Nana's passionfruit sponge cake


It was Monseiur Zen's birthday this week. The tradition in our family has always been that you can request your favourite cake on your birthday. When I was little, I always asked for the 'Gingerbread House' from the Women's Weekly Children's Birthday Cake Book. I loved that book. I would lovingly turn the pages throughout the year, carefully deciding which cake I wanted. Despite all my dedicated year-long research, I always asked for the same cake, much to Madame Zen's delight (not). To their credit, mum and dad, for a number of years, spent an agonizing birthday party eve, trying to construct the said cake. Mum recalls it was a two person job and that just when you were nearing the end of construction, the roof was prone to collapse like a pack of cards - and she had to start from scratch again.




Thankfully, dad didn't chose the infamous 'Gingerbread House' cake for his birthday this year. Instead, he asked for the passionfruit sponge cake from his own childhood. My nana would frequently make this cake for special occasions, particularly so after she purchased her very first 1950s Sunbeam Mixmaster. In photos from family birthday parties in the 50s and 60s, there is always picture of the 'buffet' adorned with a range of dishes and there is always a passionfruit sponge, sitting serenely tall among the desserts (just like nana and her friend's glamourous 70s hairstyles). Clearly, nana was a big fan of the passionfruit - one of her other classic and well remembered recipes being her Apple Charlotte with passionfruit icing.



I have to admit to having never made a sponge cake - until this week. It seems to be something that was passed over in 1990s school home economics classes - in favour of cheese and spinach triangles and 'submarines' (truly awful savoury mince and tomato sauce horrors). I had my nana's recipe, which I thought best to cross reference with my mum's own recipe book. Thankfully, they were both pretty similar.



Nana's passionfruit sponge cake

Ingredients for sponge:

4 eggs

3/4 cup golden castor sugar

2/3 cup plain flour

1/3 cup cornflour

1 tablespoon of baking powder

Ingredients for filling:

1 cup cream

2 passionfruit, pulp

Ingredients for icing:

1 cup icing sugar

1 teaspoon of butter

2 passionfruit, pulp


Step 1: Preheat oven to moderate. Grease two round sponge / sandwich tins (20cms). Put eggs into the bowl of a mixmaster, beat until eggs are thick and creamy. Gradually beat in sugar, until it has dissolved.

Step 2: Sift dry ingredients a number of times to ensure they are well combined. Using a metal spoon, fold dry ingredients quickly into egg mixture. Make sure all dry ingredients are mixed in.

Step 3: Pour mixture evenly and equally into prepared tins. Bake in moderate oven for 25mins (cake should shrink away from sides of tin and top should bounce back when lightly touched).

Step 4: cover to wire cooling racks with a clean tea towel and turn cakes out of tins, as soon as they are removed from the oven.

Step 5: Whip cream and fold through passionfruit. When cake is completely cooled, spread with whipped cream. Put second cake on top of cream.

Step 6: To make icing, sift icing sugar into a bowl, add butter and enough passionfruit pulp to mix into a thick paste. Put bowl over simmering water and stir until a thin consistency. Spread over top of the cake and allow to set.

So tell me lovely friends. Do you remember the Women's Weekly Children's Birthday Cake Book and did you have a favourite birthday cake?




  1. This is a truly glorious sponge cake, how wonderful! Just look at your nana and her glamorous friends, if only that photo could talk. Your version of the Gingerbread House cake is gorgeous!

    Oh yes, my brother and I loved that Women's Weekly cookbook to the point that it is now falling apart. Happily my mum gave it back to me recently and I treasure it, falling out pages and all. I always wanted the big frosty castle, complete with cone turrets. Mum did manage to produce beautiful versions of the ballerina cake, the tea party with the little dolls and the dolly varden. I think my brother may have had several versions of the 'easy cakes' as they are called in the book...cowboys and indians and the farmyard! Those memories are so clear, amazing isn't it? x

    1. Oh Jane, I loved the frosty castle too. I was always torn between that and the gingerbread house xx

  2. You are so lucky to have access to passionfruit, it's really hard (or expensive) to get here in NY. And it's one of my all time favorites too! I will have to live vicariously through you, and this gorgeous cake. Beautiful job.

    I didn't grow up with a cake book, but my husband did. I don't think his was Women's Weekly either (can you get that in South Africa- I'm not even sure), but he has fond memories of scouring over the pictures throughout the year, carefully selecting his choice. He liked the pirate's chest filled with treasure. So for our own kids, we carry on a similar tradition making their cakes from scratch usually with their favorite character(s). It certainly is a lot of work! But the smile of their face is worth it.

    Have a wonderful weekend! xx

    1. No passionfruit Emilie, that is terrible!! Selecting your birthday cake is definitely one of the best childhood memories - I love the sound of the pirate's chest!! Xx

  3. Just gorgeous... my favourite sponge cake ever.

  4. That's beautiful and your Nana would be very proud that you shared it with us.


Thank you for your comments, I really appreciate every single one!

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Maira Gall