Victoria Sandwich or Victoria Sponge Cake
It’s been just few months since I began participating in Susan’s Black and White Wednesday, a culinary food photography event where we are encouraged to look at food and anything related to food in monochrome colours. Sometime I failed and sometimes I succeeded in capturing the vibrant and colourful food look good in just two colours. But I found one amazing food blogger who not just takes beautiful photographs in monochrome but wows you every time by bringing them to life. Every single photograph in her blog has some stories to tell without the need of any words! Her photograph makes me go weak at the knees, lifts my spirit, and also makes me happy every time! I am talking about gorgeous lady Rosa who writes at Rosa’s Yummy Yums from one of the most beautiful countries, Switzerland. I am honoured to have her here today, on Monsoon Spice kitchen, sharing her beautiful photographs and fond memories with you all… Please welcome Rosa today and don’t forget to follow her on Twitter and Facebook if you don’t want to miss out some great food and photos.
I haven’t been following Sia’s site for very long (only a few months), but the little time I have spent on her swell blog has only been placed under the sign of pure enchantment and discovery. Her fragrant dishes look delectable, are always so exotic sounding and a real novelty to me, and the pictures, although free of useless frilly embellishment, are pretty, moody, luminous, colorful and reflect the creator’s straightforwardness. A true breath of fresh air and an awesome source for Indian recipes. I love everything about the poetically named “Monsoon Spice”. So, the day Sia asked me to write a guest post for her, I was overcome with joy and so thrilled at the propspect of appearing on her truly brilliant space!
Having been asked to come up with something vegetarian and considering the fact that Sia is an inhabitant of my country of my roots (actually I have a dual nationality – I’m Anglo-Swiss), I thought that it would be a wonderful idea if I presented a delicacy on which my English mother has raised me and which occupies a special place in my heart: “Victoria Sandwich” (also called “Victoria Sponge”).
I am incredibly happy to share my fetish recipe as well as my memories with you here and I wish to warmly thank Sia for opening the doors of her platform to me. It is an honor to know you and to have my work hosted by such a fabulous blogger like you!
I’ve always cherished my British heritage as well as Great Britain’s uniquely comforting and regional cuisine. It has a sentimental value to me as it reminds me of my beloved Nan and Pop who passed away a short while ago. Now that both my grandparents have gone on to glory and I have no family nor pied-à-terre left there anymore, I tend to venerate anything that hails from this gloriously green island in the North Atlantic Ocean.
Whenever I feel nostalgic of England and need to uplift my soul, this incomparably ambrosial, moist and featherlight torte always brings a smile to my lips and tempers my sadness. It has this marvelously soothing granny-style flavor that never fails to bring back fond remembrances of the unforgettable moments spent in the company of my grandma and grandpa during my childhood summer holidays in Warwickshire (Stratford-Upon-Avon) and Derbyshire (Belper).
“I'm not a total dead loss as a woman. I can't knit or make plum jam but I can bake a bloody victoria sponge.”- Chris, “Calendar Girls”.
My grandmother Jean was a talented home cook and baker who had the gift for baking a mean “Victoria Sandwich” along with exquistely fluffy scones (amongst other things) on the occasion of friends’ visit. As any honorable English person, those were invariably accompanied by a nice cuppa and some cheerful chatting - something the people of this archipelago do to perfection.
I also remember seeing the generous array of mouthwatering and tempting cakes that were magnificently put on display in the quaint Peak District tearooms we went to. In such magical places, it is difficult to remain unmoved, especially if you are a voracious little girl (or grownup, to that matter) with an insatiable appetite for rich, floury goodies decorated with thick layers of icing/frosting and mountains of whipped cream. Pa-ra-dise!
Victoria Sandwich or Victoria Sponge
In a way, “Victoria Sandwich” is my “Madeleine de Proust” and I cannot imagine living a life devoid of it as it helps me to reconnect with my youth and enables me to prize every single souvenir linked to it. Now and then, I take pleasure in travelling back to bygone days when I was naïve and my head was full of dreams. It makes me forget the quotidian grind and the boringness of adulthood…
If there is a baked goodie that Britain does like no other (well actually there are quite a few), then I totally agree with Jamie Oliver and, like him, I claim high that it has to be sponge cake. In my opinion, a respectful “Victoria Sandwich”, no matter how humble it might look, is worth any fancy pastry and might even surpass certain of them indulgence-wise…
This easy-to-make*, simple and gratifying speciality is filled with raspberry jam as well as whipped double cream and its top is dusted with icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar) or castor sugar. Generally, this popular sweet snack graces typical luncheon tables and is regarded with much esteem by the English who venere and love it. It is a classic British treat, an absolute institution and can be found without problem throughout the UK.
