More Than Tea and Scones – We Bake Cakes Too!


I am honoured to say, as a woman in her 70’s, that I am the daughter of a very active CWA member who worked for many causes and charities in the Far West,   More than that though….I am a wife, a mother, a grandmother, an aunt, a sister, a friend AND I am a member of the CWA.  I like to think I am a “today” woman, kept up to date by my children, grandchildren and the wonders of the internet.

I joined the CWA of NSW in 2001 to meet new friends and join the handicraft group, hoping to improve my needlework and patchwork skills.

We are very fortunate to have four CWA branches in the ACT, all offering different things.  Prospective members can join a branch that best suits their interests. Younger members join a branch that appeals to them.  More senior members wishing to join may be drawn to the knitting, crochet, embroidery, baking, other crafts and competitions.

At Canberra Branch we are a city branch surrounded by office blocks, not very “country” at all!  We have a membership of close to 150.  The retention of these members is vital in keeping our CWA active.

Through CWA I have made many wonderful friends at Branch, Group and State level.  I have been given many opportunities that only CWA offers.  The chance to improve my baking skills, to compete at Branch level, being eligible to enter Group competitions and having entries at State level have been rewarding experiences. I have also learned a lot through the positions I was encouraged to take on within CWA including President, Vice President, Secretary, Cultural Officer and best of all Cookery Officer.

The CWA has also given me the chance to sit for and receive my judges’ badge, a wonderful opportunity!  I also received the inaugural Donna Latter prize awarded for my citation at that time.  Being involved at an official level on the State Land Cookery committee continues to be a great experience.  All members of this committee have different gifts, come from different Groups but are all happy to be associated with the CWA proud tradition of tea, scones and friendship_ but we are a lot more- we bake cakes too!  LOL

I often speak of the term “keepers”.  I like to think I am a “keeper”. It is a term I use when I turn out a really great cake for competition. It is one really worth keeping. So are the hard working members I work with!  We need more of these workers, those that join, attend meetings, help in the decision making of the Branch and have a desire to make our Association stronger.  The retention of these members is important in nurturing the younger members we hope to welcome.

While CWA is not mostly about tea and scones, the many morning teas provide the perfect base to achieve greater things.  For me, the CWA has created opportunities, encouraged new friendships and given me the chance to make a difference – now that’s quite a chance!

Why not encourage your friends to join?

In her 70’s, Barbara is young at heart. Despite her advancing age Barbara thinks of herself as a ‘woman of today’. With her email (vintagebarb) and her own facebook page, Barbara shops and banks online, and messages up a storm. Based in Canberra, Barbara is a teacher by training and classifies herself as a “home baker” – so you can imagine her surprise when she won her first CWA baking competition. One of her biggest pleasures in 2013 was walking in the Mother’s Day Classic Breast Cancer walk supported by her husband, her daughters and her three granddaughters.  It doesn’t get much better than that!

Fun fact – To help celebrate Canberra’s centenary, Barbara and two other CWA ladies baked 1,000 scones in one day – using only one oven.

Jam Drops and Marble Cake

Judging at the very first Land Cookery competition - 1949

Judging at the very first Land Cookery competition – 1949

What does everyone think of when they hear CWA? Surely, not just Tea and Scones! Although  a cup of tea and a tasty treat are indeed a long standing tradition of the Association  and have been used very effectively not just to sit and chat over, but to attract attention, entice people to join and as always to fundraise. Tea and scones have carried us a long way!

In 1949 the Association, in conjunction with the Land Newspaper, started The Land Cookery Contest as a means to raise funds for the Seaside Homes Appeal (respite services for people in the country to visit the ocean). In the first year alone they raised the astonishing amount of almost £1000 and created a celebration of culinary skills during a period where cooking was seen only as a necessary skill to feed the hungry hordes around you.

The Land Cookery Contest today has women, children and even the odd man (!) competing in different categories at branch, group then state level. Each year a schedule of these competition categories is released and in the early days of the competition you could simply use your own favourite recipe and tin to enter with, life used to be so much simpler… Over time recipes were provided and strict rules adhered to about which pan or tin was allowed and to how they are to be judged.

