As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I recently bought a cookbook of classic British baked treats.  The first thing I made was a gorgeous, yummy Eton Mess – a fantastic, simple, easy-peasy dessert, but not much by way of actual baking.   That was much more about assembly — not that there’s anything wrong with a lazy dessert on a warm summer night!

But, when it came to putting on my “pinny,” cranking up the oven and doing some actual baking, the first thing I wanted to make was THE classic British treat, Victoria Sponge (also called a Victoria Sandwich).  When it comes to tea-time treats, this is it.  The ultimate.  The definitive.  There really is no substitute.

Now, I’ll be the first to tell you that Queen Victoria definitely made her mark on the country – she reigned for 63 years, 7 months and 2 days and it feels like each day is indelibly stamped on every inch of this country – from statues and memorials to living legacies like the Royal Albert Hall, she is still very much a part of the national identity.  The delicacy which bears her name is said to be her favorite snack to have with tea – and it is at once simple and unadorned, but refined, nonetheless.  It is as at home on a table for Sunday brunch as it would be at a picnic or after dinner while you’re watching the summer sun set.  Having made it, though, I wish I had this recipe in my hip pocket for those times when I hosted bridal and baby showers – this is absolutely ideal for that kind of setting!

Victoria Sponge (Victoria Sandwich)

  • 4 medium-sized eggs
  • Unsalted butter, room temperature
  • Granulated sugar
  • Self-rising flour

Filling

  • Strawberry or raspberry jam (about 4-5 Tbsp-ish), heated in a saucepan until loose
  • Fresh strawberries or raspberries
  • 2 cups-ish of whipping cream
  • Powedered sugar for dusting (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350F then butter an 8″ springform pan and line with parchment paper.

Okay, here’s where things get fun – this is all done by weights, so pull out that digital scale!  First, weigh the eggs, shell and all (this will be easier and more accurate if you do this in metric rather than imperial measures).  Then, measure out the same amount of butter, sugar and flour – and, there you go!  You’re ready to rock and roll!!

Place the butter in the bowl of a standing mixer and cream with the sugar until lovely, light and fluffy.  Then, add the eggs, one at a time, incorporating well and scraping down the sides mid-way through.  Remove from the standing mixer and add the flour, stirring gently, stopping once the flour disappears – you really want a nice, light texture here, so don’t overbeat.  Pour the lot into the prepared pan and pop it into the oven for about 30 minutes.  When a tester comes out clean, it’s done.  Let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove it and let it finish cooling on a rack.

Now, the assembly!  Whip the cream until it’s thick enough to hold a peak and, if you’re using strawberries, slice about 1/4″ thick, then set aside.  The easiest way to split a cake isn’t using a bread knife – it’s using dental floss!  Take a good couple of feet of floss and carefully wrap it around the cake, making sure to hit the mid-point all the way around, cross the ends (like you were going to tie a knot) and gently pull – what you’re doing is basically garrotting the cake.  When the split is done, remove the top half and set aside.  Spread the jam on the bottom half – this should only be a thin layer, but it should cover the entire base.  Layer on the whipped cream, making sure it’s nice and thick.  Then, add the strawberry slices or raspberries.  Dust the top with powdered sugar if you like, but you don’t have to (especially if you’re wearing dark clothes).  Slice and enjoy with a hot cup of tea!

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