There are few things as enjoyable as spending time in the kitchen making a cake or a few scones. The simple act of baking engenders a sense of happiness. Over the years, I have cooked in many different kitchens, from the cool Victorian rectory kitchen of my childhood, with its huge painted dresser and north-facing windows, to my current urban basement kitchen, all German minimalism with clean lines and soft light. In between, I’ve experienced everything from gleaming stainless-steel restaurant kitchens to bedsits with little more than a Baby Belling, kettle and sink. No matter how small the space, I step into another world when I bake – a sensation that I suspect is familiar to many cooks.
Maybe it is the peculiar mix of precision and creativity that baking demands which takes you into another zone. As your hands are exercised by practical tasks such as beating or kneading, your mind drifts away on the currents of evocative smells. I can be in London on a hot summer’s day, but if I whip up the strawberry cream cake my mother used to make for my father’s birthday, I find myself back in a rural English garden, transported by the sweet scent of sugared sponge and ripe strawberries.
These three recipes conjure up the scents and tastes of spring – and a weekend spent baking one if not all of them is guaranteed to make you smile.
Recipes from ‘National Trust Book of Baking’ by Sybil Kapoor, published on 15 April (National Trust Books, £16.99).
Lemon Victoria sandwich cake
Traditionally, the sponge is unflavoured and filled with raspberry jam or lemon curd; this is a more luxurious, buttery lemon version.