Victoria Sponge Cake
Yesterday was Father’s Day, and though I talk to my mom nearly every day, I don’t often get a chance to chat with my busy dad. Here’s a smidgen of our conversation:
Me: “How was your morning?”
Dad: “Great; I caught six huge trout for tomorrow’s dinner. Your mom and I invited Aunt Joan and Jacqueline over. They love fresh trout.”
That quote says a lot about my dad. He takes care of people and is pretty salt-of-the-earth in his outlook. Here are some more of his wonderful attributes:
- He loves to farm (though he doesn’t do it anymore).
- He loves to fish.
- He loves to make furniture and build houses from scratch.
- His perfect evening includes a BBQ, cigar and glass of rye out on the deck.
- He loves British comedies.
- He is so, so kind in every way. Once he brought home a wild turtle he saw being hit by a car on the highway. We put it in the pond behind our house. I think I was 16 at the time.
I have inherited most of these interests and attributes from my dad (except for the furniture/house building). He used to take my brothers and I for long walks through the highlands, where our grandparents grew up. He taught us the names of the trees, the different types of birds and our family history among many other things. As a result, the three of us have a huge appreciation for nature and are very proud of where we come from.
And those trout he caught? I can guarantee, at tonight’s dinner, no one will be cooking the fish but dad. He doesn’t get in the kitchen very often (he’s a BBQ man) but my dad is a pretty stellar cook. In his opinion, trout needs nothing more than some dredging, seasoning and frying. His eggy-battered haddock is one of my favourite ways to eat fish, and every Christmas he makes his special seafood chowder with crumbled bacon on top.
Like my dad, I have a real lack of appreciation for sparkly, frou-frou dining experiences. I can dig fine dining, but there has to be some substance there for me to really appreciate it. Pretentious dining experiences bore me to tears. In my opinion, nothing beats a glass of wine and some BBQ or fried fish at home with my family. Most chefs will agree with me.
Hence this Victoria Sponge Cake. It’s not really a Canadian thing, but I see them everywhere in Ireland. Very simply, a Victoria Sponge consists of two sponge cake layers sandwiched with jam, cream or fruit or a combination of the three. It gets coated with a dusting of icing sugar. It’s beautiful in its simplicity and has become one of my favourite cakes.
Of course, though, I had to “redneck” my version up a bit. I used brown sugar instead of white. Why? Because it tastes better. You would think it would result in a heavier sponge, but if you whip it into submission with the eggs the result is *even better* than it would be with white sugar. It’s adds a bit of moisture to the cake and a lot of caramelized flavour.
Secondly, I didn’t make a true sponge cake. I made a hot milk-almost sponge-cake. It’s my Aunt Flora’s recipe. The hot milk gives the cake a lovely, malted flavour.
I did whip some cream, but luckily tasted it before using. It had gone sour before it’s “best before” date! I ended up filling the cake with Big Red Kitchen’s delicious Pear & Vanilla Jam. A Victoria Sponge will generally use strawberry or raspberry jam as the filling, but the pear went so, so well with the brown sugar almost-sponge.
I’m sorry I missed out on Father’s Day with my dad, but this is definitely a cake I’ll be making for him when he comes to Ireland in September. Uncomplicated, well textured and full of flavour – it’s the kind of food he (and I) like the most. He’ll have to supply the rye, though – we’re in whiskey country.
Janine’s Victoria “Sponge” Cake
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
3 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup The Big Red Kitchen’s Pear & Vanilla Jam
icing sugar, for dusting
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees (180 degrees Celsius, no fan). Butter and flour two sandwich cake pans (or two regular cake pans).
- Using a stand mixer or hand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the eggs, vanilla and brown sugar on high for at least 5 minutes. You want the eggs and sugar to get to the ribbon stage, where the volume has doubled, the mixture has paled in colour considerably and when you lift the whisk the batter falls down in a ribbon-like manner.
- In the meantime, heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan until it boils. Set aside.
- When the eggs/sugar have reached the right consistency, sift in the flour and baking powder. Add the salt and mix until just incorporated into the eggs/sugar.
- Add the hot milk and butter and whisk on high for 30 seconds.
- Divide the batter between the two pans. Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes, checking at 15. The top of the cake should be golden brown and will bounce back when touched.
- Let the cakes cool for 15 minutes before removing from the pans. Place one sponge upside-down on a cake plate and spread the jam over the top. Add the second sponge, right side up, on top. Dust the top with icing sugar and serve immediately (it won’t last more than two days; it’s too yummy).
* If you want to make the cakes in advance they freeze very well. Bulk up the deliciousness by whipping fresh cream and including it in the sandwich, along with fresh fruit or berries.