less than 30 mins
10 to 30 mins
Makes 12 slices
Mary Berry Victoria Sponge Perfection
The traditional Victoria sandwich is a baking classic and a tasty tea-time treat.
By Mary Berry
From The Mary Berry Story
- 4 free-range eggs
- 225g/8oz caster sugar, plus a little extra for dusting the finished cake
- 225g/8oz self-raising flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 225g/8oz baking spread, margarine or soft butter at room temperature, plus a little extra to grease the tins
- good-quality strawberry or raspberry jam
- whipped double cream (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
- Grease and line 2 x 20cm/8in sandwich tins: use a piece of baking or silicone paper to rub a little baking spread or butter around the inside of the tins until the sides and base are lightly coated. Line the bottom of the tins with a circle of baking or silicone paper (to do this, draw around the base of the tin onto the paper and cut out).
- Break the eggs into a large mixing bowl, then add the sugar, flour, baking powder and baking spread.
- Mix everything together until well combined. The easiest way to do this is with an electric hand mixer, but you can use a wooden spoon. Put a damp cloth under your bowl when you’re mixing to stop it moving around. Be careful not to over-mix – as soon as everything is blended you should stop. The finished mixture should be of a soft ‘dropping’ consistency – it should fall off a spoon easily.
- Divide the mixture evenly between the tins: this doesn’t need to be exact, but you can weigh the filled tins if you want to check. Use a spatula to remove all of the mixture from the bowl and gently smooth the surface of the cakes.
- Place the tins on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 25 minutes. Don’t be tempted to open the door while they’re cooking, but after 20 minutes do look through the door to check them.
- The cakes are done when they’re golden-brown and coming away from the edge of the tins. Press them gently to check – they should be springy to the touch. Remove them from the oven and set aside to cool in their tins for five minutes. Then run a palette or rounded butter knife around the inside edge of the tin and carefully turn the cakes out onto a cooling rack.
- To take your cakes out of the tins without leaving a wire rack mark on the top, put the clean tea towel over the tin, put your hand onto the tea towel and turn the tin upside-down. The cake should come out onto your hand and the tea towel – then you can turn it from your hand onto the wire rack.
- Set aside to cool completely.
- To assemble the cake, place one cake upside down onto a plate and spread it with plenty of jam. If you want to, you can spread over whipped cream too.
- Top with the second cake, top-side up. Sprinkle over the caster sugar.
The Mary Berry Victoria sponge isn’t a very difficult recipe but there are some bits that can get a little tricky. Here are some top tips for serving the perfect Victoria sponge:
Room Temperature: Cold eggs and butter do not make for a fluffy sponge. since cold ones curdle the mixture, resulting in an inferior rise. Remove all of your ingredients from the fridge and let them warm and soften before mixing together.
Work quickly: Don’t get frazzled, but this recipe doesn’t take kindly to dawdling!
Eggs: Use the freshest eggs available, and don’t beat them together all at once. Carefully separate the whites from the yolks, beat the whites with half of the sugar until stiff, then sprinkle in the rest of the sugar and whisk it in. Then add your yolks.
Beat in that Air: Beat the butter and sugar together very, very well. You need all the air bubbles you can get!
Light Flour: Use cake flour for a really fluffy Victoria sponge, and be sure to sift it. Some recipes even call for using a little corn flour, which makes it even lighter.
Metal Spoon: When folding in the flour, use a metal spoon; the sharp edge will cut through the mixture “with the minimum of air release.” More air!
Cake Tins: If you have electronic scales, weigh the mixture in the sponge tins. It’s easier than trying to judge by eye if the cake mixture has been divided equally.
For the ultimate Mary Berry Victoria sponge use good-quality tins. Silver-coloured are better than black, which absorb more heat and can make the outside of the cake dark. I rate the Silverwood tins, available from Amazon and good kitchen shops.
Oven: Make sure that your oven’s temperature is accurate, preheat before sticking in your cake, and don’t you dare open the door until it’s finished baking!
Serving: Let the cakes cool before you sandwich them together and cut them with a sharp knife and delicate hand.
Make the Best of It: Although simple to make, Victoria sponge recipes are notoriously sensitive to cooking times and temperatures and the Mary Berry Victoria sponge recipe is no different. Some oven manufacturers even use a Victoria sponge recipe to test their ovens.
So if the absolute worst should happen and you’re left with a sunken, pitted monstrosity, don’t pitch it in the dustbin just yet! Cut your sponges into cubes and layer them in a dish and make a trifle instead.
