15 April 2011

Victoria Sponge - An English Teatime Classic

Victoria Sponge just might be the next big baking trend! Not. You know I can't be bothered with all that nonsense: cupcakes versus whoopie pies versus cake pops versus macarons. Let the bandwagons roll by! In or out, trendy or passé, the only thing I care about is how well something goes with a cup of tea.

Victoria Sponge, named after the Queen, is an English classic that goes perfectly with a good cup of tea. My strong preference for jam and cream rather than thick sugary frostings is, I always supposed, an English thing I inherited from my mother and her mother. We never sweetened the whipped cream for this cake, but you can if you like.

And do use the highest quality raspberry or strawberry jam or preserves you can find, since it is such a huge part of the cake. The only homemade jam I have left is peach (and that just won't do for this), so I had to use store-bought. I love Cascadian Farm Organic Raspberry Fruit Spread. This recipe takes about a third of a 10-ounce jar.

When I was a little girl reading my mother's English cookery books, all the cakes were 7 inches* instead of the usual 8 or 9 we see in American cookbooks.These days the English, too, are making larger cakes. But I like small wedges of cake for afternoon tea, so I always split and fill one 7-inch round layer rather than sandwiching two layers. Since Victoria sponge contains butter it isn't a true sponge, so the cake freezes quite well. Just double the cake recipe and freeze one layer for another occasion. (I just baked one this time because I couldn't find the second pan!)

For my readers in the UK, I have a British Conversions page (see the link on the horizontal menu bar). But just for fun, I included them in this recipe. If you're not from the UK, call up your inner Anglophile and make this lovely cake. Just looking at it makes me want to give a garden fete!

Victoria Sponge

(Makes one 7-inch/18-cm round layer)

3/4 dip-and-sweep cup plus 1 tablespoon (4 ounces/110 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (4 ounces/113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (3.5 ounces/99 grams) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (essence)
2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces/60 ml) milk

1/3 cup raspberry or strawberry jam or preserves 
3/4 cup (6 fluid ounces/175 ml) heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (essence)
Powdered sugar (icing sugar)

1 Preheat oven to 350F/180C /Gas4. Butter well and lightly flour one 7-inch layer pan (18-cm sandwich tin). In small bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt.

2 In medium bowl, with electric mixer (electric hand whisk), cream butter. Butter must be very, very soft to start with. If you didn't get the butter out 3 hours ago, don't try to make this cake. Add sugar and vanilla, and continue creaming until light and fluffy. While beating, slowly drizzle in beaten eggs. Continue beating until light and fluffy. With large metal spoon, fold in the flour mixture after sifting it over the batter. Stir in the milk. You may not need the entire 1/4 cup; batter should be rather stiff, of a consistency to drop from the spoon.

3 Pour into prepared pan/tin. Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Do not underbake.

4 Cool in pan on wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on rack for an hour.

5 Not long before serving, whip cream and vanilla (and not more than 2 teaspoons of sugar, if you really must!) until stiff. As you can see in the photo, I go a little crazy with the cream; you could probably just use 1/2 cup. Split cake and spread bottom half with jam and top half with whipped cream. Put top half in place and sprinkle with powdered sugar (icing sugar). Cut into 6 or 8 wedges.

* A 7-inch cake pan might be unusual to Americans; but since that was the "English" thing, I of course had to have the 7-inch tins. I've had mine forever. Now, as then, they can be a bit hard to find. Order here: Parrish Magic Line 7 x 2 Inch Round Aluminum Cake Pan.

Note: A couple of readers just told me their ovens are out of order just now, so I've added this recommendation: Cuisinart TOB-195 Exact Heat Toaster Oven Broiler, Stainless.


Unknown said...

Jean, I am so glad you posted this! I haven't had Victoria Sponge since I was a kid...and only then I had it maybe 3 times. I remember it tasting so wonderfully light.. and the cream/jam combo was out of this world!! Yours looks divine!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks, Jenn! I hope you'll make it soon and let me know how it turned out for you.

TONY said...

Victoria Sponge.





Oooooooooooooooooo!!! Again!!!!

Jean, your ideas and recipes are positively dangerous to an impressionable young man like me.


Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks, Tony! Now get into the kitchen and make this, though it won't be done in time for afternoon tea!

Thomas "Sully" Sullivan said...

No, no…Victoria Sponge lives in East Sweet Pea, Arizona, and used to borrow money from me all the time when we were training armadillos to defuse terrorist bombs. ‘Scuse me, I mean “Man-Caused- Disaster” bombs in times of "Kinetic Military Action" – we had a grant paid for by "Tax Code Spending Cuts." I am nothing if not politically correct. And speaking of correctness, the correct name for this British indulgence of your exquisite recipe is Tram Cake – Double-Decker Tram Cake. And the more butter in a DDTC, the better. As you know, my philosophy is "butter makes it better." Or, as the Beatles once famously sang in Merry Ol’, "…the butter wouldn’t melt so we put it in the pie." I'm certainly going to try this one (with sugar in the whipped cream, of course). I'm going to try it as soon as I'm absolutely certain that I'm out of tea…

ZipZip said...

