I feel like I’ve been apologising a lot for being AWOL and here we go again. With 38 days left to our wedding, things have stepped it up a gear in terms of the amount of time all of this organisation takes and I’ve been having a pretty rotten time at work so I’m finding myself ready to curl up in front of Netflix at 9pm, feeling guilty for not blogging.
I’ve engaged my brain today to share this classic recipe with you, which I threw together on Friday night for a great aunt and uncle coming to visit yesterday. You can’t offer someone a cup of tea without having some home baking to go with it! So here it is. It’s so quick and simple as well as using basic ingredients, so it’s great for throwing together at the last minute – you don’t even have to make a buttercream unless you really want to. If you’re less than traditional, add a layer of sweetened whipped cream to make it extra special – just remember to store it in the fridge. Eat it within the first couple of days for best results – go on, have another slice!
You will need:
225g soft butter (at room temperature)
225g golden caster sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
225g self-raising flour
2 tbsp double cream or milk
1/2 jar raspberry or strawberry jam
Dusting of icing sugar
1.Weigh out the butter into a large mixing bowl – it’s easier to cream if you cube it up when you weigh it into the bowl and set aside while you line your cake tine. I like to do it in this order so you can use the butter paper to grease the tins but you could of course line the tins before you start measuring.
Pre-heat the oven to 160c fan.
2. Line two 9 inch sandwich tins with greaseproof paper and butter – I’ve already prepared a step-by-step guide to help with this.
2. Give the butter a good old mix up with your electric mixer/stand mixer/wooden spoon until soft and creamy. Add the caster sugar and whisk that it for a few minutes until soft, creamy and a little airy. I like to use golden caster sugar for plain sponges in particular as I think it gives a better flavour, but you can substitute it for ordinary white caster sugar.
3.Crack the eggs and mix in, one at a time. Adding them gradually will help the ingredients to combine better. Once they’re all in, whisk together for a few minutes until the mixture is really light and airy. This step is so important to give you a light sponge. Remember – there isn’t much to hide behind with a Victoria sponge!
4. Add the vanilla and mix into the batter as it stands. You can use vanilla extract or essence if you like (both are economical) but I prefer the natural taste of vanilla bean paste, which also gives you those lovely vanilla specks without having to faff around with pods. It’s quite expensive at around £6.99 a bottle, but it lasts a long time if you only use half a teaspoon at a time. Plus you can buy it in the supermarket now – you don’t have to take a trip to Lakeland.
5. Add the flour and carefully whisk or fold in until just combined. I actually stop when there are a few flecks of flour left, add the cream and continue on my merry way to prevent over-mixing. If you over mix you’re at risk of knocking the air out at the same time as developing the gluten in the flour, all in all giving you a flat, heavy cake.
7. Place in the middle of the oven – both on the same shelf if you can manage it – and bake for around 20 minutes or until golden and springy to the touch when gently pressed.
8. Allow to cool for 10 minutes or so before removing from the pans so that the tins are cool enough to touch and so that the sponges have started to firm up and contract. You can leave them until completely cool if you’d prefer – I just like to get them out of the tins to help them cool faster as I usually bake in the evening.
9. Carefully run a small, sharp knife between the sponge and the tin and carefully turn onto a plate. Give the tin a little tap and the cake should come out easily if cool enough and if the tin has been well-lined and greased.
Repeat with the other sponge (turning the second one back up the right way so it doesn’t get squashed on the top) and allow both to cool until cold to the touch. I like to put the less aesthetically pleasing sponge upside down on the plate or board I’ll be using and keep the prettier one for the top as there’s no icing to hide behind.
The smell will be glorious, by the way.
10. When completely cool, spread the bottom sponge with a generous layer of good quality strawberry or raspberry jam, leaving a narrow border to allow the jam to spread under the weight of the top layer without squeezing out everywhere.
11. Carefully put the top on.
12. Gently dust the top with icing sugar, take a photo, and give (and eat) generously.
If you’re planning to store, leave it for another half hour to avoid any heat that’s still in the sponge from developing into condensation and giving you a soggy top before putting in a tin or covering with cling film.