I always think of a Victoria sandwich cake as a summer cake. I associate it with strawberries, warm weather, cups of tea, eating in the garden, and when I saw the "Pick Your Own Strawberries" sign go up at our local PYO farm, I started thinking about jam and cake straightaway. Traditionally the two sponge layers are sandwiched together with jam, often with whipped cream as well, sometimes fresh fruit - soft berry fruits work best - but I had a jar of lemon curd in the fridge that needed eating up and discovered that this cake is excellent with a lemony, creamy centre.
Also, I tried a new way of making Victoria sponge at the weekend and it worked so well, seriously, the best sponge I've ever made, that I'm totally converted and will make it this way every time from now on. You weigh the eggs first, then use the equivalent weight of butter, sugar and flour in your mixture. I've seen this done a few times on cookery programmes and in a couple of recipe books but was quite happy with my tried and tested "6, 6, 6 & 3"* method. But no, this is better, for flavour and texture.
- 3 eggs - at room temperature ideally.
- Butter, softened.
- Caster sugar.
- Self raising flour, or plain flour with one teaspoon of baking powder.
- Jam, a couple of large tablespoons.
- About 150ml whipping cream.
The 3 eggs could weigh anywhere around 170 to 210 grams or 6 to 7½ ounces depending on the size of the eggs, just to give you a rough idea of the sort of amounts of butter, sugar and flour you'll need.
- Pre-heat your oven to 170°C or 340°F.
- Grease and line two 18cm/7" round, loose-bottomed baking tins.
- Weigh your eggs, still in their shells.
- Weigh the equivalent amount of butter and sugar, and put these into your mixing bowl.
- Weigh the self raising flour the same way and put to one side.
- Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy - I use my mixer for this but you could use a hand mixer, or your own arms if you're muscular than me.
- Crack the eggs in one at a time, adding a tablespoonful of flour between each egg.
- Then add the rest of the flour and mix together until just combined. Don't over mix.
At this stage you could also add some vanilla extract, if you like, and a couple of tablespoons of milk just to give a runnier batter. I didn't use either - I quite liked the purist feel of only four ingredients. Also, for a lemon curd-filled cake, you could add some lemon zest to the mixture but again, I didn't. The contrast of the plain, buttery sponge and the tangy filling worked beautifully as it was.
- Divide the mixture between your two tins, smoothing the top flat with the back of a spoon.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until the cake comes away from the sides of the tin slightly and a skewer comes out clean.
- Leave to cool on a rack before assembling.
- When it's quite cold, add the filling. Jam is the traditional choice. I like raspberry or strawberry. I don't usually buy such expensive jam as this but I think that when the cake filling is jam - and you've already gone to so much effort - then buy good jam. Or make your own!
- Put your bottom layer of sponge on a cake stand or plate and spread with jam.
- Softly whip some cream and spread that on top of the jam.
- Carefully place the other piece of sponge on top and sprinkle with caster sugar.
- Or swap the jam for lemon curd, it's up to you.
It is a cake best eaten freshly made, on the day it's baked ideally. The inclusion of fresh cream makes it quite a special occasion cake, not an every day tray bake that will keep in a tin for a week (not that any cake lasts for a week in this house), and it works nicely as a pudding. If you choose to add cream to the cake you'll need to eat it within two days and store it in the fridge, remembering to remove if from the fridge half an hour before eating so it can come up to room temperature. Fridge-cold cake doesn't taste half as nice.
* Your standard sponge cake recipe: 6 oz butter, 6 oz sugar, 6 oz flour and 3 eggs. Or 4, 4, 4 and 2, or 8, 8, 8 and 4, depending on the size of cake you are making. It can, of course, be translated into metric but it's easier to remember in imperial. This is about the only time I think in imperial weights when cooking.