You might think I’m extracting buckets of urine here by daring to post a recipe for such a well known British classic, but as any discerning cook knows, there is no one great single authentic recipe for any dish, regardless of what the WI might say.
The Victoria sandwich has been an integral part of British culture since the 19th century (when baking powder was invented) and indeed every known food writer has offered up their take on this simple yet universally-popular cake. I’ve not met one person who doesn’t like it. There is really no way you can eff it up. Though I’ve never understood why people like to put fresh cream in these as it means you have to keep it in the fridge which dries out the sponge, which is the main event here. But that’s just me.
The Vicky Sponge is notoriously sensitive to cooking time and oven temperature. So much so that it’s used by oven manufacturers to test their products’ effectiveness. Oven too hot? Cake will either burn, rise dramatically and then sink. Oven too cool? Won’t cook properly and you risk overdoing the outside and leaving the centre raw. An oven thermometer is ideal and you only need to know this:
Fan oven: 160C
Electric oven: 180C
Gas oven: Gas Mark 4
And you bake for 25 minutes max.
There’s so many different ways to get the ideal lightness – some writers replace a small amount of the flour with cornflour; others use plain flour and add extra baking powder; others only use the traditional creaming method…the list goes on and I won’t bore you with all of this now.
The best advice I’ve ever read and it’s the one I’m passing on to anyone who’ll listen; and it comes direct from the WI who are fiendishly draconian on their Victorias….weigh your eggs in their shells; make a note of the weight – this is how much fat, sugar and self-raising flour you’ll need. 7 inch sandwich tins use 3 eggs, 8 inch (like mine), use 4. Any size eggs you like.
Anyway, enough waffle. I’ve made countless Victorias over the years…and I’ve broken the rules numerous times….I’ve gone with gourmet butter, regular butter, margarine, Bertolli spread, Flora…if it says ‘suitable for baking’ on the tub then it’s gone into a Vicky sponge.
My preferred filling is raspberry jam (home made) as the WI insist (the seeds help keep the cakes sandwiched apparently), but I find it lacks something on its own, so I always sandwich it along with buttercream to round it off. The cake in the photos I admit was sandwiched with bought jam…sorry!
Normally my standard formula is salted butter and caster sugar, but I’ve had to change things a bit, especially lately in more budget conscious times – this is the point of this post – and, don’t tell your local WI – but granulated sugar still makes a cracking light sponge! Only the pickiest, most petty judge would be able to tell the difference. Butter is superior in flavour (I don’t put vanilla in my sponge) but as I mentioned in the chocolate cake post, Waitrose’s essential sunflower spread, reasonably priced at £1 a tub, works just as well (it’s also cheaper than, and tastes better than Stork) – though any spread that’s marked as suitable for baking will do. It makes an inferior buttercream but as you only need a small amount for sandwiching, don’t bother getting extra butter just for that.
I also recommend for quickness, the all-in-one method also favoured by Mary Berry. A whisk and a bowl is fine.
Budget Victoria Sandwich
4 eggs, weighed in their shells.
Same weight of:
Spread/margarine – must have ‘suitable for baking’ on the tub.
2 LEVEL tsp baking powder
2-4 tbsp water
Raspberry jam (shop bought or homemade)
Buttercream (You can go by eye, but I’d say 1 part marg to 3 parts icing sugar)
Jam (if using homemade):
200g frozen raspberries
250g jam sugar/granulated sugar with the juice of 1/2 a lemon added for the pectin
- Preheat oven to 180C/160C fan and grease two 8in/20cm sandwich tins with the bases lined with parchment.
- In a bowl combine all the ingredients and beat with a whisk (you don’t need electricity here) until combined and smooth – dropping consistency is what you want (hence the water). Don’t overdo it. If you want, you can do this in a food processor.
- Working quickly (the raising agents will start to act as soon as the batter is mixed) divide between the tins, spreading out evenly.
- Place in the oven and bake for 25 minutes (check at 20 just in case) until golden. When ready, the cakes should be coming away from the sides of the tins; the centre should spring back when pushed lightly, and a tester inserted should come out clean.
- If you’re making your own jam (and awesome if you are), now’s the time to do it. In a heavy based saucepan, tip in the raspberries and place over a medium heat to begin thawing out. As soon as they are thawed, add the sugar (and lemon juice if using normal granulated), stir to begin dissolving and turn up the heat, bringing to the boil. Once boiling, leave at a rollicking boil for 4 minutes exactly before tipping into a shallow dish (any ovenproof ‘lasagne dish’ is perfect here) to cool and set.
- Place the cakes, still in their tins on a wire rack and cool for 5 minutes exactly.
- After this 5 minutes, slide a regular knife around the edges to loosen and remove the cakes from the tins onto the wire rack and leave to cool completely.
TIP: If you are entering the village show, unmould the cakes carefully onto a clean tea towel before placing on the rack the ‘right’ side up to avoid those GHASTLY rack marks!
- Make the buttercream. When not using real butter, I just go by eye and beat a small amount of margarine with icing sugar until I get a spreadable consistency – taste for sweetness. if you have any vanilla knocking about, add a dash.
- When the cakes are cooled, pick the less good-looking one of the two and place it face-down on a plate or stand (doily optional) before spreading the flat side now facing up with jam. How much you spread is up to you but remember it’ll squidge out the sides if you’re too heavy handed once you sandwich.
- On the other cake, spread the underside with the buttercream. I wouldn’t be too heavy with this as you want it to complement the jam without it being too sickly. Place carefully on top of the jam-spread cake to sandwich.
- For a finishing touch, sprinkle with granulated sugar (not icing, sorry. I go with the WI again here and I think it looks better), stick the kettle on and dive in. Keep covered in cling to prevent it going stale.