Friday, August 2, 2013

Victoria Sponge Cake

Meow first learned about the Victoria Sponge from, of all places, anime.  Particularly, while watching Black Butler.

Screenshot of the anime

It looked simple and elegant.  But Meow started wondering "what makes it 'Victoria'?" Was it the particular type of sponge cake used (or method employed to make), or the filling, or presentation, or time of day it was enjoyed...

After a bit of digging, Meow learned that 1) anime fans tried to recreate the tea time treat, 2) it is actually a real tea time treat, enjoyed by Queen Victoria of England, hence the name.

The point of this tea time snack was that it is simple.  Only consisted of a sponge cake with raspberry jam and cream sandwiched together, along with some fruits.

Okay, this looks nothing like the anime screenshot above
but I swear it's essentially the same cake...essentially...

Well, the opportunity to make one never presented itself until now.  I was asked about where to get a cake that is lactose-intolerant friendly.  HAH!  Most commercial cakes are slathered with whipped cream, or even worse, Cool Whip.  I did suggest the friend to pick up an Angle Food Cake or Devil's Food Cake, but that makes a very sad birthday cake.  So, I followed up my suggestion with me making the cake.  Later, Meow learned that the only requirement is just not to go crazy with the milk/cream.

Searching the internets for a recipe (I know I've sworn off using internet recipes), Meow favoured recipes that came from British sites or bakers, because after all, it is a British dish.  Then, I looked at the amount of ratings and reviews and chose my recipe there.  Of course, the method also has to make sense in terms of what is needed to be achieved there.  The recipe I found, the best part I like was that the flour, sugar, and butter is measured against the weight of eggs you have, instead of a set amount.  Which makes perfect sense because eggs come in all weights and sizes.  Three small eggs with 200 g of flour will not be the same as three large eggs with 200 g of flour.

Victoria Sponge Cake
Adapted from The Guardian UK

3 eggs | Total weight with shell on --> 190 g
Equivalent weight to the eggs with shell of cake flour | 190 g
Equivalent weight to the eggs with shell of caster sugar | 190 g
Equivalent weight to the eggs with shell of softened unsalted butter | 190 g
(Get it now?)

1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp milk
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Oven preheated to 350F

1. Weigh your eggs with shell on, then measure each of your cake flour, caster sugar, and unsalted butter to the same weight in separate bowls.

2. Cube the butter and cream it with the sugar in a mixer until fluffy, add eggs

3. Combine your flour, salt, baking powder in a large bowl.

4. Sift the dry mixture over the creamed butter mixture, and fold to combine.

This is a sponge cake we're making
It is important to fluff up all the ingredients even when there is baking powder present
Keep things fluffed and light

5. Fold until combined.  If batter is quite dry and stiff (does not fall off the spatula easily), add milk in a tablespoon at a time until it drops off the spatula easily (not run or ribbons), and feels fluffy.  You may end up using more milk than stated.

No milk

2 tablespoons of milk

3 tablespoons of milk

6. Grease and parchment line the bottom of two 8" round cake pans.  Don't grease the sides, it's a sponge cake, so it needs to grip and climb to rise.  It also decreases the chance of getting a trapezoid sides cake.

7. Divide the batter evenly between the two cake pans and smooth out the top.  Don't worry about it being absolutely smooth as the heat will melt the batter down and it will settle nice and flat.

8. Bake for 15 to 30 minutes, or until skewer comes out clean.

9. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove and cool on cooling rack.

10.  In the meantime, make buttercream (or whipped cream, or use clotted cream)


120 g of unsalted butter, softened and cubed
35 g of sugar
15 mL of water
15 g of castor sugar
2 egg whites | 60 g
2 tbsp vanilla extract

1. Heat sugar with water until it reaches 240F

2. Meanwhile, whip the egg whites until frothy, then stream in the castor sugar, continue to whip until stiff peaks

3. Once the syrup is ready, slowly stream it into the meringue, continue to whip until cool and firm bird's peak

4. Add butter in one cube at a time until absorbed before adding the next.  Your meringue will deflate, look sad, turn liquid, and even cause you to doubt if you're on the right track, but you are doing it right.

5. At some point, the buttercream will curdle and look disgusting.  Add a few more tablespoons of butter and continue to whip.  This will take a while to smooth out.  I suggest you to stop and scrap down sides and give a stir every couple of minutes to help it along.

6. Once smooth, add vanilla extract.  Whip until well blended.

Assembly I

1 lb. strawberries, washed, tops cut not hulled
A handful of other berries of your choice

1. Take one cake, level it by cutting off the top if you have to, and spread a moderate to thin layer of buttercream on top.

