Emma Roberts: Baking with Emma . . . Victoria sponge

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This might seem a little obvious but did you know that the Victoria Sponge was named after Queen Victoria?

General sponge cakes have been around in one form or another for about 400 years but it was after Prince Albert died in 1861 when Queen Victoria retreated to Osborne House on the Isle of White where she discovered her pleasure for a slice of sponge cake with her afternoon tea (don’t we all), and it was around then that the Victoria Sponge was born.

So this is where we start for this week’s recipe. One of the first cakes I remember my mum making was a traditional Victoria Sponge for when my Nana would come to visit. I can see them now sitting in the lounge with a cup of tea (I remember this well because I hate the smell of tea) and slice of cake nattering about something I wasn’t allowed to hear.

I used to think it must be an easy cake to make and it is, in principle, but it’s taken me a little while to perfect the technique. The first one I made was a complete disaster! I opened the oven door too early and it completely sank in the middle. So a little tip... don’t open the door during the first three quarters of the cooking time! This is pretty much a golden rule for anything you bake that needs to rise.

There are some variations on the recipe but it all depends on your personal preference. I prefer to fill with raspberry jam but you can also use strawberry. Do you use fresh cream or buttercream and do you put the jam on the bottom or top? It really doesn’t matter. As long as you get the basics right, you can’t go far wrong with the rest.

My recipe is nice and simple and produces a moist yet light cake and, I realise that I’m giving away one of my most precious secrets, but I also use this recipe for my celebration cakes and cupcakes.

200g butter/margarine

200g caster sugar

4 eggs

2 drops of vanilla essence

200g plain flour

2 teaspoons of baking powder

275ml double cream

30g icing sugar plus extra for decorating

2 drops of vanilla essence

5-6 tablespoons of good quality raspberry jam

1 Preheat oven to 180 degrees centigrade or gas mark 4.

2 Grease and line the bottoms of two 20cm sandwich tins with greaseproof paper.

3 Cream butter/margarine, sugar and vanilla.

4 Add one egg followed by a few tablespoons of flour and mix. Continue this process until all eggs and flour combined.

5 Add baking powder. If the mixture is a little stiff, add a tablespoon of warm water.

6 Divide the mixture between the two tins and level with the back of a spoon.

7 Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until the sides of the cake have shrunk slightly from the side of the tins. The sponge should spring back slightly when pressed and when inserting a skewer, should come out clean. Leave for about 10 minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

8 Once completely cooled, spread one layer of cake with jam.

9 Put the cream, icing sugar and vanilla into a bowl and whip until thick. If you’re like me and your arms aren’t up to it, use an electric whisk. Spread the cream on top of the jam and place the other cake on top.

10 Sprinkle with icing sugar and you’re done. Then cut yourself a slice and enjoy. In my experience, it’s best to stop after the third slice.