The Victoria sponge is a classic. Although there’s nothing fancy about it, when mixed and baked properly its sure to produce a cake everyone loves. Layers of vanilla sponge are put together with a middle of jam and buttercream to create the quintessential tea party cake. We all love this simple cake, but there are always ways to make your cake lighter, fluffier and – quite honestly – more delicious. This week, I’m bringing you my top tips for baking the perfect Victoria sponge!
Preparation is key. Before you begin any mixing, you should weigh out all the ingredients for the cake. This means that when you come to start mixing, you will be able to work quickly. The speedier you’re able to assemble your mixture, the less likely you are to over-mix the cake by having more stages. Conversely, leaving the cake mixture standing while you weigh something out is also not ideal. If the cake mixture stands too long, the cake will start to lose air.
It’s not just the mixture that needs prior prep. The tins also need to be greased and the bottom lined with baking parchment. Doing this in advance means that it’s a simple move from the bowl to the tin. Your cake will be in the oven in no time, making the whole process quick and easy. More importantly – less lingering results in a lighter cake.
The (pre)heat is on
Always preheat the oven before you start. As soon as your batter is ready, it can go straight into the oven with no waiting around. A well-heated oven can give a better and more consistent bake, giving you better end results.
Also, it’s worth arranging the shelves in advance – most sponge cakes like to be in the middle of the oven (unless you have a super-modern fan oven which claims that cakes can be cooked anywhere in the oven). Doing this sooner not only means you’re prepared, but you’re also less likely to burn yourself on pre-heated shelves. Save yourself – and your fingers- the hassle!
Room (temperature) at the top
Ingredients at room temperature are ideal for a good bake. Cold eggs do not whip up easily and will not hold the same volume of air as slightly warm eggs. Leaving your ingredients at room temperature will give much-needed height and fluffiness to your sponge.
While the cake ingredients should be at room temperature, the butter or baking spread you are using needs to be even warmer – but not hot. It should be soft but still holding together. If the butter or spread is too soft it becomes oily and the resulting cake heavy and dense. If the butter is too cold it takes too long to incorporate into the sugar and eggs and can cause over-mixing, which in turns means a heavy cake. Taking the time to make sure your butter is the perfect temperature will certainly pay off for your cakes!
Always sift the flour into the cake mixture, or mix the baking powder with the flour and then sift. Sifting adds air and thus lightness to a cake mixture. Use a cake flour if available, as cake flour tends to be finer milled resulting in a lighter cake. Sift out the lumps for a smooth batter and a deliciously springy cake.
When it comes to eggs, I always recommend that you use the freshest eggs possible. These give the best results and you’ll find that the egg whites are whipping up much easier than older eggs. They’ll even hold their shape better.
Another top tip for using eggs in your sponge is to whisk your eggs and sugar together until the mixture is almost white – a great indication for an airy batter.
With these tips, you can be sure you’re producing a light and fluffy cake every time. All that’s left to do is to sandwich the sponges together with your choice of jam and a vanilla buttercream. What’s your favourite jam to use?