2. Halve the strawberries, using ones of approximately the same height, arrange onto the buttercream

Like this
Kinda like making a Fraisier

3. Chop up a few more strawberries and disperse in the center along with other berries if using.  Lightly press on the berries to secure it into the buttercream

4. Pipe some, but not all, buttercream in between the strawberries to secure it

Sure, and some on top too
But don't use it all up!

5. Take the second cake, level it by cutting off the top if you have to, and spread raspberry jam on the ugly side

6. Carefully, place the jammed cake on top of the other cake.  Lightly press down to secure everything

7. Spread the rest of the buttercream on top of the cake to "seal" it and prep it for the chocolate glaze

8. Place in fridge to chill and set

I told you not to use all the buttercream!

Kinda ugly right now...

Chocolate Ganache Glaze

250 g of dark chocolate
125 mL of heavy cream
1 tsbp of corn syrup | 15 g
25 g of butter, softened or even melted

1. Chop up the chocolate

2. Bring cream, corn syrup to simmer

3. Pour over the chocolate, allow to sit for a minute, then stir to combine and smooth

4. Stir in butter.

5. Warm up the ganache again in the microwave for 10 seconds at a time until runny and pourable

Assembly II

1. Buttercream on top should be firm before proceeding

2. Set the cake onto a cooling rack and over a pan to catch run-off chocolate ganache

3. Pour ganache over top of the cake, circling outwards and close to the edge, allow to drizzle down the sides from top edge

4. Collect ganache from the pan and scrape back into the bowl if reusing to add more

5. Reserve any leftover ganache for sticking decorations onto the cake later

6. Place cake in the fridge, covered, and allow to set overnight or a few hours

Much better looking than last time
Ganache on the sides did not set immediately like last time

This side looks even better

Smooth top


A few pieces of Valrhona white chocolate
     A bit of heavy cream
     A small Ziploc bag
Several strawberries
Mint leaves

1. Pour a tiny bit of heavy cream into a bowl with the white chocolate

2. Heat in microwave for 10 seconds at a time until warm enough to melt

3. Continue to stir chocolate until smooth

4. Scrape chocolate into a Ziploc bag, make a tiny tiny incision in one corner (mimicking a pastry bag)

5. Set cake onto a cutting board or a pan

6. Squeeze chocolate bag over top the cake to make designs

7. Cut strawberry into quarters

8. With each quarter, carefully slice the sides to make an "L" cut but don't cut to the bottom

9. Carefully, slide off the top, revealing a 3-D butterfly-like slice of strawberry

10. Dab some chocolate that you have reserved previously onto the strawberry so that it is secured to the cake and arrange the strawberries

Reminant tops
Can also be arranged, perhaps like this, for decoration

Meow did not use "lightly salted" butter as the original recipe calls, the cake came out saltier than any traditional cake.  However, a bit of that buttercream, jam, and strawberry did balance it out and it tastes more like a scone.  I am imagining how decadent it would be if it is actually sandwiched with clotted cream...[Homer Simpson drool]

The idea of slicing the strawberries this way was inspired by an outing to Cora's Breakfast Restaurant a long time ago.  This place serves up fruits, waffles, eggs, and pancakes.  Almost everything came with fruits that are cut fancy.  I just remember being impressed by the apples being sliced in this manner - "L" cuts - and the slices are extended upwards like a tower.  I could just slice the strawberries normally - flat - but it does not give my cake surface any dimensions, kinda boring.  So, I experimented with L cuts on the strawberries and it worked!

From Cora's
See the apple tower?

Meow's version
If only strawberries are sturdy enough to do the same...

Meow used less cream for the glaze than stated fearing that it would not set.  However, the glaze formed a thick crispy shell, which, in hindsight, I should have used an offset spatula and spread it manually instead of drizzling more in order for it to drip down the sides.

The buttercream set hard, which makes me think that this cake is best assemble the day of, with the buttercream whipped to fluff.  Or better yet, just do it with stabilized whipped cream as it is supposed to be with whipped cream.

Flavour is quite good, less so like a scone as the taste test yielded, more balanced.  Even Meow Mother liked it and marvelled that it's not sweet.  Others marvelled that the chocolate isn't bitter or sweet as they were expecting it.  I think there's this inherent fear with the Chinese that desserts is a bar of sugar and then some.

Meow thinks the only reason the waitresses thinks this was a homemade cake
was that it came in a plastic cake caddy.
Had it come in a cardboard cake box, I think I'd get asked where I'd bought
the cake -_-u

Meow showed a picture of the finished cake to Mr. Meow.  Of course, he says it looks good.  Though I did mention that it is supposed to be a Victoria Sponge, that it is supposed to be just jam, fruits, and cream, and that Meow has probably taken this 10 notches overboard :P  He pats me on the head...

This is Uncasual Patisserie after all...

Meow did make a more normal looking mini one later though
Just to see what it might taste like without the chocolate


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