While various sponge cakes exist, the terms ‘sponge cake’ and ‘Victoria sponge cake’ (or Victoria sandwich) are often interchangeable in the UK. A quintessential British teatime treat, the cake is a type of vanilla sponge traditionally filled with jam and either whipped cream or buttercream.
Thought to have originated in Spain during the Renaissance, sponge cake is believed to be one of the first non-yeasted cakes. It’s popularity in Britain is largely due to a royal connection, however.
One of Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting, Anna, the Duchess of Bedford, is said to have created teatime after suffering from “a sinking feeling” during the afternoon, between meals. After initially having her servants sneak tea and snacks into her dressing room, the Duchess of Bedford adopted the European tea service format and began to invite friends to join her for an additional afternoon meal centred around small cakes, sandwich, sweets, and tea. The practice soon became so popular, it was picked up by other social hostesses including Queen Victoria.
By 1855, Queen Victoria and her ladies would enjoy afternoon teas, with the Victoria sponge named after one of the Queen’s favourites. The version Queen Victoria ate would have been filled with only jam, but modern versions typically include cream. Following the invention of baking powder in 1843, created by English food manufacturer Alfred Bird, the Victoria sponge recipe was also heavily improved upon, allowing the addition of butter as well as helping the cake to rise higher than was previously possible.
The recipe is also said to evolve from the classic pound cake, made with equal proportions of flour, fat, sugar, and eggs. As a result, some believe the term “sponge” is used “erroneously”, instead preferring to use the term ‘Victoria sandwich cake’. Regardless of its name, the cake has remained incredibly popular for almost 200 years. Although it’s simple and somewhat unfashionable, it’s a staple of so many Brits’ baking repertoires, ideal for afternoon tea, desserts, or even Birthdays.
- Two 20cm sandwich tins
- Stand mixer or electric whisk
- Piping bag (optional)
For the Cake
- 200 g caster sugar
- 200 g unsalted butter softened
- 4 eggs beaten
- 200 g flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2 tbsp milk
- 2 tbsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp sea salt
For the Filling & Decoration
- 400 g blueberries for filling (fresh or frozen)
- 100 g fresh blueberries for decoration
- 1 lemon zest only (reserve a pinch of zest to decorate)
- 300 ml double cream
- 200 g softened cream cheese
- 2 tbsp corn flour amount can vary depending on if using frozen berries and juiciness of berries
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 5 tbsp caster sugar
- 100 g icing sugar sifted (plus extra for decoration)
- Preheat the oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Butter two 20cm sandwich tins and line with non-stick baking paper.
- In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Next, add in half of the eggs and mix to combine, then add half of the flour and fold. Repeat with the remaining flour and eggs, adding in the baking powder, vanilla extract, salt, and milk with the last addition of flour. Mix until you have a smooth soft batter. Stop mixing at this point to avoid overmixing the batter.
- Divide the mixture between the tins, smooth the surface with a spatula or the back of a spoon. Bake for about 20 mins until golden and the cake springs back when pressed. You can also test whether the cake is done by inserting a skewer into the centre and checking for no wet batter on the skewer. Remove the cakes from the tins and allow to cool completely on a cooling rack.
- While the cakes are in the oven make the blueberry filling. Combine 400g of blueberries, 5 tbsp of sugar and a splash of water in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes until the berries have just popped (allow an extra two minutes for frozen berries).
- In a small bowl combine the corn flour with another splash of water, add this to the saucepan. Allow the mixture boil for another minute or until the mixture has thickened. Set aside and allow to cool completely.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, or with an electric whisk, beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Add the cream, vanilla extract, lemon zest and icing sugar and beat until soft peaks form. If using, transfer the icing into a piping bag.
- To assemble, place a blob of icing onto your serving dish and place your first cake upside down on top, this will stop it moving. Spoon the blueberry sauce onto of the sponge and spread to the edges leaving a 1cm border. Pipe (if using) or spread 2/3 of the icing on top. Place the second sponge upside down on top. Top the cake with the remaining icing and fresh blueberries. Finish by topping the cake with a dusting of icing sugar and the reserved pinch of lemon zest.
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