Dear Jean,

Yes, yes! Victoria sponge has to be my favorite ever. Back in the 1980s the late Laurie Colwin published a recipe for this sort of spongecake in *Gourmet* magazine, writing that for English women of a certain age, it was something they could make in their sleep.

I am now a woman of that certain age, but not English, and can almost but not quite make it in my sleep.

Another option for "trimming" it, while certainly not regulation, is to fill the insides with whipped cream flavored with espresso, and then spread the top thinly with dark barely sweet chocolate shavings, then dust a tiny bit of powdered sugar on top. It's not sweet, but the chocolate and the cake love each other :}

Very best, and thank you for reintroducing us to a worthy classic.


Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Oh, Sully, how do I put up with you! This aversion to tea must be overcome. I implore you to follow my explicit directions and make a proper cup (pot) of tea three times a day until you see the light.

TONY said...

Jean, thank you for putting up with my inane comments. You are great.

One of my daughters, Emily, loves cooking and has a done a number of cookery courses over the years. She will help me make the Victoria Sponge. She is off to university next year and studying hard for her final exams.

By the way I got the idea for all the umm's and aagh's from a poem by Michael Rosen called Chocolate CAke.

Michael Rosen is a brilliant children's writer. Teachers tend to use a lot of his poetry to inspire children's writing in schools over here.

Here is Michael Rosen's CHOCOLATE CAKE.

just discovered the poem exceeds the number of permitted characters.

Her's a link to the poem instead.

All the best,


Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks, Natalie! Your espresso/chocolate variation sounds delicious too. I'm so glad you mentioned Laurie Colwin. I love(d) her and so enjoy rereading her books from time to time. Thanks for the reminder!

Melanie said...

Jean, this sounds delicious.

Why not try it with your peach jam? When I was a kid, we'd get this Italian bakery cake with a sliced peaches, raspberry sauce, and whipped cream filling - it was MY FAVORITE. (Basically peach melba in the middle of a cake.)

Thomas "Sully" Sullivan said...

If I drink tea three times a day, the only thing I'll see is the aperture of the porcelain appointment in my room for purposeful plumbing – and methinks there is no light at the end of that tunnel. I don't drink tea, smoke tea, or place one beneath a golf ball. Lacking social graces and context, do I really need to change? Rooting through life sans formality seems to suit me to a T.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks, Melanie. Yes, I would love it with my peach jam. It just wouldn't be the traditional Classic Victoria Sponge. (Mmmm ... Peach Melba)

Unknown said...

I love a good victoria sponge like what you made for afternoon tea. It looks so good and delicious. Yum.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thank you, Michael! I hope you'll make one some afternoon soon.

Grant said...

Hey Jean, that looks absolutely scrumcious and delightful. Next time we come to the USA we'll have to come visit you for a delightful repast of sponge and tea. And unlike our good friend Sully, I looooove a good cup of tea!

smiles, Grant

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thank you! That would be delightful, Grant!

Vic said...

Would you come over to my house and make this sponge cake for me? Yum!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

I would love to! I could be a Janeite on the James!

Mrs. Tuna said...

I wonder if I could use this cake with strawberries and whip cream like strawberry short cake.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Yes, I've used it like that. If there is lots of liquid with the strawberries (as I like for shortcake), I prefer to split the cake horizontally and cut it into wedges then assemble each serving individually. Makes for less messy servings.

Gera@SweetsFoodsBlog said...

Victoria sponge wow a classic that I'd need often this is really heavenly!



Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks, Gera! I need to do some exploring and see what some of the classics are in Uruguay!

Natalie said...

oh this looks great! It is beautiful and perfect for summer

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Natalie, thank you! Yes, I expect to be making it a number of times this summer. Perfect for tea in the garden.

Anonymous said...

I made this exactly as instructed. The cake didnt rise at all and 25min was way to long for such a small amount of batter! I would recommend doubling and put it in one 7" pan.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Hi Anonymous, I'm sorry you had a disappointing result. Did you put the batter in two pans? There is just enough batter for one 7-inch pan. Everyone's oven is different; 25 minutes works in my recently calibrated oven. Also, anyone using a glass pan rather than metal should lower the temperature for any baking by 25 degrees. The only reason I can think of for the cake not rising properly is baking powder that is not fresh. When did you replace your baking powder? I hope some of these thoughts will make the recipe work for you. Happy baking!

Laraine Anne Barker said...

The cake sounds lovely and I like that you put a generous filling in it. But the habit of flavouring and sweetening the cream makes me shudder. Good cream needs neither flavouring nor sweetening.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Laraine, thank you. And I quite agree with you about the cream. But readers in the US will look at my suggestion to use "not more than 2 teaspoons of sugar, if you must" in 6 fluid ounces of cream as crazy talk -- most add a *lot* more.

Do read my Chocolate Cream Pie post. It has the story of my recent problem with cream. Let me know if you've ever had that problem.