You can make victoria sponge cupcake or mary berry mini victoria sponge from the mixture, or add fresh fruit to the filling. Even create mary berry victoria sponge slices by using two rectangular baking tins or make a big tray bake and then shower the top with hundreds and thousands/sprinkles.
Sophie Dahl layers her Mary Berry Victoria sponge cake with buttercream as well as jam. This has the advantage that the cake keeps better than one filled with fresh cream and won’t need to be refrigerated, which tends to dry out the sponge. But fresh cream is the real deal, mellowing the full flavour of the jam without over-sweetening the cake.
Nigella, who is a cream, jam and fresh raspberries advocate, adds cornflour to her cake mix. It’s a trick that American cooks use to reduce the gluten levels in their all-purpose flour, which equates to our strong bread flour. With our naturally lower gluten plain flour, made from “softer” British wheat, it gives the cake an airy quality.
Queen of cakes Mary Berry insists that margarine makes for a lighter texture than butter. This is true, especially for the “all-in-one” method, where all the ingredients are beaten to a batter in a food processor.
Store at Room Temperature.
Never refrigerate. Refrigeration will dry sponge cakes out. It’s that simple.
Even if you refrigerate the sponge in a perfectly sealed container and only for a short amount of time, it will dry out.
Most sponge cakes like the Mary Berry Victoria sponge are at their prime when freshly baked, so whenever possible, bake and eat cakes the day they are made. The best, freshest cakes are positively irresistible, so storage won’t be so much of an issue. They’ll be gone before you know it!
Prepare ahead The cake is best (and probably will be) eaten on the day of baking, but it will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days.
For Long Term Storage: Freeze the unfilled layers.
Freezing helps seal the moisture in whereas refrigerating dries things out.
The unfilled layers of the Mary Berry Victoria sponge can be frozen separately, with the base papers on, for up to 3 months. Wrap each layer in foil and put in a freezer bag.
If you know that you want to serve a cake more than three days after its baking, seal it in an airtight container and freeze it. When you’re ready to eat it, let it slowly thaw at room temperature.
History behind the Mary Berry Victoria Sponge
In 1861, Queen Victoria had been on the throne for almost a quarter century, when she suffered the tragic death of her husband, Albert. She was famous for her devotion to him, and would remain in mourning for the rest of her life.
In this same year a landmark cookbook was published, Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, and it included a recipe for “Victoria Sandwiches”
Their weight in pounded sugar, butter and flour
1/4 saltspoonful of salt
A layer of any kind of jam or marmalade.
Beat the butter to a cream; dredge in the flour and pounded sugar; stir these ingredients well together, and add the eggs, which should be previously thoroughly whisked.
When the mixture has been well beaten for about 10 minutes, butter a Yorkshire-pudding tin, pour in the batter, and bake it in a moderate oven for 20 minutes. Let it cool, spread one half of the cake with a layer of nice preserve, place over it the other half of the cake, press the pieces slightly together, and then cut it into long finger-pieces; pile them in cross bars on a glass dish, and serve. Time.— 20 minutes. Average cost, 1s 3d. Sufficient for 5 or 6 persons. Seasonable at any time.
Anna Maria Russell, 7th Duchess of Bedford and one of Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting, is said to have invented afternoon tea.
She had a habit of getting a bit peckish between lunchtime and her very late dinner, and began requesting that a tray of tea with bread and butter be served to her around four o’ clock to ward off the hunger pangs. Once she started inviting her lady friends over during these times, the afternoon snack became quite an event; the menu got more creative, and a national tradition was born.
Food expert Clarissa Dickson Wright explains that the Victoria Sponge originated at the nursery tea. Afternoon tea cakes in early Victorian days would have consisted of a fruit cake and a seed cake. For safety reasons, it was believed that children should not eat a cake containing pieces of fruit or seeds, so the light, harmless Victoria Sponge was created as their teatime treat. It wasn’t until later that the Victoria Sponge made its way to the adult tea table.
By 1885 the Victoria Sponge Cake was showing up at the tea parties which Queen Victoria was being encouraged to host to get her out of her seclusion.
Victoria sandwiches were soon all the rage, and eventually became the measuring stick by which the home baker was judged. And this is no laughing matter! The Women’s Institute takes it most seriously of all and their Victoria sponge competition is the cookery equivalent of a driving test. They have strict guidelines on the “correct” way to make this cake, and it involves raspberry preserves and caster (not icing) sugar, and no buttercream. There are brutal competitions amongst British bakers to see who can make the fluffiest sponge.