Thursday, July 30, 2009

Traditional British Food, Part 16: Victorian Baking

I love cake, but I don't make layer cakes very often because they require multiple bowls and a lot of dish washing. I hate dish washing! One of the things that attracted me to the idea of making a Victoria Sandwich was that it only requires one bowl. Also, it's filled with strawberry jam and whipped cream. According to this website, the cake was named after Queen Victoria because it was one of her favorites. I think it's going to become one of my favorites, as well, even though it cost more than the 1s/3d Mrs Beeton cites. It is, however, relatively inexpensive compared to other layer cakes (no frosting).

This recipe is a combination of several others: Nigella Lawson's from How to Be a Domestic Goddess, this recipe from BBC Good Food, and this one as well. As usual, I have converted the recipes from self-rising flour to normal flour. One note, be sure to use cake flour, not all-purpose. It makes for a much lighter cake. Also, plan on making the strawberry filling in advance so it has time to cool.

Victoria Sandwich

1/2 lb (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk

6 ounces (approx. 1 cup) strawberries, halved if large
6 ounces (1 1/2 cups) sugar

1 cup heavy cream, whipped to stiff peaks

To make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Grease and flour two 8-inch round cake tins.

Cream together the butter and sugar then mix in the eggs, one at a time, accompanied by 1 tablespoon of the flour each, adding the vanilla extract along with the last egg. Beat in the last of the flour along with the baking powder and salt until just incorporated. Mix in the milk, a tablespoon or two at a time. You may not need all the milk. The batter is ready when it is a "soft dropping consistency."

Divide between the two prepared tins and bake in the middle of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Cool the cakes on a wire rack in their tins for 10 minutes then turn out and leave to cool completely.

To make the filling:
This is basically home-made strawberry jam. If you want to use store-bought jam (just get something decent, please, like Bonne Maman or Tiptree), you'll need approximately 2 cups.

Stirring frequently, heat the strawberries and sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves into the strawberries. When this happens, turn the heat up to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil. Boil the mixture without stirring for two minutes then remove the pan from the heat and pour the goo into a pyrex container and refrigerate. It is best to make this before starting on the cake so it has enough time to cool completely. It will set up in the fridge and become strawberry preserves.

When the cake is completely cooled, place one layer on the cake plate and cover with the strawberry preserves. Then, pile on the whipped cream and top with the other layer. You can keep the cake (covered, naturally) in the fridge for a couple of days.

Serves 10-12 (I actually make half a cake with just one layer since it's just the two of us. The other cake will keep in the freezer for up to three months, or you can simply halve the cake recipe.)

I've talked before about the gin and tonic being my favorite drink (besides champagne), so I thought I'd provide a recipe.

Best Gin and Tonic

Serves 2

juice from 1 lime
2 jiggers gin
1 10-ounce bottle tonic water

Fill two highball glasses around 2/3-full with ice. Divide the lime juice evenly between the two glasses then pour 1 jigger of gin into each glass. Top off with the tonic water, divided between the two glasses. Add straws and enjoy.
On the reading front, I finished Ivanhoe. Yes, it's predictable. Yes, it's kind of silly, but it is so very readable. Plus, the copy I have has a great frontispiece.


  1. Success number two! This cake tasted awesome - buttery yummy goodness. Keep it up! ;)

  2. HOT DOG!!! do you know how hard it is to find a good looking Victorian sponge recipe online?? it is strangely difficult! I lost my favorite recipe. This looks WONDERFUL.


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