A classic English cake recipe, filled with an indecent amount of whipped cream and ripe, summery strawberries. The sponge is moist, light, buttery and gently sweet sponge. Elegant, simple and completely and utterly delicious.
The ingredients for the sponge are beautifully simple – equal weights of butter, sugar, eggs and flour, with a little baking powder for lift and a splash of milk to loosen the batter. Deceptively simple.
Serves 8 (dessert)
Prep/cook time: 30 minutes, plus 1 hour baking and cooling time
- 250g unsalted butter, room temperature
- 250g golden caster sugar
- 4 large eggs (c. 250g with shells)
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 250g plain flour
- 1/2 tsp flaky sea salt (1/4 tsp fine salt)
- drizzle of milk
- 1 tbsp homemade vanilla extract (see Technique tip)
- 400ml double/heavy cream
- 400g fresh strawberries
Technique: Homemade vanilla extract is simple to make and an eternity of flavour away from supermarket vanilla. Fill a small bottle with 5-10 vanilla pods and vodka, then leave to steep for at least a month – the longer you leave it, the more flavour.
for the cake
- Preheat the oven to 160°C (fan). Grease and flour two 20cm/8" cake tins and line the bottom of each tin with a round of baking paper. Whisk the flour and baking powder together and set aside.
- Add the sugar and room temperature butter to your mixer and beat/blend until fluffy and light. With the machine running, add the eggs one at a time, making sure each egg is absorbed before adding the next – the mixture will look shiny and creamy. Only run the machine as long as needed to blend in the eggs, especially in a food processor.
- Scrape the egg mixture into a large bowl and add half of the flour mixture. Carefully combine the two, taking cake not to over mix. Use a whisk or spatula, gently stroked through the mixture until just blended. Repeat with the rest of the flour mixture.
Technique: It’s important to add the flour out of the mixer, folding in by hand, to preserve as much of the air as possible and avoid developing tough, chewy gluten. Be gentle.
- Add the vanilla extract and drizzle in about 2 tbsp milk to loosen the batter. When it's ready, a blob of batter should fall from the whisk or spatula when flicked.
- Divide the batter between the two cake tins and gently smooth the tops. Bake for about 20 minutes, without opening the oven, until you think they are ready.
Technique: Be careful not to open the oven too early. The sudden drop in temperature will cause the cake to deflate and collapse. Very sad times indeed.
- They are done when they are risen and golden, the cake springs back when pressed and a toothpick slid into the centre of the sponge comes out clean. Rest the cakes in their tins for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack and remove the baking paper. Leave to cool completely.
Technique: No two Victoria sponges I have made have ever turned out the same. Even with the same scale, ingredients, mixer and oven. Don’t get me wrong, they all tasted fantastic – but differences in shape, texture and rise are all very much to be expected.
- If the cakes have risen unevenly, use a serrated bread knife to even them up.
- Whip the cream until just stiff enough to spread. Slice the strawberries in half and remove any stems.
- Spread half the cream over one of the cakes and arrange the strawberries in the cream. Add the other half of the cream and sandwich the other cake half on top.
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- Perfect all by itself.
- Store in the fridge for up to 3 days. Can be frozen for up to 1 month, very well wrapped and stored in a sturdy container to prevent damage.
- Fill the centre with any seasonal fruit or jam. Could also be filled with vanilla ice cream.
food styling tips
For the decorative strawberry edge, stand halved strawberries on their ends, all the way around the edge, then fill in the middle with more fresh berries.