I’ve made this cake twice in the last week and both time have had lots of compliments and requests for the recipe. So I’m guessing you’d like it too. This is something I’ve been making for about 10 years – ever since I first got my paws on Nigella‘s ‘How to be a domestic goddess’. Since then I’ve made it for birthdays, baby showers, afternoon teas and any other occasion where I need a quick but yummy foolproof cake. Since moving away from England and landing in California, my yearning for it has increased as it really is a taste of home. And, let’s be fair, I really don’t need much of a reason to dust off my mismatched china and put the kettle on to throw a tea party.
A Victoria sponge must be the most classic of all English cakes (although now I’ve put that in writing I’m sure I will face a barrage of complaints from fruit cake and coffee and walnut cake lovers). Anyway I love it. It is so simple but so easy to get wrong. Poor ingredients, too sweet toppings and factory production lead to many of the cakes in tea shops around England being a bit off. You really do need to know how to make it at home as its so much better than anything shop-bought. 10 minutes of weighing and mixing and 25 minutes in the oven isn’t too much to ask is it?
The traditional method of creaming is usually used to make a sponge cake. I know that can sound a bit daunting for some novice bakers. It really isn’t that hard but when I read this recipe, I couldn’t believe that something so lazy and shortcutty could result in a light cake. Nigella proved me wrong, so it is her recipe for the cake that I use here. In fact, when I open my copy of the book it always falls open to the batter splattered page with the recipe on. Proof of a keeper.
The filling and topping idea and recipe is all mine, but I’m sure she would approve. As with many of my discoveries, the crème fraîche topping came out of the fact I couldn’t be bothered to make butter cream and I had bought some crème fraîche for something else that I hadn’t yet made. Total result. The slight acidity of the cream balances out the sweetness of the cake and its so much easier than making icing. As for the jammy filling. the first time I made it I used Bonne Maman raspberry jam as I had some in. The second time I decided to step up as I had a punnet of slightly squishy strawberries in the fridge that needed using (can you see a pattern here?). I had a lovely a strawberry and balsamic tart in Italy ages ago so that’s why I decided to pop the balsamic in. The resulting jam is delish. I wouldn’t expect it to last long as it isn’t a true preserve. But it will keep in the fridge for a week and everyone will think you frightfully posh to have your own homemade jam on hand.
A few tips – make sure all your ingredients are room temperature. I never used to bother but when I do my cake is much lighter. The way I get around this is to either weigh everything out the morning or the night before and pop it in the food processor bowl to sit and warm up. Or if I’m really in a dash I microwave the butter until it is soft but not melted (less than a minute) and pop the fridge-cold eggs into a jug of hot water for a couple of minutes to warm up.
Nigella’s recipe calls for self-raising flour which isn’t easily available stateside. So I have put the measurements for making your own from baking powder and all-purpose flour (or plain flour) below.
I’m not giving cup measurements here as I do think this type of cake needs the precision only weighing can bring.
Also, in the process of converting my metric cake pan measurements to inches, I innocently Googled ‘21cm as inch‘. Seems like lots of men are interested in knowing their, ahem, personal measurements (not cake tins) in metric and imperial based on the results I got. Who knew? On that note – time for cake…
225g (8oz – 2 sticks) butter, very soft but not melted
225g (8oz) granulated golden sugar
1 and a half teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
200g (7oz) self-raising flour or 185g (6.5oz) all-purpose plain flour mixed with 2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
25g (1oz) corn flour [cornstarch]
3-4 tablespoons milk
plus 2x 21cm [8 inch] sandwich tins (around 5cm deep)
2 cups strawberries, each strawberry chopped into quarters
half a cup of sugar
pinch of salt
tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Crème fraîche – use full fat as low-fat is too watery
raspberries or strawberries if they’re in season
1. Preheat the oven to 180C (350F)
2. Line the tins with a circle of parchment paper in the bottom then butter the sides of the tins
3. Put all the cake ingredients except for the milk in the food processor and process until you have a smooth thick batter.
4. Gradually add the milk through the funnel while you pulse to incorporate it into the batter – you want a soft dropping consistency
5. Scrape the batter into the two lined tins – try your best to get equal amounts in each but no need to start weighing them unless you are in a baking competition!
6. Bake for 25 minutes, until the cakes are golden and are starting to pull away from the side of the tin. If you gently touch the top it should spring back.
7. Leave the cakes to cool in the pan for 10 minutes while you make the jam
8. To make the jam, throw the strawberries, balsamic and sugar into a small saucepan and gently warm, stirring every now and then. Once the sugar has dissolved, turn the heat up and allow to bubble for around 4 minutes. Stir every minute with a silicon spatula to stop it burning. When it has thickened and turned darker, add the salt and scrape into a cold bowl to cool.
9. Run a knife around the edge of the cakes then turn them out to continue cooling on a cooling rack. Peel the paper off and discard
10. To decorate, put the top f one of the cakes down on a plate or cake stand (you want to be left with the flat bottom of the cake facing upwards). Spread the flat bottom (now top!) with jam. Be generous. Then put the flat bottom of the other cake on top of the jam so that you’re left with the more rounded top as the top of the cake. Use a flat knife or spatula to spread the crème fraîche over the top of the cake then plop raspberries over the top in an artistic fashion.
11. Eat a slice with a nice cup of tea.