Skip to 0 minutes and 10 seconds The Victorians were very big on baking. For Jubilee they even had baking competitions with cash prizes equivalent to a year’s salary. One baker is known to have made 100 tonnes of cakes for the Jubilee.
Skip to 0 minutes and 26 seconds First of all, you’ll need to preheat your oven to 180 degrees C, or 350 Fahrenheit, or Gas Mark 4. The Victorians wouldn’t need to do this, as they had coal fired ovens that were constantly hot. Modern Victoria sponges tend to be large round cakes, but in Victoria’s day they would be more likely to be made in a large rectangular or square baking tin and then cut into fingers, something like this. Grease your tin using butter and sugar. The sugar will give the sponge a lovely, crispy meringue-like coating.
Skip to 1 minute and 2 seconds Our main ingredients are six eggs, 12 ounces, or 675 grams of caster sugar, eight ounces, or a pound of flour. Though modern versions of the Victoria sponge use fat, the Victorian’s often didn’t. We’re going to make a Victoria sandwich without, delicious and better for our waistlines. To make their cakes rise the Victorians would simply whisk their eggs in a copper bowl. The egg and the copper react to create a self-raising agent. The eggs need to be whisked for at least five minutes until they turn into a stiff foam. You can squeeze in a few drops of lemon juice to help the raising along a little if you don’t have a copper bowl.
Skip to 1 minute and 36 seconds If it’s easier, you can always add a little baking powder later on, about half a teaspoon will do the job.
Skip to 1 minute and 46 seconds Next, with your hands mix the caster sugar into the whisked eggs, then mix in the flour by hand, too. This is a great way of combining ingredients. At this stage, you can add a couple of tablespoons of ground almonds to the recipe. The Victorian middle classes often did this to help the sponge cake to keep for longer. Finally, for total authenticity, add a couple of teaspoons of orange flower water. This ingredient is generally used in the perfume industry, and provides delicious aroma to this dessert. Nowadays you can find it in most supermarkets.
Skip to 2 minutes and 27 seconds Pour your mixture into the baking tin, then place a folded wet cloth around the edge of the tin and put it in place. This will keep the top of the cake flat. I’m using butter muslin or cheesecloth, but you can buy modern cake bands that do the same thing. Now just pop the sponge in the open for about 30 minutes.
Skip to 2 minutes and 53 seconds Take it out of the oven. You can use a skewer to test it. Put it in, and if it comes out dry then it’s ready. Then let it cool and cut it in half.
Skip to 3 minutes and 4 seconds Cut it into pieces to look like finger sandwiches. You should be able to make about 10 or 20 servings, depending on how long you’ve made your sandwiches. Now it’s time to fill each sandwich with a preserve. You can fill each one with a different jam, or use the same one for all of them. It’s up to you.
The Victorian Cook-a-long
In this Cook-a-long video, Food Historian Dr Annie Gray, shows you how to make a Victoria Sandwich, the perfect accompaniment to an afternoon tea.
Please note: The quantities referred to in ounces in the video are correct, but the conversions are not. To ensure you use the correct quantities, check the PDF recipe below.
Tempted to taste this dish? Why not try making it at home, in the comfort of your own kitchen and let us know how you get on? You can download a PDF of the recipe to accompany this video.
For the keen cook amongst you (or for those who’d prefer to taste an alternative dish!) we’ve provided some additional recipes to choose from in the next Step.
Don’t forget to mark this Step as ‘Complete’ before you move on.
© Historic Royal Palaces.