Queen Victoria sponge cake – with a savoury twist

VictoriaStampSponge3In another lead-up week to the start of the Great British Bake Off, The Baking Nanna and Rob Allen hosted another #GBBOTwitterbakealong and asked for a vote. Victoria sponge overwhelmingly won – I guess everyone likes a good old fashioned cake don’t they?

Well, I voted for bread! It’s true: I do like a Vicky sponge but after having made a lot of sweet things recently I was hoping to avoid a sweet bake. How wrong I was: the theme of Victoria sponge got everyone making the most amazing bakes! An absolutely superb array of beautiful Vicky sponges. I was happy to have been outvoted 🙂

My decoration literally put a stamp on the Queen Vic association with this cake, but the hand painted stamp on top is the only thing old fashioned about this recipe! The sponge is baked with fresh-cracked black pepper and the jam has been made with balsamic vinegar and a touch of salt.

vicSpondeDrawing1 copy

These tastes of pepper and balsamic vinegar are known to go well as pairings with strawberries, but it’s usually a a dressing on a bowl of the little fruits rather than inside the dessert! I took a chance (albeit an educated guess because of the flavour pairings) and it worked amazingly well. I didn’t tell my teens what was in the cake (before they took a bite) and they adored it.

Ah, I lied a little – this is one more old fashioned thing to this: it’s the traditional recipe that British home bakers have been adhering too for decades, possibly even centuries. I purposely used this standard recipe to showcase how flexible it is and that it can accommodate different ingredients and additions. There are some amazing new and exquisite takes on Victoria sponge, taking the original and perfecting it.

However, this recipe is a fail safe and easy to remember: if you’re ever without a recipe book (or now connection to the internet) this will stand you in good stead. As such, I’ve listed the ingredients first (normally I list equipment at the top):

Ingredients – basic Victoria sponge

  • Eggs, large – four (select two per 20cm layer/ cake tin)
  • Self-raising flour – weigh the eggs, use the same weight of flour (in their shells)
  • Caster sugar – same weight as the eggs
  • Fat – same weight as the eggs. Please note I use HALF unsalted butter and HALF baking margarine
  • Salt – a pinch
  • Vanilla extract – 1 teaspoon
  • Baking powder – 3/4 teaspoon
  • Plus:
    • Black peppercorns, freshly crushed – about 1 dessert spoon
    • Orange juice – a dash
    • Ingredients – filling
    • Strawberry jam – about two thirds of a large jar (either use a homemade or shop bought: it doesn’t matter)
    • Balsamic vinegar – a teaspoon or so
    • Fondant icing
    • Black food colouring (gel type)

Equipment

  • Two 20cm square cake tins
  • Bowl
  • Parchment/baking paper
  • Cooling rack
  • Saucepan
  • Cake lifter or very thin baking tray
  • Fine clean/new paintbrush
  • Sharp knife
  • Balloon whisk, hand held electric whisk or stand mixer
  • Wooden spoon
  • Flexible spatula
  • Pastry brush

Method – cakes

  1. Grease and line the cake tins
  2. Turn the oven on to 170C fan / 180C conventional
  3. Cream the sugar and eggs together until lightly coloured and fluffed up a little
  4. Mix in one egg and a little flour until combined – keep repeating until all four eggs and all the flour are used
  5. Add in vanilla, the baking powder, the pepper and combine – use as much or as little of the orange juice as you need to make a dropping consistency batter
  6. Even the cake mix out between the two cake tins – weighing each to get the same if you are like me and want to be pedantic
  7. Smooth over the tops and pop in the oven for about 35-40 mins
  8. Check the sponge is done by lightly pressing with a finger – it should spring back, or testing with a skewer or toothpick
  9. Leave to cool in the tins a little, then transfer to a wire rack – the sponges do need to dry out and cool thoroughly or they will transfer their moisture to the icing
  10. Now, alter the jam: take 2/3 of a jar of strawberry jam (a soft set is best, or use your own home made) and tip it into a saucepan
  11. Warm the jam, stirring occasionally
  12. When it’s softened add in a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar, take off the heat and stir to combine. Taste and add more if required – it should give the jam an umami tang that draws out the strawberry flavour, but not be unpleasant
  13. Leave the jam to cool
  14. Now make the icing top – if you don’t want to attempt redrawing the stamp, then use the image I’ve drawn below of the silhouette of queen Victoria (from the stamp) to cut out and use as a stencil
  15. It’s best to cut out the shape of the stamp first and transfer it to a cake lifter covered in a dusting of icing sugar – this makes it easier to transport onto the cake top when complete
  16. I painted the image using a fine brush moistened with a little water and dipped in black gel food colouring. This allowed me to use brush strokes and a consistency similar to water colour

A note about the image:

  • I searched for stamps in google and there are a myriad images that come up – I do not think it’s copyright to draw from these, but it is to reproduce the photo itself. This is the site I’ve used: http://stampauctionnetwork.com/v/v65127.cfm I will write to them and see if I can gain permission to reproduce it with their details. In the meantime, please search yourself of look at this link, or use my photo as a guide
  • There are easier stamps to draw from – many are simply square and have a less detailed image on if you think this one’s a bit tricky
  • If you want to cut out a stencil silhouette, which is also effective or use the image as a stencil to draw round and then fill in, please use this one I’ve drawn up especially for you – you can download the pdf of it with the link under the image:

VictoriaSilhouette

Download the Queen Victoria silhouette PDF

Constructing the cake

  1. Layer all bar a spoonful of jam (save a bit without any actual strawberry pieces in it) onto the bottom layer of sponge Place the top sponge layer on this jam and manoeuvre the sponge so the top sits level with the bottom layer
  2. Smooth the little bit of jam you retained over the top layer with a pastry brush (gives a finer layer) – this is to anchor the icing in place
  3. Gently ease the painted (or cut out) icing into place – the jam should allow you a little movement to align the picture up square
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4 comments

  1. Good grief, woman, is there no end to your talents? I was reading through your recipe and thinking ‘I’ll never make this because I can’t draw and Queen Vic would end up looking like a big blob’ when I got to the bottom and saw you’d provided a template. Surely time for a book deal? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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