A classic Victoria sponge

After recent shenanigans with vegan chia eggs I thought I would go back to a classic sponge. No strange or fancy ingredients here, just straightforward flour, sugar, eggs and butter. Plus a little vanilla.

My husband’s grandmother used to make a jam sponge pretty much every Saturday. It was wonderful! She also used to make the best rice pudding I have ever eaten almost every Sunday. I think I can match the cake, but I will never be able to match the rice pudding.

In case you hadn’t worked it out the Victoria sponge (also known as a Victoria sandwich cake) was an invention of the 19th century. In fact it wasn’t a thing at all until Alfred Bird (famous for Bird’s custard powder) invented baking powder in 1843 – a combination of bicarbonate of soda (alkali) and a weak acid – in the case of the baking powder I used this was sodium pyrophosphate. Together they cause a reaction that makes the cake rise.

Of course there was yeast before baking powder, and there was sponge cake before baking powder. But those sponge cakes were made from eggs, flour and sugar – no fat. The rising effect was the result of beating the eggs to incorporate air. What is known as a Victoria sponge is in fact a variation of a pound cake; the use of baking powder lightens it to a sponge texture.

Food writer Felicity Cloake has, of course, written about the Victoria sponge here. It’s an interesting overview of technique. I used to follow Delia Smith’s one bowl method, and use a soft margarine like Flora. It was very successful. But I do think that the best texture comes from creaming the butter (yes I used butter today) and the sugar together until soft and light in colour.

Today I used Nigella’s recipe from Domestic Goddess, but didn’t do it in the food processor. I used an electric hand whisk. The secret is in the creaming, and then whisking those eggs in really really thoroughly. Nigella’s recipe also adds in a small amount of cornflour. I have done this in other recipes and like the texture it gives; Felicity Cloake on the other hand doesn’t!

Once baked and cooled I sandwiched the two cakes together with raspberry jam. I used up the last of the homemade (by Viv) jam that she gave me when we met at the Circus last year. Remember those days? When people could sit squashed together in a big tent? Laughing and breathing all over each other?! They’ll come again folks…

It is definitely worth using a good quality jam here as it is one of the main ingredients. Some people also add whipped cream, or even a buttercream. I prefer just plain jam.

Caster sugar or icing sugar to sprinkle on the top? Caster sugar got my vote, and also my husband’s. Cake for breakfast? Well it was closer to brunch – almost lunch – really. And anyway why not?! Cake can cheer a wet Saturday like nothing else can.

This cake did not disappoint. ‘Like walking down memory lane’ said Simon.

It was a classic, plain cake – enhanced to more-than-everyday status by the delicious jam. And not a chia egg in sight..

(If you want the recipe let me know in the comments and I can write it up.)


Prepare 2 x 21 cm sandwich tins – grease and flour, or line with baking parchment. Heat the oven to Mark 4 or 180 deg C.

Cream together 225g softened butter with 225g caster sugar.

Beat in 4 large eggs one by one, and also mix in 1 tsp vanilla. If the mixture starts to curdle add a little of the flour mixture between eggs. Sift together 200g self raising flour, 25g cornflour and an extra tsp of baking powder if doing it as a one bowl method. Fold in the flour mixture carefully to the egg/sugar/ butter mixture. If the mixture is stiff add a little milk (2-4tbsp).

Divide the mixture evenly between the two tins, and bake for about 25 minutes. The cake should be coming away from the sides of the tin, and if you put your ear close you shouldn’t be able to hear the cake ‘singing’ too much. Just a little whisper..

Cool on a rack for about 10-12 minutes, then remove from the tins and let cool properly.

Sandwich the two cakes with plenty of jam.

Enjoy with a cup of tea!

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