This is one of the first truly British cakes I tried after moving to the U.K. in the early 2000’s. Named for Queen Victoria, this is said to be one of her favorite confections. Now, over twenty years later, and after over a dozen moves – it’s a favorite in my home.
I recommend serving this cake on a rickety outdoor dining table covered with some sort of old-fashioned table cloth – a big pot of tea set in the middle. It’s preferable that the table be in the shade, precariously teetering on uneven ground and surrounded by an overgrown lawn full of some kind of wildflower most think is a weed. The best company to enjoy this cake with is the kind that laughs too loud, and is not opposed to second helpings. Wide-brimmed hats are optional (but encouraged).
Classic British Victoria Sponge Cake
- Heavy duty stand mixer, or electric hand mixer.
- 2 eight-inch cake pans
The Sponge Cake
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened
- 2/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 2/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons cake flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup whole milk
Fresh Whipped Cream Filling
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons sugar
Also for the filling:
- 1 cup raspberry jam
- additional whipped cream
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
- fresh raspberries
- a sprig or two of fresh mint
Sponge Cake Method
- Beat the butter and sugar together until smooth.
- Add the eggs, and beat again.
- Add the vanilla and mix.
- In a medium sized bowl, combine the flour with the baking powder and salt.
- Add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Stir gently.
- Add half the milk to the batter. Stir gently.
- Add the other half of the flour mixture to the batter, then add the last of the milk to the batter. Stir gently.
- Pour the batter into two prepared 8-inch cake pans. I use a baking spray to prepare my pans for this cake.
- Bake at 350°F for 12-15 minutes. These layers are so thin, they shouldn't take long to cook. So please keep an eye on them.
- After baking, allow the pans to cool for a few minutes, then turn out the cakes on a cooling rack. Do not fill the cake until it's completely cool.
Fresh Whipped Cream Filling
- Before you make your whipped cream, place the bowl and the mixing whisk attachments (balloon whisk for Kitchen Aid mixer) in the freezer. Ten minutes should be long enough to chill them well.
- Pour the cream into the mixing bowl, and begin mixing on medium-high.
- When the cream just starts to thicken, add the sugar. By adding the sugar after the cream stiffens a little, the sugar will not fall down to the bottom of the bowl.
- Whip the cream until soft peaks form. Do not over-beat.
- The whipped cream must be made right before you fill your cake. I do not recommend making it ahead of time and storing it.
Filling and Finishing The Cake
- Place one of the cooled cake layers on a decorative plate.
- Slather a thick layer of raspberry jam on the cake.
- Dollop most of the whipped cream on the raspberry jam, and spread gently. Reserve about 1/2 up whipped cream op
- Sandwich the second layer of cake on top of the jam and cream.
- To garnish, add a nice layer of powdered sugar over the cake. Fill a small sieve with a little powdered sugar. Holding the sieve with your dominant hand, bounce the sieve against the palm of your non-dominant hand and move your hands and sieve in sweeping motions over the cake (see video).
- Dollop a little whipped cream on top of the cake, and maybe a dollop to one or two sides of the cake.
- Arrange fresh raspberries on the dollops of cream.
- A fresh mint sprig in entirely optional, but it does add a nice bit of green and really enhances the final presentation of the cake.
- This is best served immediately. Fresh whipped cream does not hold up well. If you must make this ahead of time, make the whipped cream and assemble the cake only a few hours before you serve and keep it in the refrigerator. You could make the sponge cake portion up to a week in advance. Just wrap the cakes well in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.
Rudyard Kipling, “The Glory of the Garden”
Our England is a garden that is full of stately views,
Of borders, beds and shrubberies and lawns and avenues
With statues on the terraces and peacocks strutting by;
But the Glory of the Garden lies in more than meets the eye.
For where the old thick laurels grow, along the thin red wall,
You will find the tool- and potting-sheds which are the heart of all ;
The cold-frames and the hot-houses, the dungpits and the tanks:
The rollers, carts and drain-pipes, with the barrows and the planks.
And there you’ll see the gardeners, the men and ‘prentice boys
Told off to do as they are bid and do it without noise;
For, except when seeds are planted and we shout to scare the birds,
The Glory of the Garden it abideth not in words.
And some can pot begonias and some can bud a rose,
And some are hardly fit to trust with anything that grows;
But they can roll and trim the lawns and sift the sand and loam,
For the Glory of the Garden occupieth all who come.
Our England is a garden, and such gardens are not made
By singing:–”Oh, how beautiful!” and sitting in the shade,
While better men than we go out and start their working lives
At grubbing weeds from gravel-paths with broken dinner-knives
There’s not a pair of legs so thin, there’s not a head so thick,
There’s not a hand so weak and white, nor yet a heart so sick.
But it can find some needful job that’s crying to be done,
For the Glory of the Garden glorifieth every one.
Then seek your job with thankfulness and work till further orders,
If it’s only netting strawberries or killing slugs on borders;
And when your back stops aching and your hands begin to harden,
You will find yourself a partner in the Glory of the Garden.
Oh, Adam was a gardener, and God who made him sees
That half a proper gardener’s work is done upon his knees,
So when your work is finished, you can wash your hand and pray
For the Glory of the Garden, that it may not pass away!
And the Glory of the Garden it shall never pass away!