Sometimes, you just need to get away from it all. And sometimes, you need to spend a weekend with like minded people, talking about stories and eating a lot of cake.
Fortunately for me, I am part of the brilliant Team Cooper – a group of writers represented by Wonder Agent Gemma Cooper. And last weekend, for the second year running, Gemma invited those members who could make it to a very special Team Cooper UK Retreat.
The idea of the retreat is to give us solitary-writer-folk the chance to meet other writers, all at various stages of the publication process, and regroup, share knowledge, learn, create and eat cake. (The cake part is particularly important.) It’s a wonderful opportunity, and one I feel very lucky to have.
This year, we had workshops on the editorial process and publication from an editor’s point of view (the very lovely Natalie from Random House), on picture book writing and the market for them (from our very own Tori Kosara), and some great creative writing sessions run by Gemma. We also had plenty of free writing time, which was great for working on new projects that came up over the weekend, or making headway on existing projects that suddenly felt new and exciting again with all the writerly energy in the air! (Or maybe that was all the sugar in the cake…)
But possibly the most useful part of the retreat, for me, was just the chance to talk with other writers – about writing process, school visits and events, social media, brainstorming, and the writing life. I came away, as I did last year, excited to get stuck into my work again and with a thousand new ideas to implement.
As I said at the beginning though, none of this would be possible without cake. (And obviously Gemma and her best friend Emma who kept us fed and watered all weekend. And Ernie, who made a killer cup of tea.) Part of the fun of the first day is seeing what everyone has baked and brought – mouths watering at the thought of our next bun break.
Since I’m currently baking all the recipes in Love, Lies and Lemon Pies, I made the bakes from Chapters 2 and 3. The muffins will follow next week, but here, as part two of Baking Through The Book, is my recipe for a classic Victoria Sandwich, with pictures:
Classic Victoria Sandwich
- 200g softened unsalted butter
- 200g caster sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 200g self raising flour
- 1tsp baking powder
- Strawberry jam
- Icing sugar to dust on top
Preheat the oven to 180°C / fan 160°C / gas mark 4
Take 2 20cm sandwich tins and some greaseproof paper or baking parchment. Draw around the bottom of each tin onto the paper and cut out the circles. Pop the circles in the bottom of the tins then rub some butter or vegetable oil over them, making sure you grease all the way up the sides of the tins too. This will make sure your cakes don’t stick to the tins.
Cream together the butter and caster sugar with a wooden spoon or mixer.
In another bowl, lightly beat the eggs and vanilla extract together.
Slowly add the egg mixture to the butter and sugar, beating well after each addition to make sure it’s all properly mixed together.
Sift in the flour and baking powder, then fold through the mixture until it’s all combined.
Spoon the mixture equally into the tins and spread to the edge. To make sure your cakes come out exactly even, you can weigh the tins to make sure they’re the same and even them out.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes (I’d check them after 15, to see how they’re doing, but not before. And be careful not to bang the oven door! It knocks all the air out) until the cakes are golden brown and springy on top.
Let them cool in their tins for ten minutes, then tip them out onto a rack to finish cooling. Don’t forget to peel the greaseproof paper off the bottoms!
When they’re completely cool, sandwich the cakes together with jam (I like strawberry or raspberry). You can also add buttercream, if you like. Then dust with icing sugar to finish!
I’m afraid I didn’t manage to get a photo of the finished cake before people started tucking in, but here’s Team Cooper member Christian enjoying the first slice!