As a lover of all things Victorian, Victoria Sponge Cake ranks up there as one of my favorite sweet treats to enjoy with tea.
A true Victoria Sponge Cake is unfrosted and features sweet jam between the cake layers. I confess that I take some liberties with Her Majesty’s favorite tea accompaniment. Especially in the summer when our raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries are ripe and ready for harvesting, I eschew jam in favor of layering the cakes with fresh berries that are slightly crushed to release juices and sweetened or a fresh berry compote.
Like the Queen, I am not fond of sweet frosting on my sponge cake but I usually top it off with a dollop of freshly whipped cream. If company is coming for tea, garnish with confectionary sugar and additional fresh berries and mint leaves.
Authentic Victoria Sponge Cake uses caster sugar which is much finer than granulated sugar and dissolves quickly and thoroughly, making it excellent for creaming with butter or getting crisp smooth meringue. The North American equivalent of caster sugar is superfine, which you can usually find in most large supermarkets. It’s easily made, however, by putting granulated sugar through a food processor. I use the chopper blade on a simple Hamilton Beach food chopper on the high speed for not even a minute per cup. Let the sugar dust settle for a few moments before lifting the top off the bowl and then re-measure before using it in your recipe.
Because these cakes rely on whipped-in air for leavening, take care not to open the oven door early in the baking process or too frequently. This can cause the middle of the cake to sag.
Sponge cake is a traditional Passover dessert since it uses no chemical leavening. As we’re Jewish, it’s a holiday favorite in our home. A kosher for Passover version can be made by substituting an equal amount of an equal mix of potato starch and ground matzo for the flour. Put the matzo through your food chopper as you did the sugar to get a consistency closer to wheat flour. My family gives the kosher version two thumbs up and I like to think that not even the Queen Mother could have told the difference between the two.
Victoria Sponge Cake
What You Need:
8 eggs, separated
1 cup (250 ml or 225 grams) superfine or caster sugar
2 T (30 ml) Lemon juice
2 tsp (10 ml) grated lemon rind and extra to garnish
1-1/4 cups (325 ml or 140 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla extract
2 Paper lace doilies (optional)
Fruit filling (recipe below) or jam
Reserved whole berries and fresh mint leaf for garnish
Small amount of confectioner’s sugar to garnish
What You Do:
1. Preheat Oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
2. Whip egg whites on high speed until stiff peaks form and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, beat egg yolks on medium speed until pale yellow and frothy.
4. Add sugar, lemon juice and zest, and vanilla to yolks and mix thoroughly.
5. Add flour in thirds, folding in and mixing thoroughly by hand.
6. Fold in egg whites.
7. Lightly spray two 9 inch round cake pans with cooking spray
8. Bake in 350 degree oven on middle rack until cake is lightly golden brown and springs back when pressed (20-25 minutes).
9. Prepare fruit compote (recipe below) and allow it to cool and thicken.
Fresh Berry Compote
1-1/2 cups (375 ml) cleaned fresh berries (reserve a few for garnish)
¼ c (60 ml) water
1/2 c (125 ml or 125 g) granulated or superfine sugar (may use equivalent in Splenda)
1 tsp (5 ml) cornstarch plus 3 T (45 ml) water
1. If using strawberries, hull and slice.
2. Blueberries and raspberries may be used whole.
3. Combine berries, water and sugar in sauce pan.
4. Cook over low-medium heat until berries are soft and syrup forms.
5. Dissolve cornstarch in water.
6. Add to berries, and continue cooking on low heat until the syrup is translucent and thickened.
7. Let cool before spooning onto cake. Mixture will continue to thicken while cooling.
To Serve as Traditional Victoria Cake:
1. Level the tops of the cakes and set one on a paper doily on a plate.
2. Spread fruit compote on lower layer (trimmed surface up), top with second layer (trimmed surface down)
3. Lay paper lace doily on cake and sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar. Remove doily and garnish with reserved berries and mint leaf.
Every European cuisine has its own version of sponge cake. The genoise is the Italian-French version and although it’s similar to the traditional British sponge cake, it has a more elastic texture (perfect for making jelly rolls) but is much dryer, which makes it eminently suitable for trifles, since it readily absorbs liqueur without losing its ability to maintain its shape and body.