If you are planning to celebrate the Queen´s 90th Birthday in style this weekend, may I suggest doing so with this classic Victoria Sponge which is always a teatime winner, as every bite brings a taste of nostalgia. Based on a rather traduitional recipe, I chose to make a four-layer version instead of two layers and chose to add a bit of vanilla-whipped cream between each layer for that extra bit of indulgence. And I made a quick raspberry jam with loads of fresh raspberries from the market to add between the layers of spongey, buttery goodness.
Victoria Sponge with Mixed Berries
Ingredients for the Sponge
- 225g unsalted butter, room temperature, plus extra for greasing
- 225g self-raising flour (get it online or from your favorite English store, like this one here)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 225g superfine (caster) sugar
- a good pinch of fine sea salt
- 4 eggs (M), free range or organic NOTE: it is a good idea to weigh the eggs in their shells, their weight should equal the weight of the flour, butter and sugar, hence about 225 grams
- 2 tbsp milk (I like to use 3.5%)
Ingredients for the Filling
For the Raspberry Jam
- 500g raspberries
- 500g jam sugar
- ½ lemon, juice only
For the Vanilla Whipped Cream
- 500ml double cream
- 4 tbsp icing sugar
- scraped seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean (keep the remainder for that homemade vanilla sugar)
- strawberries, blueberries, raspberries fresh, to decorate OR use whatever seasonal fruits are suitable for this type of cake
- icing sugar, for dusting
- Heat oven to 180°C (356° F).
- Grease and base-line 2 x 20cm (0.78 x 7.8in) non-stick round cake pans with baking parchment, then lightly grease the parchment.
- Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl, then add in the remaining sponge ingredients.
- Using an electric whisk, beat everything together until smooth.
- Divide the mix between the cake pans, then bake for 20 to 25 mins until cooked and golden.
- When cool enough to handle, remove the cakes from the pans, then leave to cool completely on racks.
- Meanwhile, make the jam: place the raspberries, the jam sugar and lemon juice into a large heavy-bottomed pan and stir over a moderate heat for 2 to3 minutes, or until the sugar has dissolved.
- Turn up the heat and boil for 5 minutes – this is an ‘instant jam’ so you don’t have to check for setting point.
- Remove from the heat, pour into a tray and set aside to cool.
- To make the vanilla-whipped cream filling: whip the cream with the icing sugar and the scraped vanilla seeds until it holds its shape.
- Build the cake by spreading one sponge with jam and the other with cream OR do as I did and cut the two cakes into two layers eachg to create four layers total.
- Sandwich the cake layers together, then dust with icing sugar.
- Decorate with fresh berries and elderflower blossoms (if you happen to have some on hand).
NOTE: Ovens will vary, so to ensure that your cake is cooked all the way through, test your sponge before removing it from the oven. A cooked sponge will have shrunk away from the sides of the pan and the center will feel springy. Once this has happened, do the skewer test. Insert a skewer in the centre of the sponge – if the cake is cooked, it will come out clean. If there is any cake mix on the skewer, give the cake a few minutes more, then test again.
You can't go wrong with this perfect party cake - full of spongey goodness. Makes a super-simple wedding cake, too. Or plan a get together with your favorite people this summer, host a tea party and serve this lovely cake that combines a soft golden victoria sponge, homemade raspberry jam, softly whipped-vanilla cream, and loads of fresh berries - best served with a proper cup of tea, my favorite being the utterly delightful Earl Grey's Lady Violet (to be found here.).
During my research, I learned that as a child, Queen Victoria wasn't allowed to indulge in sweet things too often. It is said that on the throne, she certainly made up for lost time. Every week each of Victoria's royal residencies received a rather generous consignment of pastries from the Buckingham Palace kitchens. It is fair to say that the queen adored cake and it is fitting, then, that she should have given her name to the most delicious of all British teatime cakes, the Victoria Sponge.
Opinion differs as to the components of a true Victoria sandwich. To add or not to add vanilla. To dust or not to dust with icing sugar. Should the filling include whipped cream or only jam. Queen Victoria's would have been sandwiched with jam alone, the layer of whipped cream was a 20th-century addition. Personally, I don't think there is a need to be too purist. And I do fill my Victoria Sponges with different types of jams, depending on the season, not just raspberry or strawberry but also rhubarb or apricot.
A Victoria Sponge is supposed to be 'butter-rich', this is what sets it apart from the whisked fat-free sponges and Genoise cakes invented in the 18th century that lack the sturdy keeping qualities of a Victoria Sponge. The sponge part evolved from the classic pound cake – equal quantities of butter, sugar, eggs and flour. The difference was the Victorian creation of baking powder, which enabled the sponge to rise higher. No matter whether you are a true purist or chose more modern approach to sponges, this cake will always be a cake fit for a queen!