Recipes: from our friends at Culinaire Magazine
In honour of the Queen’s Jubilee, and because I’m always looking for a reason to bake (and eat!) cake, I whipped up the simple yet elegant Victoria sponge.
As you may have guessed, the classic dessert is named after the monarch herself, as reputedly it was her favourite cake. Anna, the Duchess of Bedford, who was a lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria, has been given credit for introducing the custom of afternoon tea, of which sponge cakes were a requisite part of the service.
The current monarch is also said to be partial to a slice of the layer cake, and it’s been served at several fetes in her honour. Seeing as my invite to the festivities this year must have been lost in the mail, I’ll have to just assume it was served to the Queen and her crew in June.
The beauty of this dessert is its straightforward simplicity. Two layers of orange-scented, buttery sponge cake, a sweet and tangy jam, clouds of whipped cream, and a dusting of icing sugar. It’s kind of perfect, really.
Traditionally, the top is kept simple, but seeing as this is a glorious time for fresh edible flowers, I couldn’t resist a few to crown this cake. If going the flower route, be sure they are spray (and bug!) free.
The cake base is a simple sponge. Nothing too complicated here, just be sure the layers are even. For the jam layer, strawberry or raspberry is traditional, but I opted for a pot of locally made strawberry rhubarb. This is where you add your own flourish, using whatever you like to flavour the middle of the cake.
Pillowy whipped cream is next in the assembly line, and you can add a drop of vanilla or keep it plain. The top layer is gently pressed down to adhere the whole concoction together. Voila!
Slices of Victoria sponge are best the day it’s made, which means it’s an excellent excuse to invite friends over for a spot of tea and cake. The past and present Queens would definitely approve.
Victoria Sponge Cake
1 cup granulated sugar
1 orange, zest and juice
1 cup butter, cubed
1 tsp (5 mL) pure vanilla extract
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 Tbs cornstarch
2½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp fine salt
4 large eggs, room temperature
3 Tbs (45 mL) milk
¾ cup-1 cup (175 mL - 250 mL) strawberry rhubarb jam (homemade or store bought)
1 cup (250 mL) whipping cream, chilled
½ cup sliced strawberries
3 Tbs icing sugar, divided
Edible flowers for garnish, optional
1. Preheat the oven to 350º F. Lightly grease two 20 cm cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the sugar, orange zest, butter, and vanilla. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes. Be sure to stop and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl periodically.
3. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt,
4. With the mixer on low speed, add 1 egg into the creamed butter followed by 1 tablespoon of the flour mixture. Continue with 1 egg and 1 tablespoon of the flour mixture until all the eggs are incorporated. Scrape down the bowl and the paddle. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the remaining flour mixture into the cake batter. Stir in the fresh orange juice and milk. Gently stir until combined and smooth.
5. Divide the batter evenly among the cake pans. To be accurate, use a kitchen scale if you have one. Smooth the tops with an offset spatula.
6. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 23-26 minutes, until the cakes are lightly golden and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool the cakes on wire racks for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edges and invert on the racks to cool completely.
7. Whip the cream into stiff peaks, and if you would like it a little sweeter, add 1 tablespoon of icing sugar. Add a drop or two of vanilla extract as well.
8. To assemble the cake: Place one sponge on the bottom of a cake plate or platter. Spread evenly with the jam, right to the edge. Top with the sliced strawberries, Heap the whipped cream over the strawberry layer, spreading it to the edge of the cake.
9. Dust the second sponge with icing sugar then place it on top of the whipped cream. Gently press down on the sides to adhere. Dust with a little more icing sugar, top with the edible flowers/and or strawberries, if using. Or, just keep it plain and simple. Serve immediately. The cake is best served the day it’s made.
Notes: Instead of the strawberry rhubarb jam, use strawberry, raspberry, or cherry instead.
Renée Kohlman is a busy food writer and recipe developer living in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Her second cookbook, ‘Vegetables: A Love Story” has just been published.