A Retrospective Look at Mother’s Day in Boorowa

Written by: The Hilltops Phoenix

Simnel-Cake
Simnel Cake

Mother’s Day was last Sunday, so we thought we’d have a retrospective look at how the event was celebrated in Boorowa in times past.

The Boorowa Methodist Church (now the Uniting Church) first conducted its Mother’s Day church services in May 1922.

In 1928, Mother’s Day services were conducted in Methodist Churches at Kenyu, Frogmore, Boorowa (Reverend Walker) and Rye Park (Mr A. Southwell).

They also took place at the Boorowa Presbyterian manse, the church undergoing renovation at the time.

It appears that Mother’s Day was becoming commonplace by 1930, when a local journalist said, “It does not seem much to give, does it? Just one day out of the three hundred and sixty-five … one day to mother! And yet it has deep significance which abides with us all, for far longer than the stipulated twenty-four hours…

It is related of the new Chief Justice (Sir Isaac Isaacs), that he had a great love for his mother. He left his country home early in life to come to the city, but every day of his life, no matter where he was, he sent her a telegram - or spoke to her on the phone until her death in 1912. We wonder how many men in Boorowa are so fond of their mother.”

The Boorowa Branch of the CWA held a special Mother’s Day event in 1942, whereby the guest speakers were “Mesdames Ingle, Brown and Davison.” The branch invited the mothers and wives of Boorowa and Frogmore servicemen to the event.

In 1951 St John’s Anglican Church advertised its “Mothering Sunday” service, adding that the service would be accompanied by “the ancient ceremonial of the blessing and distribution of the Simnel Cake.”

The cake was distributed to the congregation at the close of the service, and the recipe is provided here for you to try.

Simnel Cake

Ingredients

For the almond paste:

  • 250g caster sugar
  • 250g ground almonds
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp almond essence

For the cake:

  • 175g butter
  • 175g brown sugar
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 175g plain flour
  • Pinch salt
  • ½ tsp ground mixed spice
  • 350g mixed dried fruit
  • 55g chopped mixed peel
  • grated zest of ½ lemon
  • 1–2 tbsp apricot jam
  • 1 egg, beaten for glazing

Method

1. For the almond paste, place the sugar and ground almonds in a bowl. Add enough beaten egg and mix to a fairly soft consistency. Add the almond essence and knead for 1 minute until the paste is smooth and pliable. Roll out a third of the almond paste to make a circle 18cm/7in in diameter and reserve the remainder for the cake topping.

2. Preheat oven to 140C fan-forced. Grease and line a round 18cm cake tin.

3. For the cake, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs until well incorporated and then sift in the flour, salt and mixed spice a little at a time. Finally, add the mixed dried fruit, peel and grated lemon zest and stir into the mixture.

4. Put half the mixture into the cake tin. Smooth the top and cover with the circle of almond paste. Add the rest of the cake mixture and smooth the top leaving a slight dip in the centre to allow for the cake to rise. Bake in the preheated oven for 1¾ hours. Test by inserting a skewer in the middle – if it comes out clean, it is ready. Once baked, remove from the oven and set aside to cool on a wire rack.

5. Brush the top of the cooled cake with the apricot jam. Divide the remainder of the almond paste in half. Roll out a circle to cover the top of the cake with one half and form 11 small balls with the other half. Place the circle of paste on the jam glaze and set the balls round the edge. Brush the cake topping with a little beaten egg.

6. Preheat the grill to high. Place the cake onto a baking tray and grill for 1–2 minutes, or until the top of the marzipan begins to brown. Alternatively, lightly heat the cake topping using a cook’s blowtorch, until the marzipan is golden brown.

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