A classic Victoria Sandwich Cake recipe is a must have in every baker’s repertoire. If you haven’t tried making a cake before, this is where you should start. Even experienced bakers go back to this classic sponge cake time and time again and not without good reason. So use my hints and tips to give it a go!
There are two methods to making sponges. The first is the ‘all-in-one-method’ which is where all of the ingredients are bunged in at the same time and beaten together. This is the preferred method of Saint Mary Berry and Saint Delia Smith. They are also joined by Nigella Lawson. The second is my preferred method where the fat and sugar are ‘creamed’ first with the eggs then added and the flour then folded in. Much as it pains me to say it, both Paul Hollywood and Jamie Oliver agree with me. More interestingly is Felicity Cloake’s ‘Perfect’ recipe which compares a number of popular recipes and concludes that the creaming method is indeed superior. Who am I to argue with perfect!
Traditionally the only filling in a Victoria Sandwich Cake is pure jam but I find this a bit boring so I add buttercream with the jam. Also traditionally, the sandwich is topped with only caster sugar but again – bit dull – so I’ve used a basic white glace icing. The joy of a Victoria Sandwich Cake is that it is a building block for whatever filling, topping or addition your heart desires. I recently double the buttercream recipe, swirled through some blackcurrant jam and went to town with it as the filling and a topping. It looked and tasted gorgeous. Unless you are entering a strict Women’s Institute style competition, there is nothing at all wrong with customising a classic recipe to make it your own.
When looking for a WI recipe link to include with my above comments, I came across this video produced by the WI Cookery School which I’ve been to and written about here. The decorating starts at around the 11 minute mark – you’ll see the finished cake is not exactly a showstopper! The rest of the video is worth a watch as although some of our techniques do differ (why would you not make 2 sponges in 2 tins Kelly? Why?!), for the most part I agree with many of the slightly controversial suggestions:
1) Margarine does indeed make a for a lighter and better textured cake than using butter,
2) Curdled eggs are not a disaster at all, and
3) I’ve never bothered sieving my flour either.
The main differences in our techniques are that:
1) I will never be bothered to weigh eggs – if the fat, sugar and flour are each out by 5 or 10g it really doesn’t matter,
2) I bung the eggs straight in the mixture – whisking them first makes no difference,
3) I don’t think added vanilla is required,
4) I like to add a little baking powder for a little extra lift to the texture,
5) I also add milk and bake at a slightly lower temp for a little longer as I think this is the trick to a mice moist (sorry!) sponge, and
5) I’ll always make 2 sponges over one large one.
And of course the decoration is different.
One of the reasons that a Victoria Sandwich Cake is such a stalwart of the British baking establishment is that the recipe is effectively memorable right off the bat. The basic rule is that however many eggs you use (lets say 5 for example), you use double the number in ounces of your fat, sugar and flour (so to continue the example; 10oz of each). Sadly this doesn’t really work with metric measurements! It can only be a good thing to not need to reference the internet or a book when needing to just whip up a sponge cake in a hurry. Of course cooking blogs such as this should always be your first port of call otherwise (Note to self: Don’t talk folk out of googling recipes!).
Confession time (I have lots of these). Actually two confessions. Firstly I made this cake with proper butter and so it is indeed on the browner side. I should have stuck with what I know and used light margarine – I’ve recommended you make this substitution. Secondly I made the whole recipe in ounces – as it should be but because I try to cater to allsorts, I’ve included the metric equivalents. Oh there is a third confession actually, I ate a good portion of the cake batter straight from the mixing bowl. No regrets.
10oz (280g) Margarine)
10oz (280g) Caster Sugar
5 Large Eggs
4 tbsp Milk
1 tbsp Baking Powder
10oz (280g) Self Raising Flour
3oz (80g) Butter
6oz (160g) Icing Sugar
1 tbsp Milk
5oz (140g) Strawberry Jam
3oz (80g) Icing Sugar
1 tbsp Milk
- Whilst now I am in possession of a fabulous Kenwood Stand Mixer*, I’ve generally struggled to make a great Victoria Sponge in it. I think I get a bit over excited and actually overbeat the mixture. So I have reverted to using my trusty electric hand whisk*. I grew up making cakes with a mixing bowl and a wooden spoon – this is still an absolutely valid way of doing it, especially for beginners but you will get a lighter sponge with electrical assistance and the buttercream will really thank you.
- The mixture will likely split as you add the eggs – do not panic, do not start again, do not weep gently. Keep whisking, it turns out that it really doesn’t matter!
- Don’t use a mixer to combine the flour as the gluten in the flour will overwork and your cake sponge will turn out tough.
- ‘Done’ will be when the sponges are golden brown on top and a skewer poked into the middle of the sponge comes out with only crumbs stuck and no liquid batter. I don’t condone overcooking as the cake will be dry but on this occasion, ‘actually cooked’ should be aimed for.
- Do not be tempted to substitute the butter for margarine in the buttercream part of the recipe – the butter taste and texture is essential to this bit but do make sure the butter is softened before starting the mixing.
- For a neater more uniform look, you could pipe the buttercream. I like rustic.
- Jam can be lumpy, even the seedless smooth stuff that I buy so I give it a good stir whilst still in the jar so it makes it easier to spread evenly.
Preheat the oven to 180c or the equivalent.
Line 2 15cm round cake tins with liners or butter and flour.
Weigh 10oz (280g) Margarine and 10oz (280g) Caster Sugar a large mixing bowl and beat together until light and creamy.
Add 5 Large Eggs one at a time giving the batter a good whisk between each egg addition.
Add 4tbsp Milk one spoonful at a time whisking the batter as you go.
Add 1 tbsp Baking Powder and 10oz (280g) Self Raising Flour and fold this into the batter by hand until just combined.
Split the mixture between the two tins and spread out to even layers. Bake for 20 minutes then check if it is done, give it another couple of minutes each check until it is done.
Leave the sponges to cool on a rack, in the tin at first unless you used liners in which case it should be easy to life them out still in the paper and onto the rack.
Wait until the sponges are totally cold before filling and icing.
Make the buttercream by mixing 3oz (80g) Butter, 6oz (160g) Icing Sugar and 1 tbsp Milk for 5 or so minutes until it is light and fluffy.
Spread the buttercream over one half of the sponge making sure it is relatively evenly spread and just shy of the edges. If you go all the way to the edge, it will splurt out everywhere!
Spread 5oz (140g) Strawberry Jam over the second half of the sponge – you can go a bit closer to the edge this time as there will be less splurging.
Put the jam covered sponge on top of the buttercream sponge and give it a good press together.
Make the glace icing by mixing together 3oz (80g) Icing Sugar and 1 tbsp Milk until smooth and spread the icing over the top of the cake by dumping the whole lot dead centre and spooning it outwards with the back of the spoon until the edges are nearly reached.
Serve in great hunking slices with a cup of tea. In a cup and saucer (japes).
Are you a traditionalist? Let me know what you think in the comments!
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