Classic British Victoria Sponge Cake

The overwhelmingly delectable combination of fresh whipped cream, raspberry jam and light, creamy, custardy sponge cake is the very epitome of freshness and surreal creaminess. A "sandwich cake" like this is sure to transport these amazing flavors (in equity) right down to your tippy-toes.

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).

England is a place that makes a mark on you. Not the stiff-upper-lip kind of mark that you’d think. The British, once you get to know them, are the kind of people who can teach you how to truly be balanced in a work-life-play kind of way. Sure, there is a grit to the British. They are proud. They believe in eating with a knife and a fork (knife in right hand, fork in left) at all times. They believe in Sunday dinner, they believe in taking a regular “holiday” at least once a year (they particularly love Spain), they are proud to work but not addicted to it, and they really know how to enjoy their glorious verdant summers.

Really, not so different (from my perspective) than the Germans I live around now. Only I actually understood most of what the British would say. Despite daily study here in Germany, I am still grasping to communicate “I’ll have two loaves of bread and four pretzels” in German. I point that out to say that it was easier to really get a feel for the nuances of British culture. Also, my Grandmother was British. Not REALLY British (as she would frequently point out). Irish. Oppressed Irish. So oppressed, she married an American Air Force Officer (my grandfather), left England and never looked back.

***TRIGGER WARNING*** Pregnancy loss, Suicide***

We moved to England in 2002, on military orders, after a really horrible couple of years. My brother’s suicide and back-to-back deployments of my husband that left me taking on new motherhood completely on my own. And a devastating miscarriage. The kind that makes you feel like it must have been your own fault and why don’t more people talk about it(?), and why does it rip your heart apart so much(?), and what if this is it for me?

I washed up on the shores of England at the young age of 27, bearing more grief than some people experience in a lifetime. Grief from things I’ve said above, and other things I won’t say. I washed up bearing all that grief, and that generational chip on my shoulder inherited from my Grandmother. The chip I was born with and that was nurtured. The chip that said, “Irish, not English”.

It took a couple of years for me to retire my inner hostility towards the British for what my Grandmother told me she had gone through. I did experience it a little of what she must have experienced, but only from very old people. “Shannon? What kind of name is Shannon? Don’t you mean Sharon? Isn’t Shannon a river? In IRELAND???”. And…..”Kathleen?” (towards my three-year-old daughter). “Why did you name her Kathleen? Why not Catherine? Kathleen is an Irish name. Don’t you know that?”.

It was so bizarre. lol. But it only happened once or twice, from very old people.

Anyway, once I dropped my generational hostility and processed my grief (as well as I could at the time), I was ok. Not great, but ok. No small feat, but I got there. What helped was delivering a healthy baby boy in the spring of 2003 (a rainbow baby), going on lots of walks, and just accepting that THAT was where I was, and I was going to make the best of it. And did I ever.

The “rainbow baby”. Always getting into my cupboards. That mixer was my first mixer, the one I bought for my cake business that I ran for eleven years. This boy is now a United States Marine, just like his dad. He is one of the greatest joys of my life. I loved every day with him. He’s grown into a wonderful young man. I miss him every day.

My friend Julia introduced me to the Victoria Sponge Cake. Julia was a fellow American, also from the west coast. She from California, I from Oregon. Not only could we banter in American English, but WESTERN American English. Oh, sweet relief. I met Julia at the “Cookshop” where she worked. We hit it off immediately and decided we needed to be friends. She came to my house one day for lunch, and she brought a little “Victoria Sponge” wrapped up nicely, in a box from Sainsbury’s.

I was absolutely blown away at how such a simple cake could be so incredibly delicious. I learned that day that the British call (what we call) a cake, a “sponge”. They use that word all the time in normal conversation. “Make a sponge”, “Where’s the sponge?”. My friend Julia and I joked about being “sponge worthy” (the line from Seinfeld) because the word “sponge” was thrown around so much and every time it was confusing. You didn’t know if you were about to have cake or clean the bathroom.

This cake was my first introduction to the true nature of the “everyday” Brit. The good-natured, hardworking, no bullshit Brit. Not the Brit that oppressed my Grandmother’s family, but the great grandchildren of those Brits; who had learned a lot and changed a lot, and went to great effort in their own lives to outright rejected those old ideologies. The kind of Brit who will sit for an afternoon tea or meal outside in the summer, and tell great jokes, and laugh raucously loud, and take what children say seriously, and try, and try, to let everyone know that they really don’t hold themselves higher than anyone else.

This, the favorite cake of Queen Victoria, was the true introduction to MY England.

Classic British Victoria Sponge Cake

Shannon Vavich
The overwhelmingly delectable combination of fresh whipped cream, raspberry jam and light, creamy, custardy sponge cake is the very epitome of freshness and surreal creaminess. A "sandwich cake" like this is sure to transport these amazing flavors (in equity) right down to your tippy-toes.
5 from 1 vote

Equipment

  • Heavy duty stand mixer, or electric hand mixer.
  • 2 eight-inch cake pans

Ingredients
  

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

Garnish (optional)

  • additional whipped cream
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • fresh raspberries
  • a sprig or two of fresh mint

Instructions
 

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.

Video

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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!

About

I have always loved food. I was born in Santa Cruz, California - the daughter of a commercial fisherman. Some of my earliest memories are on a fishing boat on the Pacific. I was raised on the Oregon Coast in a small town called Florence. I started working in fish markets and restaurants at the age of twelve and was always fascinated with the operations, the cooking, and the acquisition of fresh, local foods like forest mushrooms, wild blackberries, salmon and Dungeness crab. In 1996 I married my husband, a United States Marine. In 1999, inspired by my upbringing and out of an intense desire to work and create, I opened a little cake business out of my home kitchen in North Carolina. I ran that business for eleven years, all while welcoming babies into our family and moving every 1-4 years. Moving was a great opportunity for more food adventures. Now, 26 years later (because of my husband's military career), I have studied food and cooking all over the world. I began my career as a cooking teacher and recipe creator in 2009, have taught hundreds of students in in-person lessons and written hundreds of recipes. Now that my family lives in Germany, I’m devoting my time to cookbook writing, research, recipe development and video creation.