Saturday, 28 August 2010

Traditional Victoria Sandwich (sponge) Cake

I haven't made on of these for years, and I have no idea why as they're super easy and very, very good!!
The Victoria Sandwich was apparently named after our dear old Queen Victoria, who is said to have enjoyed a slice of the cake with her afternoon tea. I'm guessing this helped attribute to her rather *ahem* hefty girth, as it's not exactly calorie-light! But if you can bear to sin, it's definitely worth it.

Mmmm, just looking at that photo is making me drool!
A simple sponge cake was the first cake I ever made; my grandma taught me how to make them using her old Kenwood food mixer, and baking them in the Aga. The smell still brings back happy memories for me, and a slice of sponge with a cup of tea is one of life's great pleasures. Traditionally the sponge doesn't contain cream - just jam - but hey, if you're going to do it, you might as well go all the way right?

So, how do you create one of these confections of perfection? Well, I'll show you!

Victoria Sandwich Cake
  • 3 large eggs (for a really rich & special cake, try and use duck eggs)
  • Self raising flour
  • Butter (at room temperature)
  • Caster sugar (if you have it, use vanilla sugar)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1-2tbsp milk
Preheat the oven to 170C, and grease two 7" cake tins. Cut 2 circles of greaseproof paper and place one in the base of each tin. This will make extracting your cake later a great deal easier!

You might notice I haven't given any measurements for the flour, fat or sugar above. That's because it all depends on the weight of your eggs! And this simple trick is the secret to a perfect sponge. Trust me!
So, begin by weighing your eggs, shell and all. 3 large hen's eggs should weigh somewhere in the region of 175g, duck will weigh a bit more as they're often bigger, with thicker shells. Make a note of the weight, and weigh out the same amount in the rest of the ingredients. Now you're ready!

In a large bowl cream together the butter and the sugar until they are really light and fluffy. You can use a hand-held whisk or food processor for this, but I find a wooden spoon and a strong arm gives the best results!

Crack the eggs into a bowl and give them a quick beating with a fork, just to combine. At this point, if you don't have vanilla sugar you can a teaspoon of vanilla extract.
Mix the baking powder in with the flour. (I know baking powder isn't traditional, but it guarantees a really good rise & light texture)

Add around a quarter of the egg to the sugar/butter mix, lightly combine, and quickly follow with around a quarter of the flour. Combine well, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go. Repeat this step until all of the egg & flour are in.

Add one or two tablespoons of milk to the mix, just to loosen it slightly. The mixture should have a soft dropping consistency, but not be runny.

Divide the mix evenly between the two tins, and bake in the centre of the oven for 25-30 minutes. If your oven is uneven like mine you may need to rotate them at half time to ensure an even rise and colouration.

The cakes are done when they are risen, golden, and spring back back lightly touched. A skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean.

Once they're done remove them from the oven, give them a minute or so to cool slightly in the tins, and turn them out onto a wire rack to completely cool. Remove the greaseproof circles and discard (be sure to give them a good sniff first... mmmm!) They can then be filled as desired.

Filling your cake

As I mentioned previously, the Victoria Sandwich is traditionally filled with just jam. However, it's really up to you what you use! Here are just a few ideas:
  • just jam it - use around half a jar for a good filling, any flavour goes but I really like raspberry. Jam is easier spread while the cake is still slightly warm. The cake I made was for a friend who loves blackberry, so I used bramble jelly and it worked really well. I would, however, avoid honey...
  • jam and cream - whisk around 200ml of double cream with a tablespoon of caster sugar & a tsp of vanilla extract until stiff. Put jam on the bottom layer of cake, spread the cream on top, and carefully place the top cake on. Be careful - if the cake's still warm the cream will start to melt. Dredge the top with icing sugar.
  • citrify it - add orange or lemon zest to the cake mix along with the last flour addition. Replace the milk with orange or lemon juice. Fill the cake with orange or lemon buttercream. If desired, make a glace icing (icing sugar, water, juice) to cover the top, and decorate with little jelly citrus-slices for kitsch cuteness!
  • for the chocoholic - mix 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder into the flour before adding to the cake. Fill the cake with a chocolate buttercream and top with chocolate ganache & chocolate curls!
However you finish off your cake, be sure to enjoy the first slice with a cup of tea!

Becka xx

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