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

Tea and Scones Have Moved On


Awareness Week has finally arrived and it’s time for us to tell everyone else, that we’ve moved on from tea and scones to a chai latte and strawberry macaroons.

Over a ‘cuppa’ (chino) we’d like  to tell you that our agenda covers a variety of issues; from protecting land and water to no standing on school buses; debate over foreign ownership to the adverse effects of energy drinks on our kids; issues surrounding mental health to ensuring the school curriculum includes teaching children where food and fibre originates.

While you’re polishing off that last crumb of macaroon you should know that we raise funds for scholarships, medical research projects, international aid and emergency and disaster relief across the state and Australia, respectively.

This year we are focussing our efforts on the things we are not normally known for:

  • Charity; in the last 12 months we have raised and distributed almost $1 million, in Australia and abroad
  • Diversity; our members are from all cultures, all walks of life, all ages and they live in the country and the city
  • Change; we are making better use of social media to communicate our activities, harnessing technology to benefit our members, reaping the rewards of sharing wisdom and history with energy and enthusiasm

We will be celebrating Awareness Week from 14th – 21st September 2013 with a host of local events and activities, which are listed here, if you would like to participate.

CWA of NSW is full of passionate, accomplished and committed women. They all have interesting stories and different perspectives on why they are members and I hope to share some of these with you during our Awareness Week, starting tomorrow morning – turn on the telly to Channel 7 at 9.20am to see me and a couple of marvellous members featured on Sunrise.

There’s a LOT more than just ‘tea and scones’ at this table!