Tuesday, June 21, 2016
People often ask me what my favorite dessert is, and I get stumped. I mean, how does one choose?!? Victoria sponge cakes, though, are often at the tip top of the list. Especially in June, when beautiful summertime fruits start appearing in all of their glory. The cake is like a perfect demonstration of how simplicity is often the key to classic deliciousness: what else does a dessert really need besides cream, buttery and fluffy bites of cake, and the best, very minimally-fussed-with fruit that the season has to offer?
Victoria sponge cakes traditionally are two layers of buttery yellow cake, sandwiching layers of cream and jam. I like to mix it up, maybe putting the fruit on top, or changing the jam to a rhubarb-raspberry-peach-saffron compote, or topping it with fresh berries, or adding in some sourness of creme fraiche in the cream. The cakes are like beautiful slates for painting on--little flourishes go the longest way, and I always have to pull myself back from doing too much except the smallest little tweaks here and there. Also, let's talk butter. Regular butter is fine, but if you want to experience the full glory of this cake, it's European-style, 85%+ butterfat butter all the way, okay? Please do try it that way. It's worth it.
Also, can we have a shout-out to Annelies, of the food poet blog, for finally getting me back in the kitchen and behind a camera to do some food creating and shooting? I have missed this dearly, so thank you, Annelies!
Grab some tea and a slice of cake for June! And stay tuned. Summer travels are coming up, so there will be lots to share! I hope you all have exciting summer plans, too!
P.S. If you have any recommendations for must see/eat/drink/visit places in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Montreal, and Savannah, please, please do leave them in the comments!
Victoria sponge cake
makes one 2-layer, 8-inch round cake
adapted from BBC
200 g all-purpose flour
2 tspn baking powder
1/2 tspn salt
200 g European-style butter, at room temperature
200 g sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 tspn vanilla extract
2 Tbspn creme fraiche
jam, fruit, or fruit compote
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour the bottoms and insides of two 8-inch round cake pans. Line the pan bottoms with parchment paper rounds. Wrap the pans with moistened bake-even strips, if using.
2. In a bowl, whisk to combine the flour, baking power, and salt. Set aside.
3. Place the butter into a mixer bowl. Beat on medium until the butter is light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.
4. Add the eggs to the butter one at a time, beating well between each addition. Then add the vanilla extract and mix well.
5. Add the flour mixture to the butter in 3 parts, alternating with the creme fraiche and beating well between each addition. Make the batter stays fairly light and fluffy.
6. Divide the batter between the two cake pans.
7. Bake in for 30-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out cleanly. Remove the cakes from the oven and place onto a wire rack. When they have cooled sufficiently to handle, remove the cakes from the pans and let cool completely on a wire rack.
Serve the cakes with whipped cream and jam, fruit, or fruit compote.
The beauty of a victoria sponge is that you can have them with any topping. Here were my random proportions/experiments with cream and fruit. Note that these aren't exact, because they needn't be! Follow your instincts.
~1 cup heavy whipping cream
~2-3 Tbspn creme fraiche
powdered sugar, to taste
Begin whipping the cream. Whisk in the creme fraiche before you reach soft peaks. Once at soft peaks, whisk in tablespoons of powdered sugar until you reach your desired sweetness.
Raspberry, Rhubarb, and Peach Saffron Compote
2 punnets of raspberries
4 stalks of rhubarb, chopped into pieces
2 peaches, peeled
4 cups sugar
2 big pinches of saffron threads
Combine the ingredients in a medium pot. Bring to a boil and let boil for 2-3 minutes. Then lower the heat to a strong simmer. Stir occasionally, and skim off any bubbly scum that accumulates on the top with a slotted spoon. Reduce the fruit by simmering for a good 30-45 minutes, until syrupy in consistency. Remove from heat, cool completely. Serve over cake.