The Flamboyantly Fabulous Fanny Cradock in the Cookery Theatre at Ely’s Food and Drink Festival

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3rd -6th May 2019

As part of the Food and Drink Festival, a variety of experts showcased their skills and passing on their knowledge in the Festival’s fabulous Cookery Theatre. Sponsored by Cambridge Commodities, there was an exciting line-up to entertain and inspire.

There were lots of tasting opportunities (some naughtier than others, but all nice!)

Although I am a food scientist and food historian, every now and again I have to exercise my very quirky alter ego. I appear as the Grande Dame of TV cookery– the Flamboyantly Fabulous Fanny Cradock who is remembered as the eccentric post-war first female celebrity chef. 

As Fanny, I made an eel-shaped cake in honour of Ely’s eels and talked about Fanny and about eels past history.
What a step back in time!

Now get ready to make your fabulous Swiss roll eel cake darlings !

Fanny’s fabulous no -crack Swiss roll that provided the basis for the eel was made as follows:


4 free range medium eggs, fresh as a button

125g (4oz) caster sugar, sifted – and heated to warm to give extra volume

125g (4oz) self-raising  flour, sifted

1 tblsp /15 ml hot water

Extra caster sugar for dusting

Filling of your choice – half a jar of apricot jam or butter cream to make the roll a real treat

125g/5 oz unsalted butter

250g/10 oz sifted icing sugar


  1. Line a Swiss roll tin 25.5 cm x 38 cm (10×15”) with parchment paper
  2. Preheat temperature to 180 /200 C or gas Mark 4/5
  3. Place the eggs and sugar in a bowl and whisk until you reach the ribbon stage, taking up to 5 minutes with a clever electric whisk and until it looks like a pale lemon cloud. (The mixture will leave a trail when you lift the whisk). I wrote Johnnie’s initial in the top, so it’s quite firm.
  4. Make sure you have sieved the self-raising flour, as ideally there should be some raising agent otherwise you need to beat twice as long and there will not be enough air in to ‘lift a single hair on poor old pussy’s tail’….Gently, and with a light hand, add the flour and fold in a figure of eight motion. Or as I did with a large silver spoon cut round the side and down the middle.   Check all the flour is incorporated and do not  overmix as this will make the sponge heavy with a dense texture.
  5. Pour  the mixture evenly into the lined Swiss roll tin  holding the tray up to let the mixture run into the corners completly. To make sure it is nice and even give a firm tap of the tray on the working surface to remove any large bubbles and to even it out.
  6. Bake for 6-8 minutes on the middle shelf. It should be springy to the touch, look like a golden feather bed and gently wrinkly like my husband Johnny.
  7. Meanwhile, prepare a piece of parchment (on a clean slightly damp tea towel) sprinkled with caster sugar to roll the sponge up in.
  8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Whilst still warm, turn the sponge out upside-down onto the parchment, so that the lining paper is uppermost and the sponge is laying on the caster sugar.   Gently peel off the lining paper.
  9. Fill with jam, rolling as you go, using the paper underneath to guide you, or roll up with the lining paper still in it whilst you beat the sieved icing sugar, butter and vanilla extract together to make lovely light buttercream. Unroll, spread jam on first, the buttercream and roll up.
  10. Et volia – a perfect, no crack Swiss roll!
Esmeralda the Ely eel getting ready to swim onto the stage

As Sue, I write on food history for Cambridge Edition magazine and talked about the Eel Festival.

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