It’s easy to get stuck in a tea party rut, particularly if you don’t want to deviate too far from tradition. But something as simple as a new twist on a classic Victoria sponge will provide your perfect English tea party with a showstopper centerpiece.
I grew up with traditions of weekend high tea. After a lunchtime Sunday roast at my grandparents’ house, we were always too full for a cooked dinner. So at about 5 or 6pm, after we kids had played in the garden and the adults had chatted about those mysterious grown-up things, we’d reconvene in the kitchen to put together plates of sandwiches and cakes freshly-baked by my grandma. I’d lay out the teacups on their saucers, my mother would tend to the brewing tea, and my brothers would distribute the matching tea plates. It was a familiar ritual throughout my childhood, and one which I looked forward to eagerly on our regular visits.
My grandma made a fantastic variety of cakes and pastries, from cream horns to apple tarts. But the most excitement was always saved for her Victoria Sponge. It’s her basic recipe I’ve used here, because it really is so simple — you can knock one up with minimal ingredients and time, yet with a few little twists, you can seriously impress your guests.
A classic Victoria sponge is sandwiched together with strawberry jelly and cream. Instead of the jelly, why not caramelize some fresh strawberries? With a touch of vanilla, it adds a note of light sweetness, while keeping that real summer strawberry taste.
Then make it extra eye-catching with the simple addition of a few halved strawberries and a dusting of icing sugar as decoration on the top. It makes for a cake that’s as visually inviting as it is delicious, while being child’s play to do.
Victoria sponge has always been an ideal cake to accompany tea; its flavors are not overpowering, and the light sponge pairs particularly well with black teas. The strawberry filling in this cake, with its caramel sweetness and vanilla notes, makes the Mindful Morning Tea Blend a partner made in heaven. The light perfume of Earl Grey and the hint of citrus and honey will balance the strawberry and cream perfectly. This morning tea will be a late afternoon revelation when paired with a slice of Victoria Sponge.
*Note: Original recipe is by weight. We’ve given approximate conversions where applicable.
Showstopper Victoria Sponge Recipe
For the cake
- 300g (about 2 3/4 cup) self-rising flour
- 300g (about 1 1/8 cup or 2 1/4 sticks) butter
- 300g (about 1 1/8 cup) caster sugar
- 5 eggs
- 1 tablespoon milk
- A few drops vanilla extract
For the filling
- 200g (about 1 cup) strawberries (keep back 4-5 berries for decoration)
- 60g (about 1/3 cup) light brown sugar
- 40g (about 3 tablespoons) butter
- Vanilla seeds from half a pod
- 150ml (about 2/3 cup) double cream
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and line two 9-inch round cake tins.
Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl, then beat in the eggs one at a time, adding a pinch of flour as needed to prevent curdling.
Sift in the rest of the flour and fold the mixture together. Add the vanilla and milk and stir in gently.
Divide the mixture between the tins and bake for about 90 minutes, or until the sponges are golden and a skewer comes out clean. You may need to cover the cakes to prevent burning on top near the end of the baking time.
Turn out the cakes onto a wire rack to cool, and in the meantime, make the strawberry filling.
For the filling:
Heat the butter in a pan and slice up the strawberries thinly. Add them with the sugar and vanilla to the pan and stir together until coated in the butter.
Cook for about 10 minutes, until the strawberries have softened slightly, and set the mixture aside to cool.
Whip the cream with an electric whisk until stiff.
Assemble the cake:
Carefully slice off the very top of one cake — this will be the bottom layer. Cover it with a generous layer of cream, and then with the caramelized strawberries.
Put the second cake on top. Dust with icing sugar. Halve the leftover strawberries and attach to the top of the cake with dots of cream.
Photos are courtesy of the author.