Victoria Sponge

I have an English classic for you today…Victoria sponge cake ūüôā

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Along with vanilla fairy cakes, this is one of the first recipes I ever made. ¬†I have my Granny, Mum and Mary Berry to thank for teaching me! ¬†This recipe is quite straightforward, however they are many ‘discussions’ as to the best way of making it! ¬†Today, I’m going to give you the recipe that I use, but also talk you through some of the tweaks you can make for your own recipe.¬†

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Traditionally, Victoria Sponge is made with raspberry jam, no buttercream and caster sugar sprinkled on top. ¬†However this cake is equally delicious with strawberry jam and buttercream filling. ¬†It’s also beautiful as a summer dessert with fresh strawberries. raspberries and lightly whipped cream in the middle. ¬†Take your pick! ūüôā

My personal preference is for strawberry jam and caster sugar as the topping (I know, I know. ¬†I used icing sugar for my photos. ¬†It looks prettier :-)) ¬†A bit of a controversy with this cake is whether you use butter or margarine in the cake batter. ¬†I personally use margarine. ¬†Butter provides excellent flavour in certain recipes and for most baking I will use butter, however using margarine in this case means the ‘all-in-one’ method can be used. ¬†As margarine will not cause the eggs to curdle, all the ingredients can be quickly beaten together in one bowl. ¬†As soon as they are combined, stop mixing, as overworking the flour can cause a heavy cake. ¬†I’ve tasted the Victoria sponge using butter and then margarine and it really doesn’t affect the flavour. ¬†Try it and see!

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Ensure that you bake both halves of the cake on the same oven shelf, as this should mean that they rise evenly. ¬†Don’t worry if one looks more perfect than the other, just pick this one to be the top ūüôā

My recipe makes one 7 inch cake (2 layers), if you’s like an 8 inch cake, simply increase the 4 main ingredients to 225g and the baking powder to 2 teaspoons.

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Ingredients (makes one 7 inch cake):

  • 175g soft margarine (or butter)
  • 175g self-raising flour (or all-purpose)
  • 175g caster sugar (superfine sugar)
  • 3 eggs (about 175g)
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder (if using all-purpose flour, increase the baking powder to 2 teaspoons)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to Gas 4/180C.  Baseline and grease two 7 inch sandwich tins.
  2. If using butter: Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy (about 3 minutes with a handmixer).  Mix in the eggs one at a time, with a small amount of the flour (to prevent curdling).  Fold in the flour and baking powder.
  3. If using margarine: Put all the ingredients into a bowl and mix together (with a handmixer) until just combined.
  4. Divide the cake mix evenly between the two tins, smooth the top and bake for 20 minutes until well risen and golden.  Do not be tempted to open the oven door whilst the cake is baking, as this could cause it to sink in the middle.
  5. Leave the cakes in the tin for 5 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
  6. When cool, sandwich together with plenty of jam (strawberry in this case) and sprinkle the top with icing sugar or caster sugar.

Do you ever use margarine rather than butter in baking?

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Blueberry Bakewell cake bars

Now. ¬†The problem with having lots of jam sitting in the cupboard is thinking of recipes to use it. ¬†Who am I trying to kid? ūüôā ¬†The whole reason I made the blueberry jam in the first place is so I could use it in this recipe I’m sharing with you today! ¬†I’m a massive fan of Bakewell tart (or Bakewell pudding, depending on who you ask!) ¬†It’s a delicious cake/dessert that involves lots of almond flavour and raspberry jam. ¬†It’s been the inspiration for my blueberry bakewell cake bars today.

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These cake bars are a combination of delicious almond flavour, my homemade blueberry jam and fresh blueberries. ¬†Having never tried blueberry and almond as a flavour combination, I’m very pleased with the results ūüôā

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The cake itself is quite dense and moist, as it uses both flour and ground almonds. ¬†I also added some almond extract to amp up the almond flavour. ¬†The swirls of blueberry jam add a welcome sweetness and the fresh blueberries add freshness. ¬†I have to admit, I now think that buying fresh blueberries in January is a big mistake ūüôā ¬†The first batch used for the cake were fine, however eating the blueberry ‘props’ you see in the photos was like eating damp cotton wool. ¬†I therefore ate some more cake to cheer myself up ūüôā

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Ingredients (makes 16 squares):

  • 200g soft unsalted butter
  • 200g caster sugar (superfine sugar)
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 100g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder (use 1 1/2 tsp if using plain flour)
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 150g fresh blueberries
  • 40g blueberry jam (for swirling)
  • Flaked almonds (for sprinkling)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to Gas 4/180C.  Baseline and grease a 9 inch square cake tin.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy.  Beat in the eggs thoroughly with the almond extract.  Fold in the baking powder, flour and ground almonds.
  3. Fold in the fresh blueberries.  Add the mixture to the cake tin and blob the blueberry jam over the top.  Swirl gently with a knife.
  4. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown and the cake springs back when pressed.