"The ritual of English teatime was perfected by Queen Mary, for whom it was a treasured time of day...Sandwiches, cakes and biscutis were invitingly set out on gleaming silver dishes. The teapot, hot water jug, cream jug and sugar bowl were the same antique silver service that had been the favourite of Queen Victoria."- “Dinner at Buckingham Palace”, Paul Fishman and Fiorella
The “Victoria Sandwich” has been named after Queen Victoria who used to enjoy a slice of cake in the afternoon. Apparently, after the death of her husband Prince Albert in 1861, the monarch withdrawn herself from society and rarely left her mansion (Osborne House) on the Isle of Wight. In order to incite her to get back into the swing of civic duties, she was encouraged to host tea parties (social happenings during which tea is accompanied by a variety of hors d’oeuvres-type finger foods served in an elegant and seated environment - check out this link for more info) for the aristocracy. It is then that the soon-to-be-known “Victoria Sponge Cake” was consumed and that it achieved great success. Without a doubt, those merry events contributed to transforming this dessert into something extremely fashionable and into a measure of the home baker’s talent.
Nowadays, “Victoria Sandwich” is still a huge hit at birthdays, celebrations and is the ultimate holiday item. One can find it in any coffee shop or on any table across the country, and as British food is making a thunderous comeback lately, I have observed/witnessed a massive regain of interest for it. In our modern ages, this delight is being taken to newer heights and adapted in many luscious ways by using non-traditional fillings such as lemon curd, exotic jams, chestnut jam, gooey caramel, etc… In effect, it is very versatile, so it would be a pity to only stick to the original version as you’d be missing out on a lot.
Sadly, I own none of my granny's cookery book (there were a few, though) and never had the opportunity to be the one to whom she revealed her kitchen secrets (no formulas were passed along to me), so the "Victoria Sandwich" recipe I've decided to offer today has been adapted from "Delicious Magazine" which is an endless source of information when it comes to classic (or not) English dishes ("Good Food Magazine" and "Jamie Magazine" are excellent too).
Considering the fact that I can't refrain from tweaking all the recipe I try, the same fate awaited this one. The cake was baked in one 18cm round tin (not two), pure vanilla extract and fine sea salt were added to the batter, and instead of sandwiching both cake halves with raspberry jam, I thought that it would be tastier and healthier if I replaced it by lightly sweetened plum compote which I have flavored with ground cinnamon. Of course, I am quite aware that the fruit sauce I used is not in season anymore, but be reassured, mine came from the stock I have in my freezer. It can easily be replaced by the puree of your choice (cranberry, apple, pear, orange, chestnut, etc…).
The result was just out-of-this-world. My boyfriend and I finished the "Victoria Sandwich" in one evening, while watching a Scandinavian movie. I know what you might be thinking, but if you haven't tasted this sponge, you cannot pass any judgement on us as I'm sure you'd do the same. This speciality just commands greediness and I hope that you'll find it as orgiastic as we did!
* Although not very difficult to prepare, “Victoria Sandwich” recipes are notoriously sensitive to cooking and temperatures. It is for this reason oven manufacturers often use them to test their ovens.
Victoria Sandwich (Victoria Sponge Cake)
Prep Time: A little under 30 minutes.
Cooking Time: 35-40 minutes.
Serves: 4-5 people.
Makess: 1x 18cm (7inch) cake.
Recipe Level: Intemediary.
Recipe Adapted: from Delicious Magazine.
Shelf Life: Best eaten the same day it is made
Serving Suggestion: Serve for dessert or at teatime with a cup of tea or coffee.
For The “Sponge”:
175g Unsalted butter, softened (+ extra for greasing the pan)
175g Castor sugar
175g Eggs (~ 3 large ones, see notes)
1 Tsp Pure vanilla extract
175g All-purpose flour
1 Level Tsp Baking powder
1/4 Fine sea salt
3 Tbsp Milk (not fat-free)
For The “Filling and Decorating”:
6 Tbs Fruit compote or jam (I used plum compote)
8 Tbs Whipped cream
Confectioner’s sugar, to sprinkle on the top of the cake
- Preheat the oven to 180º C (350° F).
- Cut 1 x 18cm disc of baking paper, line the base of your springform cake tin with it and grease it.
- Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
- Put the butter in a bowl (or the bowl of your KA) with the castor sugar and beat together until really light, pale and fluffy.
- Gradually add the eggs, beating well after each addition. Then incorporate the vanilla extract.
- Sift the flour and fold it in delicately (with a spatula if making by hand) to combine.
- Add enough milk in order to get a smooth dropping cake dough consistency.
- Pour into the tin and smooth out the top with a spatula.
- Bake in the centre of the oven for about 35-40 minutes or until golden and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
- Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then remove the baking paper and turn out onto a wire rack that's covered in a clean cotton tea towel to prevent marking. Cool completely.
- Cut the cake in two, horizentally and place the bottom of the cake on a cake stand/dish, then spread generously with the whipped cream and then with the compote/jam then carefully sandwich together.
- Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar just before serving (otherwise it’ll melt).
- Always crack the eggs into a bowl and weigh them. If ever they are lighter (or heavier) than 175g, reduce (or increase) the butter, sugar and flour accordingly and in order for all four ingredients to be of the same weight as the eggs.
- If you don’t like raspberry jam and want to be adventurous, you can use the jam and filling (plum compote, lemon curd, chestnut jam or vermicelli, custard/crème pâtissière, Nutella, etc…) of your choice.
- The cooked, cooled and non-sandwiched (or halved) cakes can be frozen for up to 3 months.
- Serve for dessert or at teatime with a cup of tea or coffee.
Victoria Sandwich or Victoria Sponge