The Land Cookery Contest is still running today and it is not just for members, or adults. You and/or your children can also compete!  If you think you’re a dab hand in the kitchen and would like to test your skills against the best…see the schedule here and find your local branch here. If your skills are somewhat short of what you would like, they’ll help you bring them up to prize winning standard!

Some recipes have remained on the schedule for years with no alteration to ingredients or cooking style. Over the last 60 years we have compiled these award winning recipes and only last year released them in ‘Jam Drops and Marble Cakes’ (available here for any bakers with a love of history, tradition and who want the winning recipes, or those, like me, who just don’t have enough cook books!). While you’re waiting for it to arrive you can practise on a title recipe, one of my favourites – the marble cake.

It goes just as well with that cup of tea! YUM!

MARBLE CAKE                                                                                                      

First Judged in 1977 – makes 1 x 20cm round cake


220g butter, softened                              150g self-raising flour, well sifted

220g caster sugar                                     185 ml milk at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla essence                     1 tablespoon cocoa powder

3 eggs                                                          Pink food colouring

150g plain flour, well sifted                      Pale pink icing, to serve

1. Preheat oven to moderate (180°C/350°F/Gas 4). Grease a deep 20 cm round cake tin and line base with baking paper.

2. Cream butter and sugar very well, add vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in the well sifted flours alternately with the milk.

3. Divide the mixture into three equal parts. Leave one part natural, colour one pink and use the cocoa mix with a little hot water to colour the chocolate portion. Place alternate spoonfuls of the different mixtures into the prepared tin. Lightly tap tin on bench and run a knife through the mixture to give the marble effect.

4. Bake for around 50 minutes. When cold, ice with your favourite icing recipes in pale pink.

HINT: Nelleke Gorton a member of the State Land Cookery Committee has told me that to get the best marbled effect you use the blunt end of a wooden chopstick to make a figure 8 in the batter – then give a 1/2 turn of the cake tin and repeat a second figure 8. Don’t be tempted to go wild!

unbaked marble cake (2)

Marble Cake

Looking Abroad

Hand dressed dolls in traditional Moroccan costume

Hand dressed dolls in traditional Timor Leste costume – the 2012 Country of Study

World War 2 undoubtedly made Australians more aware of world events and our relationship with the rest of the world, creating a curiosity about other countries. Within the CWA this was reflected by the creation of a State International Officer in 1941. Miss M. E. Payne was responsible for the CWA of NSW linking with the Associated Country Women of the World (ACWW) and the creation and organisation of an International Day based upon the study of another country and its culture.

1942 saw not only the celebration of the Chinese fighting off the Japanese aggressor but a strong focus on their history, costumes and cooking. In 1943, a time when the Roosevelts were revered in an almost royal fashion, naturally the United Sates were studied with branches celebrating with cocktails (non-alcoholic of course!) coleslaw and boiled corn. Next in 1944 was Britain, another natural selection based upon royalty, Christianity and democracy. It was not until 1945 that the CWA looked further afield with Brazil being studied, a country with a Fascist regime, poverty and oppression. These aspects did not dampen the enthusiasm of members for coffee drinking and Brazilian arts and crafts.

In 1947, several members attended as delegates to the ACWW world conference in Amsterdam, one of whom a Mrs Beveridge took a detour via Buckingham Palace to present Princess Elizabeth with a piece of hand-woven tweed for her 21st birthday.

Our celebrations now extend even further than a ‘day of’. Each of the 30 groups throughout the state are encouraged to enter International Competitions, whether it be a needlecraft with the theme taken from the country being studied, or hand dressing a doll in traditional costume, with even underwear being judged. Got to get that right! There is also a competition for schools to enter a book on the country by liaising with their local branch so children can be involved.

Now in 2013 our curiosity about the world remains strong – Morocco is our Country of Study, with members’ international days consisting of fashion shows highlighting traditional dress, shared feasts of Berber cuisine and guest speakers who have visited or are a specialist in a specific Moroccan area.

We are also still part of the ACWW with members and delegates currently in India for the 27th Triennial conference. This way members here in NSW forge links, exchange ideas and gain awareness of other rural societies from all over the world – something I believe Miss M. E. Payne would be very proud of.