This Victoria sandwich cake is a classic English cake recipe, here filled with whipped cream and fresh, ripe strawberries. A gorgeous summer dessert recipe.
I wouldn't describe myself as a particularly sweet-toothed person, but there are times when only a slice of cake will do. And when that time comes, it is a Victoria sandwich cake that I turn to. A light, buttery, gently sweet sponge sandwiched with tasty treats and dusted with powdered sugar – elegant, simple and completely and utterly delicious.
Jam and buttercream is a popular choice for filling Victoria sponges, but for me that combination is cloying. The sponge is more than sweet enough for me, so my fillings are always chosen with some contrast in mind.
A very thick layer of freshly whipped cream is a constant for me. A slice of Victoria sponge just isn’t worth eating without the luxurious, creamy moisture it brings. Instead of sugary jam, a quick berry compôte is a good option in winter (taking advantage of frozen berries), but for today’s summery cake I have opted for shiny, ripe strawberries. Juicy raspberries also look and taste fantastic. Use whatever is best when you make the cake.
The ingredients for the sponge are beautifully simple – equal weights of butter, sugar, eggs and flour, with a little baking powder for lift and a splash of milk to loosen the batter.
No two Victoria sponges I have made have ever turned out the same. Even with the same ingredients, machine and oven. And using a micro scale (0.1g measurements) to weigh. Don't get me wrong, they all tasted fantastic – but differences in shape, texture and rise are all very much to be expected. Your ingredients, machine and oven will be different yet again.
I tell you this, not to put you off – I don't want you to think this cake is too difficult. Any Victoria sponge you make, with any method, will be infinitely better than a cake you can buy in the supermarket. INFINITELY! Just don't be discouraged if it comes out a touch wonky on the first go. They get better every time you cook them, like any fine art or honed skill.
Your oven is one of the most important tools for making a Victoria sandwich cake and there are huge variations between makes and models. Cakes cooked in my brother's oven rise evenly and beautifully. In contrast, my oven runs hot, the heat is uneven and the fan is strong. This means that cakes rise on a slant, they scorch on one side and they are ready long before the recommended time. My oven is great for pizza, less so for delicate sponges.
So I experimented with oven temperatures and tried various baking positions, before finally letting go of any hope of baking a perfectly flat cake. Instead I now slice slivers of cake off the edges to even them up. And very tasty those slivers are too.
One final note on the oven – be very careful not to open the oven too early. Turning a cake that is rising unevenly is the obvious thing to do (I have given it a go), but the cake is at its most vulnerable at this moment. The sudden drop in temperature will cause the cake to deflate and collapse. Which is very sad times indeed.
The equipment you use to mix your cake is another important factor. I have a fancy-pants Thermomix which has proved to be pretty poor for mixing airy cakes. Its narrow, funnel-shaped jug is much better suited to fine purées than light, fluffy batters. A stand mixer is the very best choice, but my £10 second-hand, 1980s food processor (pictured) is a close second.
Most of the mixing happens in the machine, but it’s important that you add the flour separately, by hand, to keep as much of the air as possible and avoid developing tough, chewy gluten. Be gentle!
A moist, light, delicately sweet sponge, sandwiched with ripe strawberries and an indecent amount of freshly whipped cream. British dessert at its very, very best.
Victoria sandwich cake
Victoria sandwich cake
- 250 g unsalted butter room temperature
- 250 g golden caster sugar
- 4 large eggs (c. 250g with shells)
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 250 g plain flour
- 1/2 tsp flaky sea salt (1/4 tsp if fine salt)
- drizzle of milk
- 1 tbsp homemade vanilla extract
strawberries and cream filling
- 400 ml double/heavy cream
- 400 g fresh strawberries
for the cake
- Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and flour two 20cm/8" cake tins and line the bottom of each tin with a round of baking paper. Whisk the flour and baking powder together and set aside.
- Add the sugar to your mixer (blending fine if necessary). Add the room temperature butter and whip or blend until fluffy and light (pictured).
- With the machine running, add the eggs one at a time, making sure each egg has been absorbed before adding the next. If you're using a food processor here, be careful not to over blend. Food processors are strong, so only run the machine as long as needed to blend in the eggs. When all the eggs are absorbed, the mixture will look shiny and creamy (also pictured).
- Scrape the egg mixture into a large bowl and add half of the flour mixture. Carefully combine the two, taking cake not to over mix. A whisk gently stroked through the mixture until just blended is good for this, or use a spatula. Repeat with the rest of the flour mixture.
- Add the vanilla extract and drizzle in about 2 tablespoons of milk to loosen the batter. When it's ready, a blob of batter should fall of the whisk or spatula when flicked.
- Divide the batter between the two cake tins and gently smooth the tops. Bake for about 20 minutes, without opening the oven until you start to check if they are ready. They are done when they are risen and golden, the cake springs back when pressed and a toothpick poked into the sponge comes out clean. Rest the cakes in their tins for about 5 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack. Leave to cool completely.
- If the cakes have risen unevenly, use a serrated knife to even them up. Whip the cream until stiff enough to spread. Slice the strawberries in half and remove any stems.
- Spread half the cream over one of the cakes and arrange the strawberries in the cream. For your filling to look like mine, just stand the halved strawberries on their sides around the edge, then fill in the middle. Add the other half of the cream and sandwich the other cake half on top. Store in the fridge.