Ever since I first laid eyes on the absolute delight that is the Great British Baking Show (or Bakeoff, depending on where you live), I’ve been jonesing for some Victoria Sponge.
I’ve also been in a generally better mood, because as anyone who has watched this show can tell you, it’s the loveliest of lovely things to watch and, somehow, can make you forget (if only for an hour-long episode) that things like this are the truths we live with now.
Plus, there’s cake! Or sponge, if we’re being British about it. As far as I can tell, a Victoria Sponge (I really want to call it a “Victoria Sponge Cake” but isn’t that like saying “Victoria Cake Cake?” Help me, Brits!) is basically just two light and buttery pound-ish cakes, sandwiched with a thin layer of jam and a thick (beautiful, billowy) layer of lightly sweetened whipped cream.
I’d put it firmly in the category of snack cake, which as we all know is the best kind of cake — the kind you can just snack on all day long and it somehow feels appropriate. Not overly adorned. Lightly sweet. Snacky. You know?
Anyway, when I went to create my own version, I ran quickly towards Nigella Lawson, Domestic Goddess that she is, and she didn’t steer me wrong. (Also, Mary Berry’s version — and most versions, actually — calls for castor sugar, which is the Brit way of saying superfine sugar, which I didn’t have on hand. I eventually picked some up, though, because the cake — the sponge, I should say — really benefits from a final dusting of the stuff before serving). The final verdict on this thing is: SCRUMMY. Let’s eat cake.
Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess, p.14
If you don’t have castor sugar (also called superfine) on hand for a final dusting, you can either skip it or use powdered sugar instead, but I’d like to put in a plug for you to pick some up, if you can find it. It’s a real delight.
Also, if you want to skip the layer of whole fruit and just go with jam and cream, you’d be on the more traditional path. I like a bit of texture from the fruit, though, especially in the summertime when little fruit jewels are so perfect.
- 1 1/3 cups cake flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 1/2 cup seedless jam (use your favorite red fruit version)
- 2 cups ripe strawberries, thinly sliced
- castor sugar (also called superfine sugar), for dusting (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan with butter or baking spray, and then line with parchment paper. Grease the parchment, too.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Using a standing or hand-held mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Whisk in the vanilla extract. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well and adding a small spoonful of the flour mixture between each. Once the eggs are incorporated, add the rest of the flour mixture in one go, mixing gently to combine.
Pour and scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a spatula. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and the top springs back when gently poked – a tester should come out clean. Leave the cake in its pan on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes, then turn out the cake and let it cool completely.
While the cake cools, whip the cream with the powdered sugar until medium peaks form.
Once cooled, use a serrated knife to carefully slice the cake into 2 rounds of (mostly) equal thickness. Place the bottom round on a large plate, and spread a thin layer of jam evenly atop the cake. Spread (or pipe, if you fancy) the whipped cream generously on top of the jam, and place the domed cake round on top of the cream layer.
Dust the whole cake with a fine layer of castor sugar, if you like, and enjoy asap.
Makes one 9-inch sponge.