I really love a slice of cake. In fact, I suspect that a good cup of coffee and a great slice of cake is my happy place. But faced with options, say something rich, something chocolatey, something piled high with fruit and cream, I will almost always opt for something simple. And it struck me that the archetypal simple cake, a Classic Victoria Sponge, was missing from the recipe archives here on the blog. A massive oversight on my part - sorry about that.
A classic Victoria Sponge is the cake that transports me to a National Trust café; it has me dreaming of an afternoon in a tea shop with newspapers and colour supplements or a rainy afternoon with a feel-good movie and a roaring fire. I am nothing if not a nostalgic dreamer!
So what is a Victoria Sponge?
It's a two-layered vanilla sponge cake, sandwiched together with jam and cream (or buttercream) and dusted with icing sugar on the top - the quintessential English teatime treat.
And why should everyone know how to make a Classic Victoria Sponge?
- It's quick and easy - that is, as long as you follow the recipe (remember baking is more of a science than an art).
- It's memorable - I don't retain many recipes in my head, but this is one that I do, although (and I'm showing my age here!) I can only remember it using measurements in ounces. I know it's old fashioned but the imperial numbers are much easier to remember (10oz butter, 10oz sugar, 5 eggs, 10oz flour.) See what I mean? God help me if digital scales stop being made with imperial measurements.
- It's a classic - the clue is in the name but you'd be amazed how many people say that they can't make one.
- It's incredibly versatile - you can change up the jam (I'm thinking of a homemade rhubarb and ginger jam (bought from a farmer's market - I never make my own)); you can fill it with whipped cream; you can add some sliced strawberries to the filling; you can put icing on top; you can put icing AND strawberries on the top; you can turn it into a birthday cake. The options are there and they are plentiful …
What have I learned from making a million Classic Victoria Sponges over the years?
- Use the correct sized tins - this recipe calls for two tins of 8 inch ( 20 cm) diameter. Any bigger and the cake will be thin and crispy; any smaller and it will either overflow or won't be properly baked in the middle.
- Line the tins - grease the tins (including the sides) and stick a circle of baking parchment on the bottom. You'll be pleased that you did.
- Preheat the oven.
- Bring your butter to room temperature - or do as I do and use margarine. I know it doesn't feel so wholesome but it makes a good cake.
- No need for a fancy cake mixer - I use an IKEA bowl and a cheap, handheld electric whisk. Works fine.
- Measure the ingredients carefully.
- Crack the eggs into a cup before adding them to the mixture - one dodgy egg broken straight into the mixture will destroy everything, including your day.
- Use your scales to divide the cake mixture between the tins - it's easier and more accurate than doing it by eye.
- Listen to your cake - stay with me here, honestly, I haven't lost the plot … When your cake is almost ready to take out of the oven, listen to it. If you can still hear a lot of bubbling, it probably needs a little bit of extra cooking. Sounds weird but it does work.
How did I decorate this Classic Victoria Sponge?
I used raspberry jam and a cream cheese frosting. I chose to pipe the frosting but you could equally spread it with a knife (put the jam on one cake and the frosting on the other to avoid a big mess of jam and frosting mixed together). I dusted with icing sugar - you can use a sieve if you don't have a shaker. The dusting disappears into the cake after a while so you may want to 'reapply' later.
So there you have it, a Classic Victoria Sponge using old-fashioned measurements but timeless flavours. I hope you enjoy it and that it brings a bit of sunshine to your day - with or without a National Trust café or your very own tea shop.
Happy baking x