From the Kitchen – A Teatime Treat

by Joan Saunders | photos by Kathryn Alvarez Photography – 

Usually for Mother’s Day, I cajole my son into baking something with me. He’s always been easy to persuade, as the end result is obviously something he’s going to be able to eat. However, this year he’s left the country, so I don’t have my favourite baking companion around to push me to try something new. Left to my own devices, I decided to try making a Victoria Sponge Cake.

Why a Victoria Sponge? Let me tell you: after a few attempts I was questioning that choice myself. Each time the sponge cake was decidedly un-spongey, and my taste testers were getting very tired of choking down another dry attempt. But I was determined to succeed; I wanted to nail this classic teatime treat, so I soldiered on.

And I’m glad I did. While the traditional Victoria sponge just has jam as a filling, it’s also perfectly acceptable to add some cream. This cake tastes like spring, it’s light and not too sweet, and I figured that it would be perfect for tea on Mother’s Day.

Some hints? Make sure that your flour and baking powder are fresh – if the ingredients are past their use-by date, your cake won’t rise properly. As well, use room temperature ingredients as they blend together more easily which results in a smoother batter.

I have to admit that I really wanted to get this right because of the Great British Baking Show. It’s one of those bakes that they refer to a lot, and I thought it would be fun to try. And, in the end, I’m glad I persevered as it was all about finding, adapting and amalgamating recipes to create one that I liked the best out of the many, many options out there. It’s not a difficult cake to make, and it truly is a light and lovely treat that’s perfect for May and for Mother’s Day.

Victoria Sponge Cake Cake Ingredients
1 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp self-raising flour
1 cup + 2 tbsp superfine (berry) sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup room temperature unsalted butter, cut into cubes
4 eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or paste
1 cup thinly sliced strawberries (plus halved strawberries to decorate top)
1/2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp lime zest
1/2 cup jam (either strawberry or raspberry)
icing sugar for dusting the top
Edible flowers for decorating (if desired)

Chantilly Cream Ingredients
2 cups whipping cream
1 1/2 tbsp icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup jam (again, either strawberry or raspberry)

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter two 8-inch baking pans. Line bottoms of pans with parchment paper. Put self-raising flour, sugar and baking powder into a mixing bowl. Stir to combine.

Add rest of the ingredients; beat together with an electric hand mixer or stand mixer until batter is smooth. Use a spatula halfway through to mix and ensure that it’s well combined.

Divide batter between the two prepared cake pans. Bake until golden (about 28-30 minutes). To check for doneness, a toothpick inserted in the centre of cakes should come out clean. Cakes should also be springy to the touch and just coming away from the sides of the pans. Cool cakes completely before assembling.

In a medium bowl, toss together the thinly-sliced strawberries, sugar and lime zest. Allow to rest/macerate until the sugar dissolves (about 15 minutes).

Chantilly Cream
In a stand mixer with whisk attachment, or handheld mixer, combine cream, icing sugar, vanilla; beat until whipping cream has medium-stiff peaks. You will see clear marks in the cream from the beaters. Then add ½ cup jam and beat again until the cream has stiff peaks. You want the cream to be fluffy, but strong enough to hold the weight of the top cake layer.

Place one of the cooled cake layers on a serving plate or cake stand. Spread ½ cup of jam on the cake layer, then top with a one-inch layer of chantilly cream. Then distribute the macerated sliced strawberries over the cream. I like to make a little edge around the outside with some cream to hold the berries in.

Place the second layer of cake on top of cream and strawberries. Make sure that the cream stays within the cake layers, so don’t push down much. If needed, run a spatula over the cream to fix it up a bit.

Dust top with icing sugar and decorate with any leftover strawberries and/or edible flowers. Serve with rest of chantilly cream. This is best eaten the day it’s made.

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