Picture the scene. The table is laid with a crisp white linen cloth; the china is daintily-patterned; and the cutlery is sparkling. Taking pride of place is a perfect sponge, beautifully risen, and oozing strawberry jam and cream. Sounds like someone else’s house, doesn’t it? Well, while you may not have the antique accessories, you can certainly make the cake… just don’t tell your guests how easy it was!
The Victoria Sponge
Possibly named after Queen Victoria (who is said to have enjoyed a slice with her afternoon tea), the Victoria Sponge has been around for a long time. The traditional (and time-consuming, not to mention difficult) method involves adding ingredients one by one, and usually includes butter as the fat. This results in a richly-flavoured sponge that can be slightly heavy.
The all-in-one method is a far quicker and simpler way of making the Victoria Sponge. It uses soft margarine – a blessing for cake-makers. Along with food mixers or processors, the invention of soft margarine has reduced the time involved in creating a sponge cake – but not the quality of the end product. The all-in-one method below produces a cake that isn’t just light and airy, but keeps exceptionally well, too.
The Easiest Recipe Ever
For this recipe you will need two 8″ sandwich tins, greased and then lined with greased greaseproof paper or baking parchment. As you’re cutting out circles of greaseproof, why not cut out several to keep ready for the next time?
The first things to do are switch on the oven and grease the tins. Oven Temperatures can vary from oven to oven and you might need to try different settings to see which suits your oven best. Use gas mark 3, 325°F (170°C) if baking for 30-35 minutes; or gas mark 5, 375°F (190°C) for 20 minutes.
Ingredients for an 8″ cake
- 3 free-range large eggs
- 175g (6oz) of margarine
- 175g (6oz) caster sugar
- 175g (6oz) self-raising flour
- You’ll also need some baking powder. If you’re using an electric whisk, a teaspoonful should be fine; if you’re using a processor, add a bit more – about 1½ teaspoonfuls.
You might like to use flavoured sugar. Pop a vanilla pod in some caster sugar and leave it for at least three weeks. The flavour will penetrate the whole of your sponge cake. Or try lemon, cinnamon or rose-petal scented sugar.
The method is just as simple. Sieve the flour and baking powder together, add the sugar, margarine and eggs, and whisk (or blend in a processor). Easy peasy.
Continue, scraping down the sides occasionally, until you have a well-combined mixture that will drop off a spoon when tapped. If it seems a little stodgy, add a tiny drop of milk.
Divide the mixture between the two tins and level off the tops. Pop the tins in the centre of the oven and, after setting the timer, make yourself a well-deserved cup of tea.
Don’t open the oven until at least half of the allotted time has passed. Open too soon, let in cold air, and you’re destined for a flat sponge cake.
Is it Cooked?
You can tell if a layer is Cooked by pressing lightly on the centre: if it springs back up, it’s cooked. Or if the cake is starting to come away from the edges of the tin, it’s cooked.
Leave the sponges for a few minutes to cool, before taking from their tins and leaving to cool thoroughly on a cooling tray.
Choosing the Filling
A thick layer of Home-made Strawberry Jam and stiffly-whipped double cream is hard to beat but there are plenty of alternatives. For example, if you’ve used lemon-flavoured sugar, lemon curd or lemon butter icing would make a good filling. Chocolate Buttercream, raspberries and mascarpone, cherry jam, it can be as exotic or simple as you want to make it.
Make it Yours
Once confident with the basics, vary the sponge to suit your tastes.
Make a chocolate sponge: Replace 3 level tablespoons of the flour with an equal amount of cocoa. Sieve the cocoa in with the flour, or for a slightly more moist cake, make a paste. For a citrus flavour: Add the finely grated rind of an orange or lemon to the mixture. You could also use some of the juice to mix with icing sugar to make a topping for the cake. Coffee cake:Two teaspoons of instant coffee dissolved in 1tbsp warm water and added to the mixture makes a very adult cake – especially if filled with a chopped walnut and Tia Maria buttercream.
And to Keep it (if You Can!)
Store the finished cake in an airtight container (in the fridge if the filling contains cream). That is if it lasts long enough to need storing! Read more storing tips in our Storing Article.
The Icing on the Cake…
Once you have mastered the sponge cake, why not try simple decoration techniques to turn your cake into something special? Read our article Easy Cake Decorating to get you started.