The Perfect Victoria Sponge Cake and A Superb Strawberry Or Ripping Raspberry Jam Filling
An age-old recipe taught to us at our grandmother’s knee with a few extra tricks to turn into a perfect Platinum Jubilee celebration pudding or tea-time cake. Add our easy-peasy strawberry or raspberry jam sensation to create the perfect filling.
The Queen marked the start of her Platinum Jubilee year celebrations by cutting a cake at a Sandringham tea party. There’s a Fortnum & Mason led challenge to bake the perfect pudding to commemorate Her Majesty’s anniversary, judged by, amongst others, the legendary kitchen superstar Dame Mary Berry (nine years away in age from the Queen incidentally) and Buckingham Palace Head Chef Mark Flanagan LVO. We ourselves are turning our minds to the Jubilee, street party celebrations too. What better way to commemorate the occasion than by baking a perfect Victoria Sponge or sandwich cake, so-named because of Queen Victoria’s declared enjoyment of a slice or two?
The Trick for the Perfect Ingredients:
Essentially, the idea is to combine equal proportions of sugar, flour and butter, together with half the quantity of eggs in weight plus a dash of milk and a teaspoon of baking powder, the last being the key to what makes the sponge cake spongy. With modern life, and unless we are purists, forget about weighing the eggs, just count the numbers.
For a 20cm cake tin:
- 8oz/225g self-raising flour
- 80z//225g butter
- 8oz/225g caster sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1-2tsps Baking Powder
- 1tbsp of milk
With this measure you can make cakes small or large. Why not do a whole load of mini versions to create mounds of cupcake type displays in the middle of your table? Good for little ones to grab and easy to divide into portions. Shower with strawberries, raspberries, and edible flowers from your garden such as borage, cornflowers, marigolds, nasturtiums and rose petals, and sprinkle with icing sugar, and you’ll be in for a wonderful display. Fill with our favourite instant strawberry or raspberry jam, preferably grown from your garden. Add whipped cream to be decadent.
Interesting Did You Know?
We think food allergies are a current obsession, but actually a sensitive stomach led to the creation of Bird’s Custard and Baking Powder. The chemist Albert Bird’s wife Elizabeth loved custard, but had an intolerance to eggs. She also found wheat didn’t suit her. So the obliging Mr Bird devised a way to make egg-free custard (using cornflour) and a spring in the step to dough or cakes via mixing bicarbonate of soda with cream of tartar, creating Baking Powder. He was an enterprising figure who then went on to make jelly powder; which we pass on as another idea for creating an instant, old-fashioned Platinum Pud.
How to mix your ingredients:
We were taught the old way of blending butter and sugar together first in a china bowl with a fork or wooden spoon to create a creamy mix, gradually adding the eggs one by one, followed by the remaining ingredients. But these days the philosophy of anyone with a food processor is to combine all ingredients together and let the processor do the hard work. If you are Mary Berry you start by mixing the eggs first in a big pudding basin and then adding the remaining ingredients, combining them with an electric hand mixer.
Grease your tin first and line with baking paper. We prefer loose-based tins to use with cakes so they are easier to take out.
Top Tips from our grandmother:
- Always preheat your oven. For regular ovens, heat to 180 Deg C/160C Fan/Gas.
- Never start with cold ingredients. Warm to room temperature first.
- Make sure the butter and sugar is creamed well to a point it is almost white.
- Never use metal on metal to hand stir your dishes otherwise you’ll create a metallic taste.
- Once all the ingredients have been combined, get them into your cake moulds and into the oven as quickly as possible - this way you help maintain the sponge’s lightness.
- Create a dip in the centre of your mixture in the tin to allow for the mixture to rise evenly.
- Always bake cakes in the middle of an oven.
- If you use an Aga, this is the time to bring out the “cold shelf” - a tray that helps prevent the top of the cake from burning.
- Allow to cool on a cooling rack before you remove from the tin.
- Slice in half and fill with your favourite jam or a combination of fruit and cream.
- Dress with sprinklings of icing sugar.
The perfect Instant Strawberry or Raspberry Jam
We first started making this when our grocer gave us a whole load of strawberries that were past their sell by date. It was also a period where we were particularly busy and so wanted to make something as easy and instant as possible. The result was so delicious we now create it whenever we have an abundance of stock from our garden and sometimes buy strawberries just as an excuse to make jam all year. If you want to grow your own strawberries, or raspberries, take a look at our bareroot soft fruit plants.
Tip: Frozen strawberries or raspberries work particularly well with this. There is no need to add any liquid and it can be transformed very easily from a jam into a compote. The chef James Martin once joked: “what is the difference between a jam and a compote? The price on the label!” Or words to that effect. The point being that with recipes like this, the two can be used for one and the same thing.
Please note: it is not a dish which ends up as a fully preserved jam: you’ll need to store jars in the fridge. But don’t worry, it rarely lasts long enough for it to expire, especially if you add it as a compote to breakfast yoghurts and muesli.
- As a guide, use roughly a third of hulled and sliced strawberries to sugar; we always use unrefined caster sugar. The same applies to raspberries - but there’s no need to halve them.
- A tablespoon or two of lemon juice (we use roughly two lemons to 3kg of fruit as judged by our old foodie friend of the Financial Times Nicholas Lander).
- A mint leaf or another flavouring or herb of your choice like rosemary or a vanilla pod (to taste and optional). Basil is a surprising herb that can add an interesting dimension to raspberries in particular.
The most important thing about this recipe is to use a heavy-bottomed pan to prevent your mixture sticking and burning. Start by combining the strawberries and sugar on a low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Keep stirring during this process. It is also the time to add your other flavourings you enjoy such as rosemary, mint and even the odd rose petal or two. Bubble up and boil for five minutes until the mixture has softened. Remove from heat and allow to cool
Once cooled, place in sterilised jars. Serve inside a Victoria sandwich cake or use as a filling for pancakes, dressing for pavlovas or as a compote.