Victoria sponge cake is a bit old-fashioned and not everyone wants to make them any more. The taste of a homemade sponge cake is totally different from anything else bought in a shop and it is not that difficult to make. It’s just like a giant cup cake. I hate that word ‘cup’ cake.
I can remember one Christmas our cooker blew up taking my mother’s eyelashes, eyebrows and a good chunk of her hair. Her only crime was to open the oven door. The gas board got the blame and I can remember coming home from school to find two ladies from the gas board in our kitchen making Victoria sponges. Apparently this was the tried and tested scientific method to see how the gas was performing in the cooker.
As a child I would know that a particularly good slice of Victoria sponge cake could be had at Mr and Mrs Thomas’s house, they lived in a house across from ours. Every afternoon on the dot of four Mrs Thomas a tall American lady who sported a short bob and always wore a tweed suit, would load up the wooden tea trolley and wheel it through to the sitting room where Mr Thomas would appear from his workshop in the garden to join her in their ritual cup of tea and solitary slice of cake. Mrs Thomas didn’t have children of her own and had a reputation of speaking her mind, which didn’t endear her to her fellow neighbours. She also did not take kindly to children save for a few exceptions. Guess what? I was one of the few exceptions, and would often sit quietly in one of their oversized armchairs whilst stuffing myself with tea and cake listening to the grown up chat with one eye on the chance of a second slice (it never came, but there was always hope). Once or twice I did take Mark who lived further up round to the French windows and we would stand and wait for the beckoning finger, sometimes we were beckoned and other times we were ignored. Tea and cake was never a certainty at the Thomas’s but yearning for something always makes it taste all the better.
Chocolate Victoria Sponge Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Filling
6 oz/175g unsalted butter
6 oz/175g caster sugar
3 eggs large beaten
5 oz/150g self raising flour
1 oz/25g cocoa powder
1 tbs warm water (optional)
2 tbsp cocoa powder
4 oz/100g softened butter
4oz/100g icing sugar
Icing sugar to dust or split the buttercream and put half between sponges and the other half on top.
Turn oven to Gas mark 4/180C/350F.
Beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until it is light in colour then mix in the eggs a little at a time – putting too much in will make the mixture curdle. If this happens add a tablespoon of the weighed out flour and keep mixing until it blends to a smooth consistency.
Sift the flour and cocoa powder into the bowl with the butter and sugar and fold it in. If the mixture is slightly heavy add the water. I mostly add the water but this time the eggs might have been a little larger so I didn’t add it.
Now divide the mixture between two 8-inch sandwich tins. Level with a knife and put both tins in the middle of the oven for about 20 minutes. In my gas oven I leave them for just over 25 minutes. All cookers cook differently so you need to check. I know when they are ready because when I gently push the top with my finger the sponge bounces back. Another sign is the sponge is slightly coming away from the sides of the tin.
Cool on a wire rack – don’t put the sponge top side down as it with appear with criss cross marks.
To make the buttercream soften the butter and then add the sifted icing sugar and cocoa and beat until smooth. If you find the buttercream heavy add a tablespoon of milk and beat this in.
Sandwich together the two halves and either sift icing sugar over the top or split the buttercream adding half in between the sponges and half on top, if you want to go further you could then add chocolate buttons.