- Preheat your oven to 190 C / 170 C Fan / Gas 5. Grease the bottoms of two 8" sandwich tins and line with baking parchment.
- Ensure that the eggs and butter are at room temperature (so the butter is soft, but not melted), but keep the cream in the fridge. Sift your flour, baking powder and salt into a separate bowl, to use shortly.
- Begin by creaming the butter with the sugar in a large bowl, for at least 2 to 3 minutes, or until the mixture is pale, fluffy and relatively smooth.
- Add the vanilla and eggs (one at a time), ensuring that each egg is thoroughly incorporated into the mixture before adding the next one.
- Now, gently fold in the flour in two stages, taking care not to over mix. This ensures that less gluten can form within it, giving your finished sponge a lighter texture. (If you have been using a handheld electric mixer, or stand mixer up until this point, I strongly suggest switching to a spatula or spoon now.)
- The cake mixture should - ideally - have a slow 'drop' consistency, i.e. falling off a spoon or spatula but not quickly. If your mixture is too thick, gradually add milk 1 teaspoon at a time, or until the desired consistency is reached. Divide the mixture into the cake tins.
- Bake for approximately 20 minutes. The sponges are done when, 1) their colour is a light gold, 2) they spring back when pressed, 3) a skewer inserted comes out clean, with no crumbs.
- Allow the cakes to rest slightly before turning them out onto a wire rack to cool completely. At this point, take the jam out of the fridge to begin to warm up (spreading cold jam is nigh on impossible).
- Add the cold cream to a bowl, along with the caster sugar and vanilla (if using). Using a balloon whisk or mixer, whip the cream to soft peaks. Stiff peaks are fine, but I prefer the texture of softly whipped cream in this cake.
- Spread onto the top of one of the cooled cakes (you may want to use a serrated knife to level it, if the cake has a slight dome) into an even layer, and then layer jam on top. Depending on personal taste, you may/may not want to use all the cream/jam.
- Place the other sponge on top, and press down gently. Sift icing sugar over the finished cake, and serve.
Baking a Victoria Sponge is quite an art, and it may take you several tries to get it absolutely perfect. Ovens vary, and this cake relies on a consistent and accurate oven temperature. Make sure the cakes are on the same level in your oven, and are side by side.
This recipe will also produce differing amounts of cake mixture, depending on the initial weight of your four eggs. I've found that as little as 18 minutes has baked the smaller quantities, whereas 25 minutes was needed to bake a cake whose four eggs weighed nearly 265g! If your quantity of cake mixture is on the larger side, adding another 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder wouldn't go amiss.
Finally, flour. Ordinary self rising flour works extremely well, but some of the best results I have had have been when using 'sponge/pastry/cake flour.' If you can find the above, make sure it is a variety that has added rising agents, so you don't have to worry about how much extra baking powder to add.