When we think of summer desserts, visions of Victoria sponge cake tempt us into the kitchen. The Victoria sponge isn't strictly a warm weather cake, but our favorite addition of fresh strawberries makes it especially appealing this time of year. Named after Queen Victoria, the cake, also known as a Victoria sandwich, is a classic at British teatime. Light and simple, it's a lovely, versatile dessert to add to one's repertoire, as it can accommodate a range of fillings, from jam to fresh fruit to cream and anything else you can imagine.
We've tried several recipes for Victoria sponge cake, and our preferred one is from UK cooking doyenne Delia Smith. Her recipe may seem a little more complicated than others – mixing in one teaspoonful of egg at a time and patiently sifting and folding in small amounts of flour, for example – but her instructions are clear and ensure a good, fluffy sponge cake. Another important piece of advice: keep the oven door closed! As Smith warns, "crafty peeps halfway through ... can cause the cakes to sink."
Like most European cooks, Smith lists measurements by weight rather than volume. If you require a recipe with volume measurements, there is a good, basic Victoria Sponge Cake recipe in the book 1,000 Foods to Die For. A couple of notes on ingredients for American cooks: caster sugar is equivalent to superfine sugar, and icing sugar is confectioner's sugar.
• Get the recipe: Victoria Sponge Cake, from Delia Smith
Traditionally, the cakes are sandwiched together with jam and cream and left un-iced. We like the easy, perfectly balanced combination of fresh strawberries, not-too-sweet strawberry jam, and whipped cream. The cake is simple enough that you can really dress it any way you want. Some ideas:
• Fresh berries or passion fruit
• Jam, such as homemade strawberry or good quality store-bought jam (We Love Jam's Apricot Jam might be nice)
• Lemon curd
• Whipped cream
• Clotted cream
• Whipped Chocolate Ganache
(Images: Emily Ho)