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lessons from the chicken house

Here's a post from the draft files.  Written at the beginning of September last year, the roosters, are a distant memory now. Although the hens are still laying like the clappers like they do every spring, and with a weather forecast today of 10 degrees, feeling wistful for warmer weather is as relevant today as it was last September.... 

Feeling a little wistful for warmer weather and dreaming of summer apricots, today I needed to bake something nostalgic. Using all the eggs our girls our  laying right now.    

Things are a little sad at the chicken house, as we lost two of our roosters this week.  Spike, our lovely handsome Barnevelder rooster and his son,  who had no name and was shunned to live on the outer, are now both gone.  Mauled to death by a dog.  And while yes, there is a sense of relief that the early morning crowing has stopped, I can't help but think what a dreadful way for the poor creatures to die.    

Then there is Charlotte, my very first Barnevelder, the oldest hen in the flock who now, at the grand old age of seven years old, is feeble and weak. Charlotte's always had trouble with her legs, a few wobbly spells, but she always recovered with some confinement and rest. But now she can't walk.   She seems happy in herself, still eating and getting up when she has to, but still, I wonder what to do. Let nature take it's course or.....

Despite my feelings of grief over the roosters, the hens are laying like the clappers and we're enjoying the bounty of at least eight eggs a day.  We fry them for breakfast, make Spanish tortillas for tea, and bake plenty of cakes.  Like this Victoria sponge, filled with a jar of last summer's apricot jam and plenty of billowy whipped cream.

This morning, as I fed the hens, I was greeted by the most lovely of surprises, a mother hen with two little chicks, so sweet and fluffy. So lovely to see new life and along with the cake cheered us up no end.     

Lessons learned today.   Life goes on in the chicken house and cake makes everything better. 

Victoria Sponge

This is my go to cake recipe, hands down. I make it all the time and I love it because you don't need a recipe. The weight of your eggs determines the weight of your other ingredients.   You can vary the flavor by exchanging fresh fruit filling for jam, or any berries with cream would be delicious. And for a lemon cake use lemon zest instead of vanilla in the cake batter.

Three large eggs
Butter, softened
Castor sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Self raising flour

6 tablespoons of jam
250ml of cream, whipped to soft peaks

Take three eggs and weigh them in their shells. This weight will be the weight you use of sugar, butter and flour as well.

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and line two 20cm sandwich tins.

Beat sugar, butter and vanilla in a stand mixer until creamy and fluffy.

Add eggs, one at time, beating well after each one, about 20 seconds.

Slowly flour, a third at time until well incorporated.

You may need a splash of milk here to soften the batter.

Divide the mix between the cake tins, place into the oven and bake for about 20 minutes until risen and golden brown.

The cakes should spring back when gently pushed in the middle.

When ready, remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes in the tin, before turning out onto a wire rack and cooling completely.

Spread the jam onto one cake and top with the cream. Sandwich the cakes together and dust with icing sugar.


  1. This post brought back such a lovely memory. About a year ago I baked this from your book and shared it with my parents in the sunshine one lovely afternoon. Thank you for sharing.

  2. I'm going to eat eggs RIGHT NOW1