Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Victoria Sponge

My sponges peaked a little and so my slices refused to sit perfectly flat. The annoyance!

Yeah. As you can see, I am annoyed at my Victoria Sandwich. I feel the same way that parents from a staunchly Conservative family must feel when their first born gets to voting age and plumps for the Labour Party instead. Disappointed. A little shocked. And hard done to.

Still. Taste is everything, and if we all judged on looks alone, well, think what the world would be like. Besides, those peaks do add a certain excitement to the curve of the top layer. Coupled with the almost hidden and entirely co-incidental jammy drips we have what can only be labeled 'sweet provocation'... Or is it just me who finds cakes to be provocative?

Don't answer that. God, you're all going to think I have an eating disorder...

I'm breaking an unwritten rule that I laid down when I started writing Delicious Delicious Delicious with this post and I feel a bit uneasy about it. See, I promised myself I'd never do Victoria Sandwich.

'It's so dull!' I reasoned. 'Nobody really likes it.'

Turns out that isn't actually true. And thanks to television shows like The Great British Bake Off, the classics are becoming trendy again. Plus, someone at work asked me what the secret to a good sponge was, and I thought I may as well have a play in the kitchen and post the results.

Now: one thing up front. This is a Victoria Sandwich, not a sponge. Yes, I've titled it sponge, but that's merely for Google to help people find this post. The fact is this - a sponge cake does not contain so much butter as this cake usually does. Sponges rely on beaten eggs for their leavening, and at most contain a little bit of melted or clarified butter for tenderness. Examples include classic génoise and biscuit de savoie (which is used for thinks like Swiss Rolls). I'm not a professional and don't want to get overly technical, but please: let's call a spade a spade.

Normal Victoria Sandwich is really no more than your typical layer cake: equal parts flour, sugar, eggs and butter. But there is a difference in the recipe I'm giving you today and the ones I've tried before. It's not altogether a radical departure (you still have to bore yourself to tears waiting for the butter and sugar to cream together), but it is nonetheless unexpected (to me, at any rate).

Spoiler: it's additional baking powder.

Lots of people use self raising flours for baking cakes, though I stopped doing that years ago. There's nothing wrong with them, I just like to be able to add leavening in the proportions that I choose, and don't have enough shelf space (or cupboard space - I remember the awful days of only having shelves. Vile.) for several different kinds of flour.

I've always found Victoria Sandwiches tricky though, because if you add too much baking powder, you can taste it in the finished cake (soapy metal - yum!), and no matter how high the rise you get or perfectly fluffy the texture, it's not worth ruining the flavour for.

Then there are recipes that rely on only self raising flour and no additional baking powder. Well, these are inevitably gummy, tough and flat. A whole host of other explanations are sometimes given - over mixing, curdled batter - but, trust me: it's the baking powder. 9 times out of 10, it's the baking powder.

So, good people of the Internet. Listen, for I am about to impart knowledge. There's a formula. And it is thus...

For each egg in the batter, add a 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder as well as using self raising flour.

Another trick, gleaned from my friend Lucy (she who likes Red Velvet) in my final year of university: weigh your eggs (in the shells is fine) and just use equal weights of flour, butter and sugar. Then your ratios are always spot on.

The batter is quite forgiving, so adjust to whatever tin sizes you have. For example, if you have a deep sided 20cm round tin, I'd use 3 eggs per layer, for a nice tall cake.


Victoria Sandwich

You will need:

225g butter, at cool room temperature
225g caster sugar (golden caster sugar makes a lovely, caramel coloured sponge)
225g self raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
4 eggs

  1. First of all, make sure everything is at room temperature to start with. Otherwise, no matter how careful you are, your batter will curdle. Which isn't going to get you sent to prison, but will piss you right off.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and grease and line the bottoms of two 20cm round sandwich tins.
  3. I use a free standing mixer (getting married gets you a Kitchen Aid), but you can do this all by hand. In my teens, I would use a wooden spoon, so don't get all wimpy on me. Cream the butter and sugar until they are, well, like thick cream. Smooth, not gritty... Practically white.
  4. At this point, you can add some flavourings, but then it won't be a true Victoria Sandwich. Still, I like to play. My current favourite is 2 tsp vanilla extract and the finely grated zest of an orange. Lemon zest is nice as well, or maybe some cinnamon.
  5. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl, and add them slowly to the butter and sugar mixture, beating constantly. You can chuck in a little of the flour (say 1 tbsp) after each few additions of egg to help prevent curdling, but you shouldn't need to if you are thorough with your beating and wait until the eggs and butter have properly come together before adding the next batch of beaten egg.
  6. Add the baking powder to the rest of the flour, and whisk lightly to incorporate. Then either fold the flour into the batter by hand, in three batches, or pulse it in using the stand mixer. Again in three batches, and stopping just as it seems fully mixed.
  7. Scrape the batter into the cake tins and bake for 20 - 25 minutes, or until done. Cool in the tins for 10 minutes and then remove and cool completely on a wire rack.
  8. Sandwich the cakes with jam. Mine was mango and raspberry. You may, with any luck, get the recipe soon.

5 comments:

  1. oooh, controversial !... but very pretty x

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  2. I have always been a fan of the VS and like to bake one when I move house to ‘christen’ the new place…however, it’s been a month now & I haven’t made one…yet! Please therefore post me a slice!

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  3. A well made Victoria Sandwich is never dull. I prefer mine with jam rather than cream or mixture. And you've written about this so entertainingly noone could ever call this post pedestrian. It might not be obvious blog material but I'd defy anyone to diss a Victoria sponge at any bake sale!!

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  4. haha i love that it doesn't sit flat...makes it unique :) x

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  5. I love a good victoria sandwich cake..it reminds me of baking with my mum when i was little! And im so glad you've called it that instead of a sponge..I am forever correcting people..what a geek i am!

    ReplyDelete

That's what he said.

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