The whole party were assembled, excepting Frank Churchill, who was expected every moment from Richmond; and Mrs. Elton, in all her apparatus of happiness, her large bonnet and her basket, was very ready to lead the way in gathering, accepting, or talking -- strawberries, and only strawberries, could now be thought or spoken of. -- "The best fruit in England -- every body's favourite -- always wholesome. These the finest beds and finest sorts. --
Emma, Jane Austen, Chapter 42
Strictly speaking, of course, Emma and her friends wouldn't be enjoying a Victoria Sponge made from their delicious bounty; as Queen Victoria was yet to be born when the inimitable Jane Austen penned her book. However, I do feel her characters couldn't fail to appreciate the simplicity of a light sponge sandwiching strawberry jam, fresh strawberries and whipped cream. No matter how irritating Emma finds Mrs Elton, her enthusiasm for strawberries can't be argued with, especially if they've been freshly picked. This cake is the perfect vessel to show them off, and could take pride of place on the afternoon tea table.
Traditionally, it's merely jam that fills a Victoria Sponge, but I think it's a shame, if you can get really fresh strawberries, not to chop some up and lay them inside as well when assembling the cake. This sponge recipe is incredibly easy, and the resulting cakes can be filled with practically anything, so do use your imagination if strawberries are not to hand.
3 eggs - weigh first and then the same weights of:
Golden caster sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
2.5tsp baking powder
75g caster sugar
1tbsp cold water
200mL whipping cream
Two 18cm sandwich tins
Large mixing bowl
Electric hand whisk
1. Preheat your oven to 180C, grease your tins well and line with baking paper. To ensure your sponge cakes come out perfectly each time, weigh your eggs (in their shells) before measuring out your other ingredients - golden caster sugar, butter and flour - then use the same weight of all four ingredients.
2. Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl with the electric hand whisk. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat in. Add the vanilla and mix. Sieve the flour and baking powder a couple of times, add to the mixture and fold in very gently with the spatula. Divide the mixture between the two tins, and place both on the same shelf in the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
3. To make the jam, chop the strawberries and add to the saucepan with the sugar and water. Cook over a low heat for around ten minutes, until the strawberries have broken down and the mixture clings to the wooden spoon.
4. Remove the cakes from the oven, allow them to cool in the tins for five minutes, then transfer to the cooling rack, ensuring you place the cake bottom-side down (so you don't end up with criss-cross lines on the top of the cake).
5. When the cakes and jam are both cold, whip the cream by hand (you have more control this way - I always find that cream whipped with an electric whisk can go from perfectly light to dry and overwhipped in mere seconds) until it forms soft, almost floppy, peaks.
6. To assemble the sponge, place one cake top side down on your serving plate. Spoon the jam over the top (some will soak into the bottom of the cake - this is what you want), then place the chopped strawberries on top. Spoon the cream over the top and finish with the second cake, top side up. Sieve some icing sugar over the top, and serve immediately.