Ah… the Victoria sponge cake. It is universally agreed as a timeless classic with its simple butter-and-vanilla flavour, and yet it can be surprisingly difficult to make (to a Queen Vic-standard anyway). If you are one of those poor, unfortunate bakers who, try as they might, end up with sponge pancakes rather than cake, then read on – this article may save your sponge.
First things first: the ingredients. Eggs and butter must always be at room temperature (easier to work with and whisk air into), flour must be self raising (so you get a risen sponge) and the type of sugar should be caster (it’s just the best kind, trust me). You must also make sure you preheat your oven to 180°C, grease your two 9-inch sandwich tins and then line them and grease them again – it’s worth the effort so your cakes don’t stick!
- Weigh your eggs and use this measurement for your sugar, butter and flour. Use 4 or 5 eggs for a big cake.
- Cream the butter and sugar together (use an electric whisk if possible, or beat the living daylights out of it with a wooden spoon) until the mixture turns pale and fluffy.
- Mix the eggs together lightly in a cup using a fork and then slowly whisk into the butter and sugar mixture, along with a generous teaspoon of vanilla extract. If the mixture begins to curdle (becomes lumpy and funny-looking), add a little bit of the sieved self raising flour and whisk that in until it looks normal again.
- Fold in the flour, sieved, along with a small pinch of salt and one teaspoon of baking powder. Fold it in very gently so you do not knock out all the air you just whisked in.
- Place the mixture in the tins, trying to make it equal either by eye (you daring person, you) or weigh it (very sensible). Level them off and then put slight dents in the middles – this helps to stop the cakes from forming domes in the middle.
- Bake for around 25-30 minutes but keep an eye on it – place tin foil over the top of the cakes if they look like they’re starting to burn after about 20-25 minutes.
- When an inserted skewer comes out clean then they are ready!
Sandwich the two cakes together with jam and/or buttercream and cover with icing or dust with icing sugar. You will then (hopefully) enjoy a well-risen, light, fluffy and delicious cake suitable for many different occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, christenings…. or just eat it all yourself in one go, because you should really go celebrate yourself (you did just make a cake ‘fit for Queen Victoria’).
Images: Ruth Pengelly