Dare I admit it, but I’ve been experimenting with the ubiquitous Victoria sandwich to create a special treat for Mothering Sunday. This cake is thought to have been one of Queen Victoria’s favourites, created when she was a young child in the nursery as a teatime treat. It then became one of the key components of the tradition we now know as Afternoon Tea.
A few years ago, my friend, Charlotte asked me to come up with a homemade ‘All in One Afternoon Tea’ Victoria sponge sandwich cake for her mum for Mother’s Day. Since Charlotte’s mum liked all sorts of cakes, I came up with the idea of a three-tiered cake, with each tier baked in a different flavour and finished with different fillings. You could say a cornucopia of tastes in a slice!
As a basis for the mixture, I used Grandma Abson’s Victoria sandwich recipe with 8 inch/21 cms cake tins for each tier.
Basic Sponge Cake for three tiers
Five large eggs and their weight in each of:
- caster sugar (*for toffee cake, use golden caster sugar)
- self-raising flour (sieved)
Preheat the oven to 180°C, 350°F, Mark 4. Line three cake tins with baking paper. Weigh the eggs and then the same amount in each of the other ingredients. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat the eggs and add to the creamed mixture. Fold in the flour. Now divide the mixture into three bowls.
Create three different mixtures as you wish:
- For a Victoria Sandwich tier, add a little milk
- For a lemon cake tier, add the zest and juice of ½ lemon
- For an orange cake tier, add the zest and juice of ½ orange
- For a chocolate cake tier, add 1 tbsp cocoa powder, ¼ tsp vanilla extract, 1 tbsp black treacle and a little milk to mix
- For a coffee cake tier, add ½ dsp coffee essence or powder
- For a toffee cake tier, use golden caster sugar.
Put the mixture into the three cake tins. Bake for about 25–30 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean or the top is firm to the touch. Place on a wire rack for ten minutes, then turn the cake out onto the rack and leave until cool.
Basic butter cream
4 oz/110g butter
8 oz/225 icing sugar
A few drops vanilla extract
1-2 tbsps water or milk
Cream the butter and icing sugar. Add the vanilla extract and water or milk.
Choose your fillings :
- For a Victoria sandwich, spread with raspberry/strawberry jam and butter cream
- For a lemon cake, add the zest and juice of ½ lemon or 2 tbsps of lemon curd to the butter cream
- For an orange cake, add the zest and juice of ½ orange to the butter cream
- For a chocolate cake melt 1 oz/25g of plain chocolate and add to the butter cream
- For a coffee cake, add ½ dsp coffee essence
- For a toffee cake, use soft brown or golden caster sugar instead of white icing sugar
Spread the butter cream (and raspberry/strawberry jam for the Victoria dandwich) on the top of one cake and place the next one on top. Carry on with the three different tiers and fillings as you have chosen. If you wish, you can cover the sides and top of the cake with butter cream. This is sometimes called a naked cake! Add a Mother’s Day decoration and your home-made tribute is complete.
There is an ancient rhyme tells of the old custom of ‘going a mothering’ where grown up children, who worked away from home, visited their mothers on Mothering Sunday, often with a Simnel cake and a posy of violets :“When at Mid-lent thou dost wake, to thy mother bear thy cake.She will prize it for thy sake”.
Mums are at the forefront of what’s happening in the world today so it is good to take time to reflect. Many of us sadly no longer have our mums and grandmas with us but we can celebrate all the wonderful things they brought to our lives.