Mimi and Tilly's Vanilla Shortcake

I woke up today exhausted.  I had set this day aside as time for me to chill out and rest.  But as the day wore on a strange thing happened.

I felt the need to bake.

This may not seem like big news, but it is.

In years gone by, when I have woken up exhausted, and with time on my hands, the last place you would have found me has been the kitchen.  Rather than being a place for me to relax, I have found spending time in the kitchen unbelievably stressful.  I have not been a natural cook.  My philosophy has been "Get in.  Get out.  Do the dishes." 

But things are changing.

Having managed, against all odds, to bake some pretty and tasty cupcakes, ( take a wee look at The Cupcake Challenge and Ta-Da! Suck on These Eggs Cupcake Expert!)  I have been growing in cooking confidence.  And have actually started to enjoy "making things" in the kitchen.

Back in August when I first embarked on my journey into being much more creative I wrote about  My Creativity Starter Kit .  Included in this kit was The Creda Housecraft Manual (A Treasury of Useful Recipes and Household Information), written and published in 1958, which I found hiding in a reclamation shop in a village nearby.  The manual is a treasure trove of kitchen-themed inspiration.  I defy anyone to flip through this book, and not feel the urge to whistle a happy tune, rustle on a starched and frilled apron, and whip up a London Pie or Vol-au-Vent of Chicken...


Creativity, apparently being what it is, has taken me so far on a random but fun adventure involving cupcakes, model trains, hot wax, knitting with enormous needles, and following my creative instincts.  None of which has involved me cooking anything at all from my Creda manual.

All that changed today.

I found myself daydreaming about what I could whip up in the kitchen.  I opened the fridge.  Looked at the products inside.  And for the first time started to see them as potential ingredients.  If I put this with that, what would it make?  A mess.  OK.  What about this and this?  Hmmm.

I saw my Creda manual on the worktop and flipped it open.

The book fell to page 105, and there I saw this...

Shortbread.  Sweet.  Tasty.  Lovely with a cup of tea.  It ticked all the right boxes. 

I went to my fridge and cupboard to see if I had the needed ingredients.  Plain flour.  Nope.  I'll use self-raising instead.  It can't make that much difference.  Sugar.  I've got caster sugar.  That'll do.  Margerine.  I've got olive oil based spread.  How much difference can it make?  Few drops of almond essence.  Nope.  Don't have that either.  Vanilla essence will have to do.  Salt.  None left.  Will do without.

In my head I was baking directly from the book...

I followed the instructions but using the ingredients I had substituted rather than the ones listed in the book.  What's the worst that could happen?

I patted out my dough.  Shaped it lovingly.  Pricked it with a fork.  And put it in the oven.  On gas mark 5.  A random guess.

I half expected to find a tall loaf-like structure in my oven when I went back to check on it, having used self-raising flour.  But I didn't.

I half expected to find it slightly soggy and uncooked in the middle.  But it wasn't.

I took it out of the oven.

I left it to cool.

I half expected to find it firmly adhered to the base of the baking tray.  But it wasn't.

I half expected to find that it tasted awful when I broke off a piece.  But it didn't.

What no cooking disaster? 

But I hadn't followed the instructions.  I had veered off the well-trodden shortbread path.

Was it just me or was this shortbread completely and utterly delicious?

A little plumper than shortbread.  A little more moist.  But utterly tasty.

My dad paid a visit.  It was lovely to see him.  I offered him some shortbread with a cup of tea.

"Mmmm...  Good grief...  You could make a living making this stuff... Mmmm...  It's more like a moist, flat, cakey shortbread than a shortbread...  It's much nicer than the shortbread I've bought in the shops, you know...  What's that flavour..?  Not almondy..?  Vanilla..?  Vanilla!  Can I have another piece?  Your mum would love this."

So.  Using my Creda manual I have created a different type of shortbread.  In honour of my dad's great support and positive feedback, I'll call it...

Mimi and Tilly's Vanilla Shortcake


7ozs self-raising flour
4ozs caster sugar
6ozs olive oil based spread/margerine
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 30 mins plus another 30 mins in a cooling oven
Makes: 8 honking great slabs or 16 polite-sized triangles

Sift the flour into a mixing bowl and rub in the margerine.  Add the vanilla essence.  Knead the mixture with your hands until it is a stiff dough and binds well together.  Work into a flat cake about 1/2 inch thick, and place on a greased baking tin.  Pinch the edge to make a pattern.  Prick the shortcake with a fork and mark in triangles by cutting lines with a knife.

Cook at gas mark 5 for about 30 mins.  After 30 mins turn off the oven and leave the shortcake in the cooling oven until cold or for up to 30 mins.  Remove from the oven and allow the shortcake to cool completely in the tin.

(Original cooking instructions from The Creda Housecraft Manual 1958)

Here is the finished product...

I know this recipe is very basic.  And as Creative Baking goes, I'm a beginner.  But I've gone from hating being in the kitchen, to finding it relaxing and therapeutic.  From being someone who has to follow a recipe in order for something to taste good (and even then there's no guarantee)...  To someone who can veer slightly off the well-trodden baking path and still make something that tastes yummy.  It's a big day in Mimi and Tilly's kitchen.  In the past, I have spent far too much time dry heaving as a result of my "Creative Cooking"! 


  1. Looking at the shortcake photos, I feel like I can smell the vanilla essence.

    The vintage book in your possession surely is a treasure.

  2. Hi Caffeinated Globe, thanks for visiting again. The shortcake does smell delicious, very vanilla-ry. The book is a treasure. I am very glad to have found it. :)


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