To me, the best and most delicious desserts are the simplest ones. Many people are surprised to learn that my favourite thing to bake (and eat) is a Victoria sponge cake. A soft light sponge sandwiched with jam and cream can’t be beaten – that marriage of textures and flavours is so simple, but absolutely perfect.
These types of cakes, a basic sponge with a creamy filling or topping, are the ones I always plump for if I need to pull a recipe out of my back pocket. They are nostalgic for me, the perfect accompaniment to the big pot of tea that always graced the table when I visited my grandparents.
Here, I’m sharing a basic sponge cake recipe, a genoise, which is lighter and more delicate in texture than the traditional Victoria sponge. I’ve given the quantities to make just one sponge, but you could double it to make a layer cake.
The creamy topping is a classic buttercream, scented with an ingredient that is completely underused and underrated, I believe. Orange blossom water is a flower water, similar to rosewater, and is made from the blossoms of orange trees. Sometimes it isn’t easy to find, but health food shops often stock it. Its floral notes are unique, adding a beautiful perfume to desserts.
It’s important not to overdo it, as adding too much can completely overpower the buttercream. A little goes a long way. Different brands have different strengths, so it’s a good idea to taste the buttercream after adding the amount I’ve given and add another teaspoon if needed.
I’ve used it here with vanilla, to gently scent the buttercream, keeping the rest of the bake simple to really let the flavour shine. If you can, use vanilla pods – they make a world of difference. Alternatively, use vanilla extract but avoid vanilla essence.
This cake keeps for a few days, covered at room temperature, and it freezes well too.
Recipe: Vanilla and orange blossom cake