It’s time for the finale of my Great British Baking Show Competition and I am knee deep in flour, butter, sugar and eggs. I have one day to prepare three different elements of a classic British High Tea: Victorian Sandwich Cake, French Tarte Au Citron and Scones.
Up to now I have not worried about the time requirement of each challenge but since I know how to make each of these items already I thought it would be interesting to try making them in the same time allotted to the contestants: five hours.
Pastry dough for the tarts is made and resting in the fridge and I turn next to the Victoria Sandwich Cake: a light and airy sponge cake batter baked in cupcake tins, cut in half, and made into a sandwich with jam or fruit curd and buttercream frosting. (Alternatively, it can be made as a two-layer cake and served in slices.) This was a favorite of my children when we lived outside London.
Eggs, sugar, and vanilla are beaten together until very thick. When you lift the beater out of the batter the drips will rest on the surface instead of sinking back into the batter. It’s an easy step with an electric stand mixer. Turn it on and let it do its work for about 8 minutes. Years ago when I began baking I did this by hand so I thoroughly enjoy the sound of my machine working away!
Mix together flour and baking powder and fold it into the batter. Into the tins and into the oven.
While that bakes, I start on my scones. And I almost immediately run into an unwanted reenactment of the challenge. In moving the tray of oven ready scones I drop them on the floor. Arrggghhh! Running out of time, I decide to remake the batter and abandon the traditional shape for a drop scone.
This is where my ten years as an innkeeper proves useful. I used to prep a two-course breakfast, make a mini dessert, and prepare five canapes every day for up to 12 guests. It’s a balancing act!
Cupcakes out of the oven, let them cool and turn them out of the tins. Repeat the making of the scones and put them in the oven. While the scones are cooking, roll the tart pastry and put it in the tart shells. Scones out, tart shells into the oven and back to the Victoria Sponge.
Make a buttercream frosting by beating softened butter, powdered sugar, a little milk, and vanilla together for five minutes. As you beat it, it will get white and very creamy.
Use a bread knife to cut the cakes in half. They are delicate so you will need to be careful not to flatten them. If you would like a less rustic look you can also trim the sides with a scissor or knife.
Spoon jam or fruit curd in the center of the lower half and then pipe or spread butter cream around the outer edge.
Put the tops back on and dust with some icing sugar. Viola! Victorian Sandwich Cakes!
Back to the tarts which have cooled by now. Make the lemon filling and place the tarts in the oven.
While they are cooking, clean up your kitchen for the umpteenth time and wish you had some help.
Finally take the tarts out of the oven and let them cool. For an authentic look, melt some chocolate and pipe “citron” on top.
Here’s the recipe for the Victorian Sandwich Cake. I will get the others to you over the next two weeks.
VICTORIAN SANDWICH CAKE
For the Sponge Cake
- 3 eggs
- ½ c sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- ½ c flour
- ¼ tsp baking powder
For the Buttercream Frosting
- 3 c powdered sugar
- ½ cup softened butter
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2-4 tbsp milk
- Pinch of salt
For the filling
- 12 tbsp jam or fruit curd
Make the sponge cakes
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour (or use floured baking spray) a 12 cup muffin tin.
- Beat together the eggs, sugar and vanilla until very thick and pale, about 8 minutes in a stand mixer. The batter will leave a ribbon on the surface when the beaters are lifted out.
- Whisk together the flour and baking powder. Add the flour mixture to the eggs and, using a rubber spatula, fold the flour in carefully until just mixed.
- Divide the batter evenly in the muffin tin. Bake in the center of the oven 15-20 minutes until the cakes spring back when lightly touched.
- Let cool for 10 minutes in the tin and remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
Make the buttercream frosting
- Put the softened butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, salt and 2 tablespoons of milk in the bowl of a mixer. Mix on low speed until it is blended in. Add more milk a little at a time until it is lighter and fluffier. Increase the speed to high and mix for 5 minutes until the frosting has turned white in color and is very light and fluff.
Assemble the cakes
- Carefully cut each cupcake in half. You can also trim the sides with a scissors to make a more uniform look is you like.
- Place 1 tablespoon of jam or curd in the center of the bottom half of each cake. Pipe or spread buttercream frosting around the jam. Place the top on the cake and sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar.
Cakes should be stored in the refrigerator and will keep for 3-4 days.
To make a layer cake instead of cupcakes double the sponge batter