Hi there! Welcome to my blog.
I have just finished a degree in History and Music and find myself with much more free time than I am used to. I decided to use it to pursue two passions of mine: history and baking! I love baking (and eating) cakes and other sweet treats and thought I could combine this with my interest in history (I am racking my brains for a way I can include my love of music too!). In each post I will focus on a particular baked good, some well-known and some more obscure, write a little about its history and provide my own modern adaption of a recipe so anyone can make it at home. I hope you enjoy!
For my first post, I decided to ease myself in with something that most people will have heard of; the Victoria sandwich. It’s also very easy to make, and anyone can have a go at baking it themselves. A Victoria sandwich is two sponge cakes sandwiched together with jam and dusted on top with a sprinkling of sugar. It is a quintessentially English treat and has a popular presence in most tea shops.
The creation of the Victoria sandwich (or Victoria sponge) is credited to Anna, 7th Duchess of Bedford (probably around 1830), a friend and lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria. By the 19th century, dinner was not eaten until about 8pm, and even though a ‘luncheon’ had been invented as an extra meal between breakfast and dinner, this was very light, leaving people feeling hungry mid-afternoon. The Duchess found that a light meal of tea, cakes and sandwiches was the perfect refreshment to leave her stomach satisfied until dinner. She soon invited her friends to take up this practice, and it was adopted by fashionable society, with the Queen herself taking part! Thus the well-loved British tradition of Afternoon Tea was born. It is widely claimed that the Victoria sandwich (which was a central part of this new practice) was a particular favourite of Queen Victoria’s, thus it is named after her.
There are debates as to the true components of this classic cake. Should it be dusted with caster or icing sugar? Should the addition of vanilla essence/extract be allowed? Should the filling include cream as well as jam? The original version would only have had jam (probably raspberry) as a filling and the Women’s Institute states that a ‘real’ Victoria sandwich contains only jam with absolutely no cream (I also personally prefer the cake without cream)! I believe that this cake suits any flavour of jam; in my house we have delicious homemade plum jam which I use to fill my cakes. This cake has been adapted many times to produce other delicious treats such as cupcakes. It is extremely versatile; it can be altered with different fillings and flavourings (the addition of cocoa powder as a substitution for some of the flour transforms it into a chocolately delight) and also acts as a great base for creativity and experimentation.
In her famous 1861 Book of Household Management, Mrs Beeton includes a recipe for a Victoria sandwich. The sponge part of the cake includes four ingredients (butter, sugar, eggs and flour) of equal measurements and also a pinch of salt (which I always omit in baking recipes). To ensure equal measurements, eggs were often weighed (while still in their shells) and the other ingredients altered accordingly to match them. For example, if the eggs weighed 250g, 250g of sugar, 250g of butter and 250g of flour was used. Mrs Beeton refers to pounded sugar in her recipe. Sugar at the time was bought in loaves and cut into cubes or pounded to get the right amount.
Here is my modern adaption of a recipe for a Victoria sandwich. I use a different method to Mrs Beeton, adding my ingredients in a slightly different order. It can be made either with an electric mixer or by hand with a wooden spoon. The sandwich tins I use are 7×7 inches (18 x 18cm). I normally manage to get about 10-12 moderately sized slices out of this cake. You can choose whether to use the measurements of the ingredients listed below or altering the sugar, butter and flour to match the weight of your eggs.
- 3 eggs
- 6oz/150g (or the weight of the 3 eggs) butter or margarine
- 6oz/150g (or the weight of the 3 eggs) caster sugar
- 6oz/150g (or the weight of the 3 eggs) self-raising flour (sifted)
- 2-3tbsp (or however much is desired) jam
- Caster or icing sugar for dusting
- Pre-heat oven to 180c/350f/gas mark 4 and grease 2 sandwich tins
- Cream together the butter/margarine and sugar until light and fluffy
- Beat in the eggs along with a tablespoon of sifted flour (the flour prevents the mixture from curdling)
- Add in the rest of the flour and mix until just combined. Overmixing will reduce the lightness and fluffiness of the cake
- Halve the mixture between the two tins, level out slightly and bake for 20-30 minutes, until golden brown
- When cooked, remove from the tins and leave to cool on a wire cooling rack
- Place one sponge upside down on a plate (or whatever you want to serve it on) and spread on the jam
- Position the other half of the cake on top of the jam layer
- Dust the top with either caster sugar or sifted icing sugar (I used icing sugar)
I hope you enjoy the recipe. Feel free to experiment with different flavours and fillings and let me know how you get on!
Thank you for reading!