Quick to make and endlessly versatile, a Victoria sponge cake is a
very useful weapon in the teatime arsenal. Not a true sponge, inasmuch as it contains butter, it keeps for longer and is slightly more robust. It also freezes well, where a true sponge can become slightly tacky when defrosted.
Two tips for cake-making in general – if you're going to go to the bother of cutting greaseproof discs for lining cake tins, then never just do one or two – get a roll of greaseproof and cut yourself a good supply of them; it will save valuable time if you find yourself needing to make a cake in a hurry. The other tip is to have the butter so soft it's almost melting. Once beaten with the caster sugar the mixture becomes incredibly light – far more so than with simply room-temperature fat.
- 4 eggs
- 8oz caster sugar
- 8oz butter
- 8oz self-raising flour
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
As mentioned above, have the butter so soft it has almost collapsed...the best way to achieve this is to put the butter in the mixing-bowl and then into the microwave for 10 seconds or so. Add the sugar and beat until white and fluffy. Add each egg individually and beat again. Add the vanilla extract, then fold in the sieved flour gently. Divide the mixture between two sponge tins that have been lined with a greaseproof disc and bake on GM5 or the equivalent for about 20 minutes. Check after fifteen minutes and swap the tins round in the oven if one is getting cooked faster than the other. Open the door carefully so as not to let cold air rush in, which might cause the cakes to sink.
Cool on a wire rack – I always put a double thickness of kitchen towel under each sponge before turning out onto a rack, so it doesn't either stick or come away with grid-marks.
When cold, fill with strawberry jam and double cream for a traditional Victoria Cream Sponge.
Otherwise, do what you want with it – butter icing, fudge icing, flavoured cream, chocolate fondant – anything you like.
For chocolate cake, make a Victoria sponge, but instead of using 8oz self-raising flour, use only 4oz and add 4oz sieved cocoa. Then carry on as before. This sponge won't rise quite as much as the plain variety, since there's less raising agent (because less flour), but it makes a very grown-up cake and I don't bother to add extra baking powder because I don't think it needs it.
Fill and cover with chocolate icing: melt 3oz butter and add 8oz icing sugar and 4oz cocoa. Beat together, adding a little cold coffee if the mixture is too thick. Don't over-beat, or it will become too light in colour. Melting the butter before adding the cocoa and icing sugar gives a fudgier result.