Sunday, 3 June 2007

Victoria Sponge

a Victoria sponge filled with cream, fruit and maybe a little good jam, does work. It's a reminder that, when the ingredients are good and the cake tenderly fresh, this is one of the dreamiest combinations in the world - Nigella Lawson

I've had this cake on my "to make" list for some time, but have always been scared. My only previous experience with sponge cake resulted in a sunken, hard, almost green (don't know how that happened!) inedible cake. Of course, that was about 20 years ago...
The ABC documentary about the CWA ("Not all tea and scones") along with the recent story in the Sydney Morning Herald about sponge cakes, reminded me of my plans to make this cake. And scared me a bit too. It was only when I was making it last weekend while Mum was staying, that I realised that a Victoria sponge and a traditional sponge are quite different! A Victoria sponge is made with butter (almost a whole stick!) and is not quite as light and airy as a traditional sponge (trivia fact: it is called Victoria sponge as apparently it was Queen Victoria's favourite cake!). So really, this cake is a lot easier to get right than a traditional sponge, which I will try again soon. (Also a true Victoria sponge doesn't have cream and fruit on top, only in the middle, with a dusting of icing sugar on the top. But that doesn't sound very practical to me - all the cream would ooze out of the middle when you cut it - very messy and a waste of perfectly good cream!)

The verdict
Unusual or substitued ingredients: None. This is a very straightforward cake recipe. Everyone always advises to use the freshest eggs you can for a good sponge - we bought some recently from a roadside market so I figured these would be far fresher than supermarket eggs.
Special utensils or cookware: Nigella makes her cake batter in a food processor (shock! horror!). She also gives instructions for traditional method, which I used, being a bit of stickler for tradition (when it suits me, anyway!). It is very easy to make either way. You also need 2 sandwich tins. Nigella recommends 21cm diameter tins. I could only find 22cm diameter tins. That was ok, just the cakes were perhaps slightly more flat than they should have been, but still fine.
Repeatability: I would definitely make this again, particularly if I was having people over for afternoon tea - who doesn't feel more like a domestic goddess than when they are serving up a sponge cake with jam and cream! And it keeps fairly well (unlike a traditional sponge) so eats well the next day (in the unlikely event there are leftovers!). Nigella also gives lots of variations on the recipe, so you can mix it up and avoid boredom!

Sauciness: Well, you can't get much more "apple pie and icecream" than this (except for, I guess, apple pie and icecream!). But then again, anything with a bit of jam and a dollop of cream is just a little saucy! And as for dishes, not bad, not bad at all. Pretty much made in one bowl, then two tins (out of which the cakes came very cleanly - hurrah for greasing, flouring and lining the tins well! There is nothing more satisfying (and potentially scary) in cooking than turning a cake out of a tin. If it sticks, you just want to run away screaming!)
Overall pleasure level: This is a 9. Very very happy with the way this cake turned out. Go on, try it, you'll find it far less scary than you might have thought!