize) starch or wheat? Thank you!! :)

    1. Hi Christine. Our 'cornflour' is indeed made from corn, and is called non-wheaten cornflour. It's a very fine silky flour, and gluten free. I hope this helps. Mimi

  6. Used to make this often but we always left it a week before icing,

  7. Mimi. Does this cake keep well. I'd like to make it friday to serve on Sunday or monday


I love hearing from you! I always respond to comments, so don't be shy! Mimi xxx