It might not be fancy or modern, however I’d be arduous pressed to consider a cake I appreciated higher than the easy Victoria sandwich. Espresso and walnut, or a moist, whisky-sodden fruited quantity may come shut, however johnny-come-latelys such because the cheesecake or “death by chocolate” may by no means hope to compete with the quiet charms of this fete favorite. The Victoria sponge* did not at all times hold such a low profile, nonetheless: as soon as upon a time, outdated devoted sat proudly on the culinary leading edge, as a result of it took the invention of baking powder within the 1840s to make such wealthy, buttery truffles even doable, not to mention in style. The sweet-toothed British celebrated this actually world-changing second with a gloriously patriotic recipe (though anybody who tried to observe Mrs Beeton’s first model would have been left quite underwhelmed by its royal seal of approval, as a result of the unique home goddess/canny plagiarist ignored the eggs).
Irrespective of, as a result of within the subsequent century and a half, we have had loads of time to good it. Certainly, the Ladies’s Institute (WI) has elevated Victoria sandwich-making to an artwork kind: a rosette could be gained or misplaced with a wantonly unfastened crumb, or the applying of the incorrect type of jam. To be sincere, although, I am not too bothered about successful any prizes – a very nice cake is reward sufficient so far as I am involved.
* Strictly talking, panino pedants, this in style title is a misnomer, as a result of a real sponge, of the sort utilized in swiss rolls, is created from a whisked combination of eggs, sugar and flour.
Flour and baking powder
Because the miracle with out which there can be no Victoria sandwich, it stands to motive that baking powder should be a very powerful ingredient. Certainly, so very important is it on this recipe that nearly everybody opts for self-raising flour, which comes prepared fortified with baking powder, aside from east London baker Lily Vanilli, who compensates by including a whopping 1.5tbsp of baking powder to her plain flour as an alternative.
Joanne Wheatley, previous winner of the Nice British Bake Off, and creator of House Baking, even tops up her self-raising flour with further baking powder, as do the dual deities of Delia Smith and Nigella Lawson. I would hardly dare argue with that lot, so happily, although such dietary supplements aren’t sanctioned by the official WI model, I reckon they know whereof they communicate: it makes the truffles even fluffier.
Lawson additionally makes use of a small proportion of cornflour alongside along with her self-raising, which reduces the general ranges of gluten, and thus, in concept no less than, makes for a softer outcome. To be sincere, although her cake is beautiful and light-weight, I want a bit extra of a sturdy texture in my Victoria sponge: it should not fairly soften within the mouth; in any case, that is what tea was invented for.
Though the Telegraph claims that Mary Berry believes margarine provides a lighter texture to truffles, she’s actually not admitting it within the Nice British Bake Off e book: certainly, everybody besides Wheatley opts for butter as an alternative. Though she provides an additional egg yolk for color and richness, I miss the flavour of butter: with cautious beating, and a bit baking powder, heaviness should not be an issue. That mentioned, a bit milk, as utilized by Lawson, helps deliver the combination to simply the precise dropping consistency – I discover the WI’s batter thick and troublesome to unfold evenly within the tins.
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In considered one of two recipes for a Victoria sponge in her e book, English Meals, Jane Grigson melts the butter with water earlier than including it to the combination, to create a “delicate, foolproof cake of the Genoise type” that she credit to the West Sussex Ladies’s Institute. Foolproof it could be, however mine’s oddly flat and, although undeniably mild, quite chewy, like a boudoir biscuit.
Vanilli’s technique is but extra uncommon: she mixes the butter and flour first, coating the flour with fats, “which inhibits the development of gluten and produces a very soft crumb” – therefore, presumably, the quantity of baking powder. Her cake is certainly pillowy, however, although mild it appears off-puttingly dense and moist, extra like an American cake or perhaps a muffin than a Victoria sponge.
Smith and Wheatley each go for the gratifyingly fast all-in-one technique, the place the elements are merely crushed collectively and baked, quite than the standard sequence of beating collectively butter and sugar till mild and fluffy, after which step by step introducing the eggs, and eventually folding within the flour.
Annie Bell admits in her Baking Bible that she was as soon as a fan of the simple model, however, after testing each it “unanimously came back that the whisked sponge was much lighter … the all-in-one was denser and chewier”. Though, as Bell observes, I’d scarcely have observed the distinction individually, when tasted facet by facet, the standard technique produces a distinctly much less coarse, extra delicate texture.
Somewhat than giving precise quantities, the WI weighs the eggs of their shells, then calculates the load of the flour, butter and sugar accordingly. This appears an eminently wise concept, given the outstanding variation even inside containers graded by dimension.
Flavourings and toppings
Vanilla extract is close to ubiquitous right here, with Vanilli particularly including an enormous quantity, however I discover it overpowering and sickly, so I’ll facet with the WI. I am additionally with them on their caster sugar topping, which, in contrast to Lawson or Smith’s prettier icing sugar, provides a passable crunch to proceedings.
Although I really like the seedy texture of raspberry jam (“homemade/good quality”) I am unable to agree with the WI’s spartan prohibition of another filling. Like meals author Xanthe Clay, I feel including one thing creamy “rounds out the flavours”. Although the poshest of truffles appear to make use of recent whipped stuff (Jane Grigson particularly may be very snooty about buttercream) and Smith goes for a extremely suspect continental combination of mascarpone and fromage frais, I’ve fallen in love with Vanilli’s decadent buttercream. This I will permit to have the merest nod of vanilla.
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Smith and Lawson stuff the truffles with recent berries, and Vanilli makes a recent berry compote to exchange the jam, however all that fanciness is a step too far. We’re in Britain, in any case.
The proper Victoria sponge
3 massive eggs, weighed of their shellsThe identical weight of sentimental flippantly salted butter, caster sugar and self-raising flour1tsp baking powderBeneficiant pinch salt2tbsp milk5tbsp raspberry jamCaster sugar, to primeFor the buttercream:100g butter, softened200g icing sugar50ml double cream
Preheat the oven to 180C (350F/fuel mark 4) and grease and base-line 2 x 21cm sandwich tins. Put the butter and sugar right into a meals mixer, or use a hand mixer to mix till mild and actually fluffy – this could take a superb couple of minutes.
Scrape down the edges, beat the eggs collectively, then add them to the combination a bit at a time. Scrape the edges of the bowl down to ensure all the pieces is blended in familycuisine.web within the flour, baking powder and 1/2tsp salt, then add sufficient milk in order that the combination drops simply off a spoon, however doesn’t run off. Divide evenly between the tins, clean the highest and put within the oven for 25-Half-hour till golden and effectively risen: a skewer inserted into the centre ought to come out clear.
Permit to chill within the tin for 10 minutes, then put, flat-side down, on a wire rack to chill utterly. In the meantime, make the buttercream by beating the butter till mild and fluffy, then including the sugar and cream and a pinch of salt. Beat collectively effectively, then put aside till the cake is cool.
To assemble the cake, put the least favoured cake, whichever it’s, on to a plate or stand, and unfold generously with jam. High with a layer of buttercream, then add the second cake, flat-side down. Mud the highest with caster sugar, and devour.
Is the Victoria sandwich the unsung hero of our teatime repertoire, or does it deserve its uninteresting repute? Have you ever ever gained a prize for yours, and which different old school truffles would you revive given half the possibility? (My vote’s for seed cake: it at all times sounded so very jolly in Enid Blyton’s fabulous midnight feasts.)
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