The Victoria sponge cake is a traditional English cake consisting of raspberry jam and vanilla buttercream, that is spread between two layers of sponge cake.
What is the origin of the Victoria sponge cake?
The teatime treat has a really telltale appellation, which originates from the court of Queen Victoria from the 19th century’s Great Britain. In actuality, teatime itself has become a custom in the first half of the 1800s and turned pretty fashionable in the circle of the upper class by the 1850s.
The Duchess of Bedford, Anna Russel is remembered as the procreant of the five o’clock tea, who was one of the ladies-in-waiting and also a lifelong friend of the Queen.
As teatime evolved into a social pastime, a wider variety of savory sandwiches, like the most famous cucumber sandwich (thin slices of cucumber, on buttered bread) and sweet cakes were served as an afternoon treat. From chocolate sponge, through biscuits, pralines, langues de chat and the inevitable petit fours, they were all fancied by Victoria.
She had a definite sweet tooth, hence a good-sized waistline as well. The mighty easy double layered sponge cake, filled with raspberry jam was named after the Queen at the time she withdrew to her residence on the Isle of Wight, to mourn her late husband, Prince Albert after his passing in 1861.
What is Victoria sponge cake?
The original version was baked as a seed cake, but it was thought at that time, that seeds are not suitable for children’s digestion, therefore a seedless version was created for them. It was a pound cake and eventually became an adult favorite.
Even the type of the original dough is a question under debate, because preparing an airy sponge cake by hand was difficult and labor-intensive at that time for lack of kitchen equipment. It is probable that the invention of baking powder in the first half of the 19th century brought some changes in the baking methods of the royal household. It became widely available in 1891, after the German apothecary August Oetker started its mass production, then patented the Oetker baking powder in 1903.
Presumably, this is why in Isabella Beeton’s famous cookbook from 1874, we find a pound cake recipe with only eggs, flour, butter and sugar in the same amount, some salt and some jam or marmalade among the two layers. As a matter of curiosity, according to her recipe, the cake was baked in a Yorkshire pudding tin and cut into long finger-pieces for serving.
As it started its life in the parlors of the royals as a very simple bake, there are many ways to make a modern cake with more complexity out of it, so today’s pastry chefs often pair the jam with butter cream or sweetened whipped cream for a lighter version.
The jam was originally raspberry, which was probably used because of its beautiful pink color and its tangy taste which provided a great contrast with the sweet cake. Orange marmalade also got popular because of its bitterness and one cannot say that it’s not traditional enough in Great-Britain. But if you read through a few recipes, you can find several versions like cranberry jam in Mary Berry’s cookbook, the Baking Bible, but Jamie Oliver applied raspberry twice, by putting fresh ones on top of the jam, then covering it with heavenly lemon whipped cream.
Confectioners’ sugar is the last touch. Some say it is mandatory, some leave it out without a second thought. One thing is sure, Isabelle Beaton’s recipe (still from 1874) didn’t mention confectioners’ sugar.
You can bake it and garnish it the way you prefer. This Victoria sponge cake is perfectly suitable throughout the year, filled with seasonal fruits and using up the leftover jams from the larder, to make place for the new ones at the end of spring.
- 2 cups flour , sifted
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 cup butter
- 4 tablespoons raspberry jam
- Icing sugar (for the decoration)
- ½ cup butter , soft
- 1¾ cup icing sugar
- A few drops vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 2 8-inch round cake molds
- Stand mixer
- Preheat the oven to 360 F.
- Line two 8-inch diameter round cake molds with parchment paper.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, break the eggs.
- Add the sugar, flour, yeast and soft butter. Mix with the flat beater until obtaining a homogeneous mixture.
- Pour half of the preparation in each of the 2 cake molds.
- Tap each mold against the work surface to smooth out the surface and get rid of air bubbles.
- Using a spatula, gently smooth out the top of both cakes.
- Place the cakes in the center of the oven and bake for 25 minutes. Do not open the oven door during baking. Both cakes are ready when they are golden and they have risen.
- Touch the surface gently to check the baking.
- Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes in the molds.
- Unmold carefully on a rack and let cool completely.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter until creamy.
- Add the icing sugar and a tablespoon of milk, and beat until smooth and creamy. If the cream is too thick, add another tablespoon of milk.
- Pour the cream into a pastry bag with a round decorating pastry tip.
- To assemble the cakes, choose the most uniform cake for the top.
- Place the other cake upside down on a serving platter.
- Spread the jam over it, then cover with the cream using the pastry bag.
- Place the other cake on top.
- Decorate with icing sugar.
- Keep the Victoria Sponge Cake in the fridge until ready to serve with a cup of tea.