You probably already guessed, rightly, that the Victoria sponge cake is named after Queen Victoria. It was part of her teatime tradition.
Though sponge cakes were first made fluffier and lighter by adding eggs, it is the invention of baking powder in 1843 that made them popular.
The Victoria sponge cake is probably the most popular variation of this airy recipe, at least in Britain. It’s perfect with tea though it also goes down well on its own as a desert especially when a topping is added.
It’s all in the Execution
The Victoria sponge cake is simple in constitution. The main ingredients are flour, eggs, baking powder, butter and sugar.
How hard can it be to make a cake out of five ingredients?
It is surprisingly hard. If you are not careful, it’s easy to end up with a dense and chewy cake, a poor imitation of a pound cake. It can also get too moist or go the opposite direction and become too dry and crumbly.
It’s all in the execution. Treat your batter right and the cake will reward you.
Temperature and baking time are also crucial.
But once you do it one to three times, you become good enough for a self-awarded Victoria sponge cake connoisseur title.
What You’ll Need
The trick when gathering your ingredients is to use the right amounts. Start with the eggs.
Take three eggs and weigh them while still in their shells. The weight should be around 200g for standard sized eggs.
Then, use the same weight of butter, flour and sugar. This ensures the right proportions to produce a sponge cake with the perfect moistness, density and airiness.
Here’s a rundown of all the ingredients you’ll need.
A. For the batter
- 3 medium size eggs weighed in their shells
- Same weight softened butter
- Same weight castor sugar
- Same weight self-raising flour. If you only have all-purpose flour in your kitchen, add 1.5 teaspoons baking powder. If you have self-raising flour, no baking powder is needed.
- A pinch of salt
- Two tablespoons milk
B. For the topping
The topping is probably the most decadent part of a Victoria sponge cake. As if one isn’t sweet enough, the traditional recipe has two layers of topping: fruit jam (strawberry or raspberry) and buttercream.
It’s sacred British tradition so we won’t argue. But feel free to experiment with the topping. If you have time or want a fancier sandwich cake, try a berry compote topping.
Here’s what you’ll need for the topping.
- 100g softened butter
- 140g icing sugar
- 150g raspberry or strawberry jam
- A bit of castor sugar to top
Many modern recipes advocate just throwing everything together and whipping it up in an electric mixer.
This works but you’ll get better results with the traditional method where you first cream butter and sugar. If you have a mixer, it shouldn’t take much longer than the more modern process.
- Preheat your oven to 180C or gas mark 4.
- Mix softened butter with castor sugar and beat with an electric mixer until you have a light and airy mixture.
- Without switching off the mixer, add eggs, one at a time. Wait until each egg is well mixed before adding the next one.
- Add a pinch of salt and fold in self-raising flour. Do not overmix the butter as that will make it dense. As soon as the flour and liquid ingredients are incorporated, stop. We recommend folding flour using a silicone spatula rather than a mixer. A spatula is gentler on the batter, ensuring the cake comes out spongy.
- Divide the batter between two tins and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. To check for doneness, make sure the cakes are slightly springy and that a toothpick pierced into the cake comes out clean.
- Leave the cakes to cool in their tins for 10 minutes then turn out on a cooling rack and let them cool completely.
- Prepare buttercream by mixing butter and icing sugar until creamy and smooth.
- Apply the two layers of topping on one cake. You can have buttercream at the bottom with jam on top of it or the other way round.
- Place the other cake on top of the topping to make a sandwich.
- Serve with tea, on its own or whichever way you want. I like to eat it with a bit of ice cream!