To call the Victoria sandwich the classic teatime speciality would be more than stating the obvious. Reputedly one of Queen Victoria’s favorite cakes, the recipe shows up as far back as 1874 in a cookery and household management book from Mrs. Beeton (who was basically your original – British – Martha Stewart).
Everyone’s got their favorite recipe for this (not that they vary a whole lot across bakers as far as I can tell) – it’s a sponge staple. Sometimes they come with just jam in the “sandwich” part, sometimes jam and a buttercream (my personal favorite way to have it). But the ratios are pretty consistent and one basically expects a particular flavor and texture no matter whose Victoria sandwich one is eating.
That being said, I have a favorite recipe that comes with a bit of a family story. This recipe comes from my mother’s youngest sister, someone who has ended up living quite the adventurous life. It was a number of years ago now when she and her husband, my English uncle, were living in a small village in England, Holyport. The village was to have its annual fete, and there were going to be prizes for the best Victoria sandwich.
Of course, my aunt couldn’t resist entering that competition! All of the contestants got the list of ingredients to use – four ingredients only – but with no measurements. The challenge was to figure out the optimal measures to come up with the moistest, tenderest, most delicious sponge.
Which basically meant my uncle got to eat a lot of cake before my aunt got to the right formula! Lucky for me I happened to be in London at the time for work, so I got to try at least one of the experiments when I visited them in the country one weekend, as well as see her prize-winning sponge on display at the fete.
Yep, you guessed it – my aunt took first prize for her Victoria sandwich! I was so proud of her – the only American contestant and she took it.
So this is her recipe, though I tweaked it just a bit in the making. Rather than make one larger sponge, I split it out into five small cakes (4-inch diameter). When it’s just you and your husband, and he doesn’t really like cake, making smaller versions works so one can freeze them and pull them out over time. Maybe not optimal in terms of freshness, but it works for me.
My other change to the recipe was to add vanilla, which may not be traditional for Victoria sponge, but I just like it in a basic sponge. I also favor a bit of tart lingonberry jam instead of strawberry or raspberry – anyone who has an Ikea in their neighborhood will know where I get my lingonberry jam!
Aunt Mary's Victoria Sandwich
- 6 oz. butter
- 6 oz. sugar
- 6 oz. self-raising flour
- 3 eggs
- I add one generous tsp. of vanilla, but it’s not required
DirectionsPreheat the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly butter two 7-inch cake tins and line with greaseproof paper.
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs gradually, beating well. Sift the flour and fold it in with large metal spoon. Stir lightly but thoroughly.
Turn the mixture into the tins and smooth the tops with a palette knife for evenness.
Bake for 25 minutes (at 350F). (If you decide to make smaller ones – like the five 4-inch diameter versions, they baked for the same amount of time in my oven as the 7-inch cakes.)
When cooled, sandwich together with jam (strawberry or raspberry are traditional; a basic buttercream could be added as well). Dust the top with icing sugar and serve.