Anna, the Duchess of Bedford, one of Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting, is credited as the creator of teatime. Because the noon meal had become skimpier, the Duchess suffered from “a sinking feeling” at about four o’clock in the afternoon. At first the Duchess had her servants sneak her a pot of tea and a few breadstuffs into her dressing room.
Later, she began to invite friends to join her for an additional afternoon meal at five o’clock in her rooms at Belvoir Castle. The menu centered around small cakes, bread and butter sandwiches, assorted sweets, and, of course, tea. This summer practice proved so popular, the Duchess continued it when she returned to London, sending cards to her friends asking them to join her for “tea and a walking the fields.
The practice of inviting friends to come for tea in the afternoon was quickly picked up by other social hostesses.
Queen Victoria adopted the new craze for tea parties. By 1855, the Queen and her ladies were in formal dress for the afternoon teas.
This simple sponge cake was one of the queen’s favorites. After her husband, Prince Albert, died in 1861, the Queen spent more time at her residence on the Isle of Wight. According to historians, it was here that the cake was named after her.
I love Victoria Sponge Cake. It’s a teatime classic.
I remember when we lived in Detroit; I was in 8th Grade and being the school’s token Brit, I randomly had to play Queen Elizabeth II at the Boston Tea Party! And as it was a Tea Party we (my mum and I) had to supply a Victoria Sponge Cake to accompany the Ice Tea and Cucumber Sandwiches made with Wonderbread. It’s interesting the way the history and stereotypes inter twine!
Back to the bake.
I have baked quite a few sponges in the past so this challenge, I must admit, didn’t scare me too much. So, I admit, I have chosen an easy bake as my first challenge. But it was also the first ever technical challenge to appear on GBBO.
However, I have not baked to Mary’s recipe before so I do want to make her proud. I also figured that if I can’t get this one right, then I’m pretty much screwed when it gets to the more difficult challenges such as the Fraisier Cake.
Mary’s recipe is beautifully simple. As every baker will tell you, the importance is in having everything at room temperature to ensure a lovely fluffy sponge. Mary’s butter trick is also just a dream come true. Check out a quick video here to show you how, but in essence, take your butter straight out of the fridge, chop into small cubes and plop into a bowl of luke warm water. Leave for 10minutes, poor away the liquid, and you’re left with perfectly squidgy butter.
One other piece of advice, is to watch the GBBO videos prior to attempting the bake. This is to ensure you know all the tips of the trade, which really create the perfect bake.
You can find Mary’s video for the perfect Victoria Sponge here.
- Less than 30 mins preparation time
- 10 to 30 mins cooking time
- Makes 12 slices
- 4 free-range eggs
- 225g/8oz caster sugar, plus a little extra for dusting the finished cake
- 225g/8oz self-raising flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 225g/8oz baking spread, margarine or soft butter at room temperature, plus a little extra to grease the tins
- The Serve
- good-quality strawberry or raspberry jam
- whipped double cream (optional)
- 2 x 20cm/8in sandwich tins: buy them here
- Baking/Silicone Paper
- Large Mixing Bowl
- Electric mixer or wooden spoon
- Wire rack
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
- Grease and line 2 x 20cm/8in sandwich tins: use a piece of baking or silicone paper to rub a little baking spread or butter around the inside of the tins until the sides and base are lightly coated. Line the bottom of the tins with a circle of baking or silicone paper (to do this, draw around the base of the tin onto the paper and cut out).
- Break the eggs into a large mixing bowl, then add the sugar, flour, baking powder and baking spread.
- Mix everything together until well combined. The easiest way to do this is with an electric hand mixer, but you can use a wooden spoon. Put a damp cloth under your bowl when you’re mixing to stop it moving around. Be careful not to over-mix – as soon as everything is blended you should stop. The finished mixture should be of a soft ‘dropping’ consistency – it should fall off a spoon easily.
- Divide the mixture evenly between the tins: this doesn’t need to be exact, but you can weigh the filled tins if you want to check. Use a spatula to remove all of the mixture from the bowl and gently smooth the surface of the cakes.
- Place the tins on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 25 minutes. Don’t be tempted to open the door while they’re cooking, but after 20 minutes do look through the door to check them.
- The cakes are done when they’re golden-brown and coming away from the edge of the tins. Press them gently to check – they should be springy to the touch. Remove them from the oven and set aside to cool in their tins for five minutes. Then run a palette or rounded butter knife around the inside edge of the tin and carefully turn the cakes out onto a cooling rack.
- To take your cakes out of the tins without leaving a wire rack mark on the top, put the clean tea towel over the tin, put your hand onto the tea towel and turn the tin upside-down. The cake should come out onto your hand and the tea towel – then you can turn it from your hand onto the wire rack.
- Set aside to cool completely.
- To assemble the cake, place one cake upside down onto a plate and spread it with plenty of jam. If you want to, you can spread over whipped cream too.
- Top with the second cake, top-side up. Sprinkle over the caster sugar.
Recipe courtesy of bbc, full of more advice and videos
How did you get on with this technical challenge? Please send me photos of your completed bakes for inclusion in the humble technical challenge gallery, so we can show off to Paul and Mary.
I would say it was lovely. It was really light and hubby and I both went back for seconds. BUT. A few days later, my Aunty Vera made a Victoria Sponge and it was, quite frankly, out of this world. I don’t know why. But I have requested the recipe. I need to know how she did it!