Ok, I’ve been told before that I bake like an English person. While England has long had a bad reputation where food is concerned, I don’t take this as an insult. England has produced some stellar chefs and some truly delightful pastry. The past two decades have seen a veritable explosion of British cuisine. Every week there is a new British celebrity chef or food writer, and Britain is producing some of the best restaurants in the world. Gordon Ramsey. Nigel Slater. Nigella Lawson. Heston Blumenthal. The list goes on and on.
And, truth be told, I have always gravitated toward British cooking and baking. Britain is a land of roasted meats and vegetables, simple cakes, pies, cookies (even if they call them biscuits), and basically all of the things I hold dear (aside from pasta). Some people swoon for fussy, fine French patisserie, but give me the rustic charms of a big slice of simple and not-too-sweet cake from a British hearth, or at least from a British cookbook, any day.
Such is the case with the Victoria Sponge. This is perhaps the simplest of the sponge cakes to produce and probably the easiest to eat in great quantity. Learn it and you can produce a wonderful, simple cake in hundreds of variations. The Victoria sponge cake was named after Queen Victoria, who favoured a slice of the sponge cake with her afternoon tea. It is often referred to simply as sponge cake, though it contains additional fat. A typical Victoria sponge consists of raspberry jam and whipped double cream or vanilla cream. The jam and cream are sandwiched between two sponge cakes; the top of the cake is not iced or decorated apart from a dusting of icing sugar. In it’s understated grace, it looks decidedly British and is one of my all-time favorite desserts.
Today, I didn’t have any heavy whipping cream in the house so I decided to make a vanilla pastry cream to serve as part of the filling. I also decided to use boysenberry jam instead of raspberry. Finally, since I have a kilo of Meyer Lemons in the house, I decided to zest two into the batter for a lemon lift. For the basic recipe, remove the lemon and just whip some cream with a little vanilla instead of using the pastry cream.
Victoria Sponge Cake with Vanilla Pastry Cream
8oz butter, softened at room temperature
5 large free-range eggs
Zest of two Meyer lemons, or regular lemons
1 tsp vanilla
8oz all-purpose flour, sifted
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Vanilla Pastry Cream, for the filling
Raspberry, Boysenberry, or Blackberry jam, for filling.
Powdered sugar or granulated sugar, to dust
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Brush 2 8 inch cake tins with softened butter. Line the bottom of the two cake tins with a circle of parchment paper, and butter the parchment paper as well.
- In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and creamy, using an electric mixer or a wooden spoon. Beat well to ensure you get lots of air into the mixture.
- Beat in the eggs one at a time. You want to avoid the mixture curdling, so that it stays airy. If it does curdle, add a tbsp of flour. Add the lemon zest and stir gently to combine.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Fold the flour mixture into the wet ingredients using a large metal spoon or rubber spatula (this will cut into the mixture better than a wooden spoon). Be careful not to over-mix it. Pour the mixture equally between the two cake tins and level.
- Place in the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until the cakes are well-risen, spring back when pressed gently with a finger and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove from the oven and set aside for 5 minutes, then remove from the tin and peel off the paper. Place onto a wire rack and let cool completely, about an hour.
- Spread a thick layer of pastry cream on top of one of the cakes, and a layer of jam on top f the other. Invert the cake with the jam so that when sandwiched together the pastry cream and jam touch. Dust with powdered sugar or granulated sugar and serve.
- Sponge Cake (jessaneenskitchen.wordpress.com)
- Farmhouse Orange Victoria Sandwich (blissfullyscrumptious.wordpress.com)
- Vanilla Sponge Cake (kitchencrafter.wordpress.com)
- Victoria Sponge Gets 21st Century Royal Wedding Make-Over (prweb.com)