Don’t hate me, I made a cake with margarine !

I love butter. I love butter so much it sometimes seems as if I have food with my butter rather than the other way round. Toast is simply a vehicle to carry the butter to my mouth, mashed potato just a means of getting as much butter into me as possible, I bathe lobster in drawn butter, anoint asparagus with melted butter, add butter sauce to fish and would suggest that my favourite sandwich filling is, you might have guessed, butter adorned only with a little Maldon salt for seasoning. So that is why I am a little shamefaced about today’s post.

Yesterday I made a sponge cake using Stork margarine.

Now that confession is out of the way I can explain the mitigating circumstances. I have a friend called Sue. She and I met when we were training to be nurses and have been good friends ever since. We couldn’t be more different. She is married to a farmer, lives in Norfolk and loves country life whereas I am truly, deeply metropolitan. She is a very plain cook, it does her no disservice to say this as, whilst she only has a couple of recipes at her fingertips, one of which is know as “Sue’s Goo” and involves sherry, cream and ginger biscuits, her dinner parties and lunches are legendary. Large roasts and a mountain of potatoes plus a lake of wine, what’s not to like? I’m not sure she’s ever cooked pasta, she has a spice rack stocked with jars whose labels and contents are so faded it seems pointless to worry about what is within and she buys sliced bread.

But, and the but here is huge, Sue makes the best sponge cakes I have ever eaten. If you have visited the tea rooms at Holkham Hall you too might have eaten them, her cakes have recently starred in an auction for a cancer charity where £150 was offered for Sue to bake a cake a month over the year. These are good cakes. They come in three flavours: plain, coffee and chocolate. None of your red velvet, pumpkin spice, rose petal jam malarky for Sue it’s sponge that’s it.

I was reminded of just how good the cake is when my daughter Amber asked Sue to bring one over for my recent birthday. Sue is Amber’s godmother and so naturally said yes. The cake was splendid. There is not a lot of room in my life for cake what with the 5:2 diet plus my well documented passion for chips, it’s cake that slips far down the list. But that cake awoke a need in me, not quite Proustian but something similar, a reminder that few things are better than a slice of cake and a cup of tea with an old friend.

Yesterday I phoned Sue to ask for her recipe. Once she had stopped laughing at the role reversal she admitted that she only ever used soft margarine for her cakes, Stork being the marge of choice, that she made them in a free standing mixer and having put the marge and sugar in, switches the power on and goes off and does something else for 10 minutes. Eggs are added alternately with self-raising flour and thats it.

I am a snob about butter in cakes so it took a bit of effort to buy the margarine but in Sue’s opinion it gives a much lighter texture to the sponge. I followed Sue’s recipe to the letter. The cake is delicious. Confession over.

Sue’s Sponge cake

Weigh your eggs: 3 large eggs will weigh about 200gm
Now weigh the same weight of caster sugar, soft margarine, and self raising flour

Preheat the oven to 350F 180’C gas 4.

Butter and flour a 23cm cake pan or spring form tin
Whisk the marge with the sugar until pale and light, about 5-10 minutes
Beat in the eggs one at a time adding the flour 1 tablespoon with each eggs.
Now add the remaining flour and fold in.
Scrape the batter into a prepared tin and bake until the cake is golden (about 25 minutes).
Let the cake cool briefly on a rack before filling with jam and whipped cream




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9 thoughts on “Don’t hate me, I made a cake with margarine !

  1. Well, Thane…I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that at all! I’m a professional baker, and whilst I use unsalted butter in most things I certainly don’t use just butter in sponge cakes. Stork mixed in 50/50 works so much better…the taste of butter but lightened by the marg. I discovered years ago that using pure butter makes sponges heavier and somewhat greasy. That’s what Stork is for, in my opinion!! So glad you write about this,because I sometimes think if I see one more sponge recipe that says ‘unsalted butter’ I will scream. I think there is a certain stigma attached to margarine..rightly so in many cases. If it’s used as a cheap alternative then no…but I see no shame in a good quality one, used for the right reason! Cake looks delicious, anyway!

    1. I’m so pleased people are acknowledging this. Butter is just too heavy! I also like the saltiness the marge gives.

  2. I have always followed Mary Berry’s advice and used her classic sponge recipe with Stork margarine. It is fail safe and delicious. Also, they did a taste test against Mary Berry & Michel Roux on Food & Drink and even Michel preferred Mary’s marge cake over his own butter version so there goes to prove it is absolutely fine, as tasted by a master!

  3. I first discovered the Stork recipes for three kinds of sponges made with Stork margarine as a young married woman in the 60s and received lots of compliments from friends and colleagues who thought them really delicious. No one needed to apologise for them! I believe the one-layer cakes ( 8 or 8 1/2 “) were made with 4oz each of self-raising flour,caster sugar,and margarine,plus two eggs, two tablespoons of milk (plus variants with coffee – I used Campbell’s liquid coffee in those days – or cocoa dissolved in milk) .Stork’s free leaflets were very useful to a young cook and I learned a lot about baking and patisserie from them.They also had a recipe for an excellent,easy fudgey icing using margarine,icing sugar,milk (which I believe was heated )and cocoa or coffee flavouring,which coated the top and sides well and set nicely,securing chopped walnuts or chocolate vermicelli on top.I often coated the plain sponge with apricot jam and dessicated coconut.Most of the supermarket cakes come nowhere near them in moist texture and flavour.I am planning to initiate a young friend who wants to start baking with this easy and versatile recipe. If anyone has the fudgey icing recipe to send me,I will be most grateful.Otherwise I shall have to experiment a bit to get the right consistency.

    1. Hi Lola, I know this is 3 years later but maybe you’ll pick it up. I have the Stork “Art of Home Cooking” book which we were all given free when we began domestic science at secondary school. The following recipe may be what you are looking for
      MOCK CREAM (No 2)
      4oz Stork Table Margarine
      1 heaped tablespoon castor sugar
      2 tablespoons hot water
      2 tablespoons milk
      Drop vanilla essence
      1. Cream Stork & sugar together till very light
      2. Whisk in 1tbsp hot water then 1 tbsp. milk very gradually using a hand or rotary whisk, until the mixture is light & fluffy.
      3. Whisk in remaining water & milk very gradually & add the vanilla essesnce to taste.
      Coffee Mock Cream : AT STAGE 1 beat in 1 lvl dessertsp instant coffee with the Stork & sugar. AT STAGE 3: Omit vanilla essence
      Chocolate Mock Cream : A T STAGE 3 Melt 2-3 oz plain chocolate. Cool slightly , then whisk into the cream

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