Before I try my hand at making a classic cake, I do a lot of research first. This pleasant Sunday (it was muggy, but I was so glad it wasn't scorching like it was during the week) I decided to make the classic Victoria Sandwich, also known as the Victoria Sponge, for tea.
I read at least a dozen recipes and incorporated tips from the best of them to make my own version of the dessert - Mary Berry, Dan Lepard and Felicity Cloake had my three favourite recipes. I was sure I'd end up with a superb cake.
I did. It was very, very fine. So fine that I actually had a sit-down tea - just me, my tablet, my cake and a cup of freshly brewed spiced tea.
The husband? Sleeping upstairs. You snooze, you loose, buddy!
The key to making a great Victoria Sponge is getting the sponge cake right. Since Felicity Cloake (in her 'How to make the perfect ...' column in The Guardian) had already done the hard bit by testing various techniques out, I followed her recipe ... almost to a T. You can view her recipe here.
The secret? You have to measure the eggs (in their shells) first. Then, using the weight of the eggs as a guide, you measure equal portions of flour, sugar and butter. My three eggs weighed 192gms and so I measured 192gms (or thereabouts) of self-raising flour, sugar and butter.
For the method though, I referred to master baker Dan Lepard. I was intrigued by his technique which I'd never come across before.
The usual method I use when making most cakes is pretty straightforward: first cream the butter and sugar till light and fluffy; then add the eggs one at a time till incorporated and then fold in the flour, baking powder and salt (sieved and whisked together).
Lepard uses a different method.
He creams the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. But ... BEFORE adding the eggs, he adds 1/3 of the flour (minus the baking powder and salt). This, he says, is an old baking technique that makes the cake a little more moist. Once the flour is mixed into the butter and sugar mixture, you add the eggs and then the remaining flour + baking powder + salt.
More moist? I had to try it.
My cake turned out super moist! Lovely.
The next step to a fabulous Victoria Sandwich is the jam. Traditionally, raspberry jam is used. I used strawberries - they're cheaper and just as delicious.
To make the jam, I washed and hulled the strawberries and then combined them with some sugar and a little water and cooked them over low heat until the fruit and it's juices become one gooey, sweet mush.
Now Lepard's Victoria Sandwich has only jam as a filling. Some versions use cream. I decided to use jam and buttercream because ... well, I had some leftover buttercream from a cake I made a couple of days ago and also because buttercream lasts longer than cream.
I may like the cake but I wasn't going to eat the whole thing in a day. Not even two. So, it needed to keep.
Just a little buttercream. A thin layer of sweetness to counter the tart jam (my strawberries were not all that sweet).
And there you have it. A lovely cake that's perfect for a lazy Sunday!