A couple of weeks ago, I volunteered to bake a cake for a Red Nose Day bake sale at work, knowing that Victoria sponge cake was coming up soon in HtE.
I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone; bake a cake for charity and tick off another recipe.
I’ve baked a few different types of cakes in the past with varying levels of success, but I’ve never made a Victoria sponge cake before.
So Thursday evening, I got home late from work and surveyed our kitchen was the usual disaster zone – because it’s where our dogs live. My husband took the dogs out for a walk and I set about blitzing the kitchen using a mountain of anti-bacterial wipes.
I make this point because in addition to feeling a little nervous about the success of my cake, I was also extremely worried about munintentionally feeding my office-mates cake a la dog hair.
Once the kitchen was completely clean (and dog free), I set about making the sponge.
I enlisted the help of my recently purchased over-indulgent, treat yo’self stand mixer (more on this later) to speed things up a bit.
Being new to using stand mixers, I was a little skeptical about the chuck-it-in-and-mix method. I’ve always made cakes the old-fashioned way, by creaming the butter and sugar together first. In HtE Nigella says winging it all in the mixer is a revelation, but she does confess that neglecting the beating method means the sponge will be less airy.
Fearing, so some stupid reason, that the stand mixer method would leave me with a dense, possibly solid sponge (which I’ve encountered many times before) I decided to cream the butter and sugar together in the mixer first.
But then I couldn’t remember what came next in the traditional method (had I gone to the effort of turning the page, I would have found out), so I carelessly chucked everything else into the mixer and turned it up to 11. I added the milk and when the batter looked suitably drippy, poured into the two sandwich tins.
Into the oven they went.
Next problem: oven temperature.
The recipe said 180°C – but I have a fan assisted oven. Did Nigella have a fan assisted oven, or a normal conventional oven? If it was the latter, then I needed to put my oven on at 160°C. But would that be too cool for cake baking?
Did she mention it at the beginning of the book?
I flicked back to the introduction, certain that I’d seen a section about oven temperatures at some point… I couldn’t find it.
So I went for 170°C – a happy medium between the two. And then I watched the sponges rise, which is something I never normally do because a) I rarely make cakes and when I do they don’t seem to rise and b) I recently cleaned my oven so I can now actually see stuff through the window.
After 25 minutes had gone by, I gingerly opened the over door and had a minor freak out when the sponges started to sink.
I dipped a skewer* into the sponge and it came out clean. So I took them out of the oven and left them in their tins for a couple of minutes before flipping them onto a rack and leaving them to cool.
*One of those gigantic kebab skewers meant for barbecues, because I don’t have a fine skewer or cake tester.
Once cool, I loaded up the sponges with raspberry jam. I’m not a fan of butter cream. I understand that it’s longer lasting, but the taste of it does nothing for me. It tastes too much like butter mixed with sugar… Which is pretty much all it is.
Next, I whipped up some double cream and awkwardly spooned it into my new piping bag and spattered it onto the sponge in a much less artistic way than I had imagined.
I was about to put the second sponge on top and call it a day, when I decided to load that one up with raspberry jam as well.
What can I say, I just really like jam.
I carefully lifted the second sponge and placed it on top, then I sprinkled the whole thing with icing sugar.
It looked pretty damn good. Like, really good. In fact, after my various sauce-based disasters recently, I couldn’t believe that I had made something that looked that good.
Sadly, I have no idea how it tasted because it all went at the charity bake. I suppose I could have bought a slice, but that seemed a little vain. Besides, someone else had made chocolate brownies stuffed with Maltesers, so I bought that instead.
…I might have to make another Victoria sponge this afternoon, just to taste test…