Friday, March 30, 2012

British Bites: Victoria Sponge Cake

My culinary creation

When I hosted a discussion of Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford for my Book Club, I wanted to recreate an authentically English experience. In short, a tea party was clearly the order of the day. I pulled out my mother's minute teacups and saucers and purchased a variety of teas: fruit, peppermint, camomile and a basic black. Can I tell you how thrilled I was to find Tetley's tea in my local American grocery store? Premium Early Grey is very fancy and all, but sometimes I like to stick with what I know.

My dilemma consisted of determining which classic English food I should make to accompany the tea. My first thought was to bake scones, an idea that was quickly scratched when I discovered what a lengthy process it is to make clotted cream. Why can't I buy that here?! Then I had an epiphany: Victoria sponge cake! When I discovered during my online research that the Victoria sponge is so called because it was popular during that monarch's reign in the nineteenth century, I was sold. It fit in perfectly with a reading of Cranford, a text that perfectly evokes a sense of rural community in Victorian England.

My cake was a success! I followed this recipe from BBC Food, and it was delicious -- though I say it myself. It seemed to go down well with the Book Club, as many of my fellow readers gobbled up two servings. True, they might have accepted proffered cake slices merely as a matter of politeness, stuffing whole chunks into their handbags to spare my feelings. My family, on the other hand, wouldn't withhold the truth. They loved it too. Christian, my brother, even requested I whip up another Victoria sponge cake for his birthday party this weekend. I consider that a success!

So, I happily pass on the recipe for this glorious confection to you, with the modifications I made to accommodate American cooking.


1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 and 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
milk to loosen


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of two 7-inch cake tins with wax paper. (I used a 9-inch cake pan, and it still turned out well.) Grease tins with cooking spray and baking powder. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt.  

Beat butter and sugar until it becomes pale and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in vanilla. Slowly add flour mixture. Add milk as needed. (I think I used a few tablespoons.) The batter should be thick, with a consistency that is closer to, say, a cream cheese frosting than a traditional cake batter. 

Divide batter into the cake tins, and bake for 20-25 minutes. After taking cakes out of the oven, allow them to cool for approximately 5 minutes before removing from the tins and peeling off wax paper. Then let them cool completely.

The beauty of the Victoria sponge cake is that you can choose your filling. Traditionally, it has a cream and raspberry filling. I slathered on store-bought Smucker's raspberry jam and fresh whipped cream. You could also use strawberry jam, fresh fruit, lemon curd, etc. Once the cakes have been sandwiched together with the filling, liberally dust the top with powdered sugar. It makes 10-12 servings. If you're like me, you'll add a large dollop of whipped cream to each slice upon serving. That extra creaminess is worth maxing out your weekly saturated fat allowance.

That's it. Do you see how easy that is to make? (If this reluctant baker can do it, you most certainly can.) It's simple but tasty. If you like cake half as much as I do, you will be in dessert heaven with the Victoria sponge!  I highly recommend whipping one up the next time you're crave a delectable treat. You won't be disappointed.


JoAnn said...

Wish I could have come to that book club meeting! The cake looks delicious.

Diana said...

JoAnn: It really is. This was one of my favourite treats while living in England. I was surprised at how easy it was recreate.

Name said...

I grew up eating sponges. My mother used to make them all the time and so did I, until I turned veg and stopped baking and cooking. You could try Lamingtons next. Very tasty!

Violet said...

"Name" would be me. Comments is not playing nice today.

Diana said...

Violet: These look so delicious! Thanks for sending the recipe my way. I'll be baking these next time I want to try a new treat. I love trying foods from different cultures (especially when they contain lots of sugar). :)

amanda @ simplerpastimes said...

That looks (and sounds) absolutely delicious! I don't usually think of pairing my eats with my book, but for a book group this would be perfect. Yum!

Diana said...

Amanda: Yes, I thought tea and a Victorian sponge went well with a Victorian novel. I doubt, however, that I'll be creative enough to come up with another themed book club discussion. :)