To the left is the Queen of baking, Mary Berrys’, Victoria sponge!
Happy Easter, spring solstice (which I believe fell on March 20th this year) or whatever else you may have been celebrating this weekend !! Whatever you did I hope it involved cake. Is there anything more wonderful than tucking into a delicious slice of moist cake filled with your favourite flavours, fillings and fruits or smothered in your favourite icing or topping? From afternoon tea with your nan to birthdays and Christmas, is there any occasion that cant be improved with the perfect sponge?
When world war two ended in 1945 the government immediately suspended rationing for butter, eggs and sugar the main ingredients for cake baking. As a result the country went into cake making overdrive with cake competitions popping up all over the place. As the street parties were getting into full swing women up and down the country started pulling out recipes and ingredients that had not been used for years as the country enjoyed one day of joyous celebrations before the reality of re-building the nation physically and emotionally kicked in.
Below are my favourite recipes for two classic teatime treats.
This is a true classic and whether you like it with raspberry or strawberry jam, cream or butter cream, iced or un-iced the sponge is exactly the same. The recipe I use, and is guaranteed to make the perfect sponge, is from the Grand Dame of baking Mary Berry.
You will need:
4 free-range whole eggs
225g/ caster sugar
225g/8oz self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
225g/8oz soft butter at room temperature, plus a little extra to grease the tins
1) Cream together the butter and the sugar until it is a very pale yellow colour.
2) Gradually add in eggs and continue to mix until the mixture has emulsified.
3) Sieve in the flour and baking powder, half at a time and fold this in to maximise the amount of air in the mixture.
4) Divide the mixture into two pre-greased tins and bake in the oven at 180 or gas mark 4 for 20-30 minutes. You will know its cooked when it springs back to the touch or you can pull a knife or cake skewer out of it clean.
5) Turn the cakes out onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before finishing with your favourite fillings and toppings.
The Lemon drizzle cake, Zingy and fresh, has been a favourite of mine since I was a little girl when I would go to the café of the local museum in my childhood town. Back in those days museum cafes were independently run operations where all the food was home-made unlike the commercial enterprises that pass for museum cafes nowadays. When that same museum self-published their own cook book/pamphlet I nagged my mother to buy me one and you can guess which recipe I found and made first?! I still have that little recipe book, slightly ragged and covered in various food stuffs and yes over the years I have put my own stamp on that lemon drizzle cake from the museum but the basic recipe is still the same one I used to use as a little girl. So here it is….
Victoria and the Museums lemon drizzle cake
You will need:
125g softened butter
125g caster sugar
200g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
Juice of 4 lemons
Zest of 1 lemon
3 Free-range eggs
dash of water
1) Cream together the butter, lemon zest and 125g sugar (adding in the lemon zest at this stage helps to release the lemon oils form the skin)
2) Gradually add the eggs and continue to beat until emulsified
3) Sieve in the flour and fold
4) Put into 1 large loaf tin or, as I like to do little mini loaf tins or cases.
5) Bake at 220 for 15-20 minutes.
6) While this is in the oven prepare a hot lemon syrup from the juice of 1 lemon, a dash of water and 50g sugar. Heat and reduce over a low heat until a syrup consitancy.
7) Next make the cold, crunchy lemon drizzle topping by putting the other 100g sugar into a bowl with the juice of 3 lemons and a dash of water if needed.
8) Once the cake or cakes have come out of the oven, place on a cooling rack. Prick with a fork to allow the syrup to trickle through the sponge and brush with the warm lemon syrup.
9) Allow to cool slightly and then smother with the cold lemon and sugar topping. Once this sets it will have the characteristic sweet, sour and crunchy topping of a lemon drizzle cake-mmmmm!