The Victoria sandwich might be the Jackie Onassis of the cake world – understated, elegant, simple and timeless. While old-fashioned, it will never go out of fashion. For many, the light, moist, buttery texture and flavour make it a firm favourite. This classic sponge is a wonderful cake for everyone to learn and once perfected there are umpteen different flavours and fillings that can be added.
The basic technique of creaming butter and sugar together is the starting point for lots of baking and once you gain confidence with creaming, know how to add eggs without curdling the mixture, then folding in the flour to a smooth batter, it will become second nature to you. While there are other whisking methods for making cakes, those same creaming steps rarely change, although your oven and the shape and size of your cake tins might.
Most of our grandmothers would have used margarine instead of butter, and will still swear that you get a lighter texture in doing so, but who is willing to sacrifice that rich buttery flavour? This is the perfect cake to celebrate fresh strawberries and high summer. With new developments in large-scale soft fruit growing, Irish strawberries now appear as early as April but I still get a thrill when I see strawberry stalls camped out on roadsides in May. The sweet scent, deep red colour and glistening skin of a ripe homegrown strawberry is magic. Lucky you, if you are enjoying their arrival in your garden. As a year-round cake, you can simply sandwich the sponges together with jam. To me, whipped cream is essential, adding extra moistness, although admittedly it will not keep for as long. A buttercream and jam filling will add an extra day or two.
Makes 20cm cake
200g butter, soft, at room temperature
200g caster sugar
4 eggs, lightly whisked, room temperature
200g self-raising flour, sieved
2 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 tbsp milk, as required 60g quality raspberry jam
200ml stiffly whipped cream 200g punnet fresh strawberries icing sugar, for dusting
1. Preheat oven to 180°C fan. Lightly grease two sandwich tins – either 18cm or 20cm in size (the smaller the tin, the higher the sponge) and line their bases with parchment paper.
2. Using an electric whisk, cream the butter and sugar together until light and creamy, regularly scraping down the sides of the bowl. On a slow speed, gradually add the eggs to the mixture, one at a time (add in a spoonful of flour if the mixture starts to split).
3.Gently fold in the flour with a large metal spoon in a few batches. Add in the vanilla extract and just enough milk to loosen the mixture so it has a nice dropping consistency.
4. Divide the batter evenly between the two lined cake tins and smooth the tops so that they rise evenly. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 20-25 minutes, until the sponges are golden and start to shrink away from the sides of the tins. Once baked remove and allow to cool for a few minutes before turning each out and cooling fully on a wire rack.
5. When completely cool, spread one cake with raspberry jam. Spread the cream over the jam.
6. Slice most of the strawberries and place them over the cream, then sandwich the other cake on top.
7. Finish by dusting with icing sugar and serve with any remaining strawberries.