A Victoria Sponge (or Victoria Sandwich) is that most quintessential of all British afternoon tea cakes. It is hard to picture an afternoon tea without dainty sandwiches, scones, and a freshly-made Victoria Sandwich, two layers of delicate sponge with jam between and topped with a dusting of icing sugar.
The modern version has evolved and frequently includes a filling of whipped cream, perhaps even a topping of fresh strawberries. Whatever takes your fancy.
But to me, the true Victoria Sandwich that I grew up with is a much simpler cake. Just jam and icing sugar.
A Peckish Queen
The cake reputedly originates back to the 19th century and our beloved Queen Victoria. It is said that she had a tendency to feel a little peckish by about four in the afternoon.
To fill this gap between meals, one of her ladies-in-waiting came up with her namesake baked item. This and perhaps a cucumber sandwich and cup of tea would be enough to tide one over until supper. It was also during this era that the queen’s habit of afternoon tea parties caught on and became more widespread. Mrs Beeton includes a recipe in her books, as does Marguerite Patten in the 20th century. Neither version includes cream. Strawberry jam, raspberry jam, or lemon curd are all suitable fillings.
In all fairness, versions of the Victoria Sandwich probably existed before the 19th century, but it is now forever linked to that era.
Victoria Sponge Recipe
One of the wonderful things about the Victoria Sponge is that it is delightfully easy and quick to make. Perfect for that sudden message that people are arriving in an hour or so!
The recipe below is for the traditional cream-free version, but feel free to add toppings or fillings to suit you.
6oz/ 175g sugar
6oz/175g self-raising flour
jam for filling
icing sugar for dusting
Preheat your oven to Gas 4 or 180C. Grease or line two 8 inch round baking pans.
Cream together the butte rand sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Beat the eggs and then add to the butter mixture, creaming as you add. Finally sift in the flour and carefully fold. Marguerite Patten suggests using a metal spoon rather than an electric mixer so that you do not over-beat and get an uneven sponge.
Spoon the mixture into the two tins and bake for 20-25 minutes. Cool for a few minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cook completely.
Spread one layer with jam and position the other layer on top. Finish with a dusting of icing sugar.