“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” ― Julia Child

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

We Are Most Amused, And In The Mood For Some Cake

Just the other day I had the good fortune to be selected as the new Front Of House Supervisor for The Granary Restaurant at Sissinghurst Castle. For those of you who don't know what or where that is, it's located between Biddenden and Cranbrook  and you can read all about the castle and its lovely gardens here.
I went for a trial shift on Sunday, and having never even been to the castle before, wasn't sure what to expect although I had been told the food was great. That much is true, and we served a lot of it, and it certainly smelled fantastic. All the staff were uniformly good, everyone knew where they were supposed to be and what they were meant to be doing, so it looks like I'm not going to have too much trouble watching over the place. As to a more in-depth review, I'm leaving that to others as it would possibly be a conflict of interest!

I came home today from the town and discovered in my absence that Mum had made that most wonderful of baked goods, the classic Victoria Sponge Cake. Wow, is that thing delicious. Again, not one that my Colonial cousins would know about, so let me describe it to you in words and pictures.

The traditional British Victoria Sponge was named after Queen Victoria of England (1819 – 1901). Apparently, one of Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting, Anna, the Duchess of Bedford, is said to have been the creator of ‘teatime’. Because lunch was traditionally served at midday, the Duchess would get a little hungry about four o'clock in the afternoon. The Duchess spent most summers at Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire, and it became quite common for friends to join the Duchess for an additional afternoon meal in her rooms at Belvoir Castle. The menu would consist of small cakes, bread and butter sandwiches, assorted sweets, and, of course, tea. This summer practice proved so popular, the Duchess continued it when she returned to London, and she would send invitations to her friends asking them to join her for “tea”. The practice of inviting friends to come for tea in the afternoon was quickly picked up by other social hostesses, and soon Queen Victoria herself adopted the new craze for tea parties. By 1855, the Queen and her ladies were in formal dress for the afternoon teas. Rather than having lots of small individual cakes, this simple large cake became one of the Queen's favourites. After her husband, Prince Albert, died in 1861, Queen Victoria spent time in retreat at her residence, Osborn House on the Isle of Wight. According to historians, it was here that the cake was named after her.

All too often the Victoria Sponge is not well made, and is just a flat heavy sponge cake rather than the light and fluffy sponge that it should be, sandwiched together with strawberry or raspberry jam and occasionally buttercream or whipped cream if you're feeling devilish.

Here's a recipe:


1 cup (125g/4¼ oz) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup (125g/4¼ oz) powdered (icing) sugar
1 cup (225g/ 8 oz) butter, softened
2 eggs
1/2 cup (125 ml / 4¼ fl.oz) milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease an 8 inch springform pan or two 8in cake pans. Sift the flour and baking powder into a medium bowl and set aside.
Cream the butter and sugar together in a medium bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time mixing thoroughly with each addition. Slowly stir the flour mixture in with the butter, sugar, and eggs. Beat in the milk and vanilla until the batter is smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s).
Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn the cake out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
This cake is traditionally served unfrosted, just cut in two horizontally and fill with jam (or sandwich the two cakes together if doing in two pans) and dust with powdered sugar.

À votre santé!

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