The Women’s Institute,
A Famous English Sponge Cake
and Afternoon Tea…..
|A Victoria Sandwich ~ A light Sponge Cake for Afternoon Tea; this is filled with lemon curd, which although delicious, is not the traditional filling!|
The Victoria Sandwich is the quintessential English cake, conjuring up images of old England, quaint little tea shops and afternoon tea, but what jam is used traditionally? How many eggs to ounces of sugar? To add butter cream as a filling or not? Well, there is a classic standard for the cake, and it is that particular recipe that I have always used and that I am sharing with you now. The following recipe is the original and more traditional way of weighing your ingredients to match the weight of your eggs, bearing in mind that the recipe is Victorian, and this was the most popular method of adjusting their measurements in cakes and pastry.
|Weighing the eggs and then adjusting the other ingredient measurements to the eggs, gives a lighter and fluffier cake.|
A true Victoria Sandwich would only contain jam, usually raspberry, but as the cake became more popular and cooks became more affluent, cream was added as a delicious addition. I was always taught that caster sugar was sprinkled on top – again, icing sugar is often used nowadays. This recipe adaptation was taken from the Women’s Institute website, generally called the WI, a wonderful organisation in Great Britain for woman of all ages, backgrounds, race or creed – remember The Calendar Girls? They were all WI members! Basically, a Victoria Sandwich must have equal measurements of all the ingredients ~ eggs, flour, sugar and butter.
|A Victoria Sandwich Cake and a Pot of Tea……what could be better?|
Historical note: Anna, the Duchess of Bedford (1788-1861), one of Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting, is credited as the creator of tea time. She invited friends to join her for an additional afternoon meal at five o’clock in her rooms. The menu centred around small cakes, bread and butter sandwiches, assorted sweets, and, of course, tea.
|Part of an Afternoon Tea has to be the ubiquitous scones with strawberry jam and cream!|
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 afternoon tea time. By 1855, the Queen and her ladies were in formal dress for the Victorian tea time parties. This simple cake was one of the queen’s favourites and was named in honour of the Queen as a mark of the cake’s most devoted followers. As you can see from my photos I used home made lemon curd for the cake in my photos, a tangy change from raspberry jam, and useful as I just made some last week.
|My mum’s home-made Lemon Curd|
|A Victoria Sandwich cake with Cream and Jam ~ Photo from BBC Good Food|
However, despite its regal provenance, this cake is amazingly versatile ~ you can make small fairy cakes or cup cakes from the mixture, or add fresh fruit to the filling, or even make a big tray bake and then shower the top with hundreds and thousands/sprinkles after spreading it liberally with butter cream…..I like the fairy cake option and often have fun when decorating my fairy cakes……the following ones have lemon curd added to the butter cream icing, as well as little jellied lemon sweeties….
|Fairy Cakes made with Victoria Sandwich Cake mix and with Lemon Curd butter cream icing.|
I hope you enjoy this recipe, it is a classic in the English Kitchen and a recipe that is beloved of all cakes stalls and afternoon tea venues…….. why don’t you bake one for afternoon tea this week and invite the girls over for a natter…and chuck a few scones and sandwiches into the mix too ~ wonderful!
Victoria Sandwich Cake
- 4 large eggs, weighed in their shells
- butter or soft margarine ~ same weight as the eggs
- caster sugar/super fine sugar ~ same weight as the eggs
- self-rising flour~ same weight as the eggs
- raspberry jam ( or another jam, jelly or curd of your choice.)
- whipped cream (optional) or double cream (optional)
- caster sugar or icing sugar for sprinkling on top
- The measurements for this recipe are equal amounts of sugar, flour and fat to the weight of the eggs; therefore, weigh the eggs first – if the eggs weigh 8 ounces, you will use 8 ounces of sugar, 8 ounces of butter or margarine and 8 ounces of flour. If the eggs weigh 6 ounces, all the other ingredients will be 6 ounces – easy!
- Set oven Gas 4, 160C (fan oven), 180C or 360F: grease and base line the bottom of 2 x 8” sandwich tins – cake tins.
- Cream margarine or butter together with the sugar, until light and fluffy.
- Beat the eggs, and then add them to the mixture, gradually and beating well after each addition.
- Sieve the flour and fold into the mixture with a metal spoon.
- Divide equally between the 2 prepared tins and bake for 25 minutes in the middle of the oven.
- Remove and allow to cool for 1-2 minutes.
- Remove from the tins and fill with raspberry jam (and cream if using) when cold, to avoid the cream melting or the jam seeping into the sponge.
- A light dusting of caster sugar or icing sugar on the top will finish it.
- Place on an attractive cake stand or plate, and serve in dainty wedges with freshly brewed tea.
- Cook’s Notes.
- If you use butter remove from the fridge to soften before using. This is not necessary with soft margarine.
- If large eggs are used they may weigh 7 ½ ozs/210g. If so make sure you use this weight for the other ingredients.
- A smaller sandwich cake can be made with 2 medium eggs. Weight about 4 oz/55g. If so, use 2 x 7” sandwich tins and the cakes and the cakes will need less time in the oven – probably 20mins.
- Alternative measurements:
- 4 eggs.
- 8 ounces soft margarine or butter.
- 8 ounces caster sugar.
- 8 ounces SR flour.
- Proceed as above for method.