Blueberry jam

I’m back with another post that feels a bit like cheating ūüôā ¬†Having had success with my raspberry jam¬†last weekend, I wanted to have a go at blueberry, as I have a lovely recipe coming up for you later in the week that uses it ūüėÄ

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Again I chose to use frozen fruit, as blueberries are very much not in season at the moment! ¬†Similarly to the raspberry jam recipe, you cook the fruit gently until it releases some juice (enough for the sugar to dissolve into). ¬†Having very little patience, I decided it would be a great idea to put the sugar in whilst the berries were still pretty much frozen. ¬†Oops. ¬†I¬†persevered with my purple sugary mush until the berries had defrosted properly ūüôā

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Here comes the jam science people ūüėÄ Blueberries are a fruit that are quite low in natural pectin (the natural setting agent for jam). ¬†This wasn’t a problem for the raspberry jam as raspberries are naturally high in pectin. ¬†In order to help the blueberries in their jam quest, I added the juice of a lemon to the mix. ¬†Citrus fruits are high in pectin and the lemon also cuts through the sweetness of the sugar. ¬†You could of course use jam sugar (with added pectin). ¬†This is a naturally ‘soft set’ jam, so definitely use the jam sugar if you like your jam more jelly like ūüėÄ

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Ingredients:

  • 350g fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 350g sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Method:

  1. Sterilise 2 glass jars by washing thoroughly and placing in an oven at Gas 3/170C for 10 minutes.  Place 2 saucers in the freezer to chill.  Cook the fruit and lemon juice in a saucepan gently until a lot of the juice is released.  Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.  Lightly crush some berries, but leave others whole for texture.
  2. Boil the jam rapidly for 5 minutes. ¬†Test the jam by placing it on a saucer and leaving for 2 minutes. ¬†If it ‘wrinkles’ when pressed, it has reached setting point.
  3. Pour the jam into the jars using a jam funnel (an amazing invention!), put the lids on and leave to cool completely.  The jam will keep in a cool place for up to a month.

Enjoy as a cake filling (see recipe coming soon!), on toast or just out of the jar ūüôā

Homemade raspberry jam

I’m almost¬†embarrassed to call this¬†a recipe today. ¬†It’s that easy. ¬†In fact, please don’t tell anyone how easy this is. ¬†I may be outed as a fraud ūüôā ¬†One of my hopes for Baking-Joy was that it would encourage me to try things that I’d never made before. ¬†I’ve got several recipes coming up that call for raspberry jam, and rather than buying it as I normally do, I decided to (slightly apprehensively) have a go at making it. ¬†I needn’t have worried ūüôā

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After a bit of research, I discovered that raspberries¬†are very naturally high in pectin (the setting agent for jam). ¬†This means that there was no need for jam sugar. ¬†There’s also no need for a sugar thermometer or even to use fresh fruit. ¬†I can safely say that the 2 pots of jam I made were far cheaper than if I had gone to the shop and bought the decent brand I normally do. ¬†The whole recipe is done and dusted in under 20 minutes. ¬†Can you tell I’m impressed? ūüėÄ

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The only slight issue I had with this recipe, is attempting not to burn myself on hot sugar whilst stirring the mixture (it tends to spit!) ūüôā ¬†Whilst the jam is cooking, you must¬†sterilise the jars you plan to use. ¬†The easiest method is to wash the jars with hot soapy water (or in the dishwasher), rinse and lay them in the oven at Gas 3/160C for 10 minutes. ¬†After 10 minutes turn the oven off and leave the jars in there until you are ready to pot the jam. ¬†Pot the jam straightaway when it’s at setting point and leave to cool completely in the jar.

Look out for this jam in several recipes over the coming weeks ūüôā

Ingredients:

  • 350g fresh or frozen raspberries (I used frozen)
  • 350g granulated sugar

Method (makes around 400ml):

  1. Put 2 clean 200ml jars in the oven at Gas 3/160C.  After 10 minutes turn the oven off and leave the jars until you are ready to pot the jam. Place 2 saucers into the freezer to chill.
  2. Place all the frozen fruit into a saucepan and cook over a gentle heat for 2 minutes until some of the juice from the raspberries is released.
  3. Add all the sugar to the fruit and stir for around 2 minutes until the sugar is dissolved.  Crank the heat up high so the jam comes to the boil.
  4. Boil the jam for 5-10 minutes (be careful of spitting). ¬†After around 5 minutes of boiling, try the ‘wrinkle test’. ¬†Put a blob of jam on one of the chilled saucers. ¬†Leave for a moment and then push with your finger. ¬†If the jam wrinkles, it’s ready (‘setting point’). ¬†If it’s not at the setting point, continue boiling for another 2 minutes and test again.
  5. When the jam is ready, use a jam funnel to pour the jam into the hot jars (carefully!)  Put the lids on and leave to cool completely in the jars.