A Victoria sponge cake (or a “Vicky” sponge, as a beloved British friend calls it) is a traditional, everyday English treat, best served at teatime. It is so easy to make that, despite its two layers, Americans might even refer to it as a “snacking cake” and serve it whenever a cake craving hits, be it during the afternoon with a cup of tea, or not. I quite like it for casual celebrations or after an intimate dinner party; and yes, a slice is excellent for breakfast, as well.
The cake, often referred to as a “sandwich,” is named after Queen Victoria herself, who legend has it did indeed enjoy a slice every day at 4:00 p.m. Typically, raspberry jam and whipped “double cream,” the U.K.’s slightly thicker version of American heavy cream, are spread between its two layers. The cake is finished with nothing more than a generous dusting of confectioners’ sugar, just like so many of its simple snacking cake brethren.
A proper Vicky sponge, not unlike an American pound cake, requires that its eggs (shells and all), butter, sugar, and flour all weigh about the same amount. Self-rising (or “raising” to the Brits) flour is called for, due to its ease of use; though Mary Berry uses a touch of baking powder as well, and I—of course—felt compelled to follow suit. That said, we did part ways when it came to flavoring the cake. I added a little vanilla to the batter, notwithstanding the fact that it is traditionally omitted, and I fear Ms. Berry would not approve.
Although the cake is easy to assemble—sugar and butter are creamed, eggs and then dry ingredients are added—many recipes do instruct that the finished batter have a “dropping consistency.” This means a texture just soft and loose enough that a dollop of batter on a downward pointing spoon will drop or slide off. This is achieved in some recipes with the addition of a few tablespoons of milk or warm water. I went the warm water route and ended up adding about 4 tablespoons before “dropping” occurred, but any number between 1 and 4 may do the trick for you. And don’t sweat it if, after 4 tablespoons, your consistency is not as drop-worthy as you had hoped. The cake is pretty foolproof, enough to make both Victoria and Mary proud.
- Prep time 1 hour
- Cook time 25 minutes
- makes One 8-inch cake
1 3/4 cups
(198 grams) self-rising flour
(4 grams) baking powder
(197 grams) unsalted butter, softened
(198 grams) granulated sugar
large eggs, at room temperature
(14 grams) vanilla, divided
(227 grams) heavy cream, cold
confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting
(225 grams) raspberry jam
- Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease two 8-inch cake pans with cooking spray or softened butter and line with parchment paper.
- Whisk the flour and baking powder in a small bowl.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping the bowl with a flexible spatula as needed. On low speed, add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until combined. Then add 2 teaspoons of vanilla. The batter will curdle—don’t worry.
- With the mixer still running on low, slowly add the flour mixture and mix just until incorporated. Do not overmix. Scrape the bowl (the batter should be thick). Remove the bowl from the mixer and, with a flexible spatula, gently fold in 1 tablespoon of warm water. Repeat in 1-tablespoon increments (up to 4 tablespoons total) until the batter is of a dropping consistency (meaning that a spoonful of the batter will leisurely drop or slide off a downward-facing spoon).
- Evenly divide the batter between the two pans (a scale comes in handy if you want to be exact—about 420 grams of batter per pan), smoothing the tops with an offset spatula. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, rotating the pans at the halfway point. The cakes are ready when a tester inserted in the center of the cakes comes out with a moist crumb or two.
- Let the cakes cool in their pans for about 15 minutes. Now run a knife around their edges and remove them from their pans, peeling off the parchment before placing them right side up onto a cooling rack to finish cooling to room temperature.
- Make the whipped cream: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, on medium-high speed, whisk the heavy cream, confectioners’ sugar, and the remaining teaspoon of vanilla until medium to stiff peaks form.
- Spread one of the cooled cake layers, rounded side up, with the jam. Spread the whipped cream over the jam and top with the second layer, rounded side up again, pressing down slightly. Generously dust the confectioners’ sugar over the cake.
- To slice the cake, use a long serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion. The cake will keep in the refrigerator, lightly covered in plastic wrap, for up to 3 days.