It’s the day before Valentines, and, if you’re anything like me you haven’t exactly managed to buy or make anything in advance. Never fear though. There is still time to make a delectable sponge cake and decorate it with a heart.
A Victoria sponge cake is a simple but delightful British afternoon tea treat, said to be a favourite of Queen Victoria’s. It is most usually filled with a red jam (raspberry, strawberry, plum and cherry are all good) and whipped cream, and sprinkled with icing sugar, making it somehow look very ‘Valentinish’.
However you can just fill it with jam; with jam and a vanilla buttercream (keeps longer); with jam, whipped cream and fruit as I did for this cake, or my mother would often fill our family cakes with a thick layer of chocolate buttercream. If you’re using jam I do recommend using the best quality you can lay your hands on as it is a prominent part of the whole experience. I used a homemade seedless raspberry for this cake.
First make your sponge cakes.
Classic Victoria Sponge
The following quantities make for a nice deep cake in 7 in cake tins or 8 in cakes with a more even proportion of filling to cake. The traditional quantity – 4oz (110g) of all the dry ingredients + 2 eggs makes deep 6 in cakes, or a shallower 7 in ones. (The pictures show the quantities below baked in 7 in cake tins).
For American readers who prefer to use volume measures, I used this recipe as the demo when I was giving a class on British baking and using weighing scales. I suggest you weigh the ingredients for this as you will get a more accurate result.
175g (6oz) butter at room temperature
175g (6oz) caster (baker’s) sugar
3 large eggs
A few drops of vanilla extract (make your own vanilla extract)
175g (6oz) self-raising flour, sifted (or the same quantity of all purpose or cake flour with 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder)
Hot water as required
Jam, whipped cream and icing sugar
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C (325F)
Butter two 18cm (7inch) sandwich tins and line with greaseproof paper or baking parchment.
Cream the butter and sugar together until very pale and fluffy.
Whisk the eggs and vanilla extract together in jug and add a little at a time to the creamed mixture, beating thoroughly after every addition. If the mixture starts to curdle then add a tablepoon of the weighed flour and keep beating. If the mixture curdle and you can’t rescue it, don’t worry, it just means your cake won’t rise quite as much.
When everything is incorporated sieve about a third of the flour into the bowl and fold in the flour thoroughly with a metal spoon. Repeat until all the flour is incorporated. Be careful when you’re folding to keep as much air in the mixture as possible.
Add hot water or milk as necessary, until the mixture slides easily off a spoon. This is called ‘dropping consistency’ and it key to a bouncy sponge with an even top. I find that I need to add more liquid for American flours. Divide the mixture equally between the two tins and smooth out to the edges. (If you want your cakes to be perfectly even you can weigh the mix in the pans).
Bake for around 25- 30 minutes if making the shallower cakes (4oz of dry ingredients in a 7 in tin or 6 oz of dry ingredients in an 8 in tin) or for 30-35 minutes if you’re making one of the deeper cakes (4 oz of dry ingredients in a 6 in pan or 6oz of dry ingredients in the 7 in pan). When they are fully cooked your cakes will be golden and springy. Press the cake with a fingertip and it should leave no imprint. Loosen round the edges with a palette knife and turn onto a wire rack to cool.
Fill with cream and jam and sift a little icing sugar over the top – in the shape of a heart if you’re feeling romantic.