Cooking with Mark


A tried-and-tested recipe, this cake is a no-brainer and always a hit

I’m often asked when and where I learnt to cook. The answer is simple; I would spend hours in the kitchen ‘assisting’ my mum and grandma. My gran had shelves stacked full of cooking books, I would spend hours poring over the recipes – the food photography was, of course, a far cry from the insta-food culture we have today, and many of the recipes were illustrated or shot in black and white photography.
One cookbook I loved was by Marguerite Patten. Like me she started cooking at an early age; while her mother worked as a teacher she would prepare family meals. During the war, she worked alongside the ministry of food, creating healthy recipes while food rationing was in place. She also broadcast her recipes on BBC radio, making her one of the earliest ‘celebrity chefs’. Her Everyday Cook Book in Colour sold more than a million copies and set a new trend of full-colour cookbooks.
My grandma could see how much I loved the book. One day I was handed the cookbook and was told to take care of it, to never give it away, and to try and make as many recipes as I could – a promise I have kept to this day.


A recipe I have made over and over again is Marguerite’s Victoria Sponge cake. From the illustration, it was tricky to figure out what the cake should look like. Over 30 years later I still use the same recipes, though I’ve altered the methods a little to make a chocolate sponge, or I’ve added candied fruits or chocolate drops.
TV shows like the Great British Bake Off have reinvigorated interest in baking and made ‘celebrities’ of the winners. I’m often asked why I haven’t applied for the show. To be honest, I haven’t watched many of the episodes; now in its ninth series, it has become one of the top UK television shows. Unless the show comes to the UAE, I don’t think I have a chance.
Baking is a science, and over the years I have had some disasters. However, this tried-and-tested recipe courtesy of Mrs Patten has always been a winner. It works for all kinds of cakes, from fairy to Bundt ones. The Bundt shape was inspired by a European cake known as Gugelhupf – the style of mould was popularised in the 1950s and 1960s when cookware manufacturer Nordic Ware trademarked the name “Bundt” and began producing the tins from cast aluminium. You can find the tins in most home stores or online. The non-stick version is the best as the cake can be tricky to remove from the tin.
I’ve used all kinds of decorations – at Christmas, I added melted plain chocolate and pomegranate seeds. It’s perfect for birthday celebrations and a popular request from my colleagues. By far, lemon drizzle is the most popular version and the most requested. I’m sure Marguerite wouldn’t mind the slight alterations I’ve made to her recipe, her book is still in safe hands, and if the Great UAE Bake Off happens, I will consider an application.

Recipes, food styling and photography by Mark Setchfield

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