Sunday, June 10, 2012

Strawberries and Cream times two - Victoria Sponge Cake and a new fabric design!!

Strawberries and Cream two ways: a classic Victoria Sponge filled with whipped cream and macerated strawberries and: the newest textile design for my Spoonflower shop.

To the cake first - always cake first!!
A Victoria Sponge or Sandwich is a classic British cake named in honour of - you guessed it - Queen Victoria who relished the new fangled craze for tea parties in mid to late 1800's England.
In 1855 the invention of baking powder meant the cake could rise without the need for hours (literally) of egg whisking with a FORK!!! - I have seen old recipes that call for 3 hours of egg beating with a FORK as the whisk hadn't yet been invented in the US - roll on that invention, my arms would fall off beating for that long!! PHEW!! Technically speaking a sponge cake is fatless and demands much whisking and beating and frothing of egg yolks and whites separately and sounds too much like a genoise with which I have had very little luck in the past, but a sandwich has added butter resulting in a more substantial cake that can last for a day or two - not in our house but maybe in that of others!!

Now my oven was on the fritz so I ended up making my miniature sponge cakes in a countertop electric one with more than passable results but I did have to bake them in a ceramic dish instead of metal tins so I will give times and temps for both in case you decide to go the mini route too.

First you must macerate your strawberries, start this a couple of hours before you are ready to bake your cake. I use local when they are available but they're not ready yet - Maine lags behind in the growing season - so I chose Driscolls Organic Strawberries which have a good and consistent flavour - and I used a pound punnet. I sliced the strawberries and sprinkled three tablespoons of sugar on them and then tossed occasionally - leave for about 2 hours at room temperature and let the juices run - aren't they pretty - they look like lots of little hearts - awww!!

Now that the strawberry juices have flowed you are ready to bake your cake - my recipe is from
"Ritz Afternoon Tea" by Helen Simpson

This amount gave me two 4" diameter cakes - it is supposed to be for two 7" cake pans but I have a hard time believing you would get enough batter for two 7" pans so if you are going for a regular sized cake I would double this recipe for a decent sized cake!! 

For metal pans put your oven at 350F for ceramic as I did mine put your oven at 325F 

For either pan you choose butter lightly and line with greaseproof paper and butter again - makes it so much easier to get this cake out after baking.

For filling:
1lb strawberries macerated as above
1/2 pint whipped double/heavy cream with a couple of tablespoons of sugar added and some almond extract/essence of you like
Toasted almond slices if you so desire

For cake:
(I always weigh my ingredients for a more consistent result and have them all at room temperature which makes for  easier creaming and amalgamation of the eggs into the butter and sugar mix)
4oz butter - I always use Kate's from Maine - it has such a deep flavour
4oz plain flour sifted with 1 teaspoon baking powder - or 4oz self raising flour
4oz sugar - caster if you have it otherwise just regular white sugar

2 eggs beaten well

I added one teaspoon of almond essence/extract to the eggs as I like a light almond flavour with my strawberries.

1. Cream butter and sugar together until light in colour and texture.
2. Slowly add the beaten eggs and beat until well mixed between additions.
3. Fold flour and baking powder into the creamed mix with a metal spoon - I just looked up why a metal spoon for this as I was wondering and here is the answer I found - "Once the butter and sugar is creamed, change to a big metal spoon to mix in the eggs and fold in the flour. This keeps the air from escaping through the wood grain." - I did not know this - you learn something new everyday don't you?
 4. Turn the cake batter into your preferred pans - smooth the top and bob into the oven - bake for about 20 minutes - test to check for doneness  - cake will be springy in the middle if you press lightly and will spring back - they should also have pulled away from the sides of the pan too.
5. Remove from oven, allow to cool for 10 minutes or so and then remove from pans and out on cooling rack - cool completely!

While the cake is cooling whip your heavy/double cream to soft peaks - when the beaters are removed, soft peaks curl over and droop rather than stand straight up which is the definition of stiff peaks.

My cakes browned too much - because of the silly oven I was using - yours in a regular oven should be OK but if they're not you can just turn them upside down and put the brown on the bottom as I did!! My cakes were tall enough that I cut them in half laterally - if you do yours in 2 7" tins then place one on a plate and strew strawberries hither and yon across the surface and then pour the juices over as well - can you see someone lurking quietly in the background here hoping desperately for just a little taste, hopeful Eleanor!!
Now add the whipped cream - I did mine with a piping bag because I like the way it looks but you can just spoon and mound yours as you like - this is somewhat rustic because as soon as you cut it everything squishes out anyways!! For the finished cake as at the top I also strew - strewed?? - toasted almond slices around willy nilly - just for a bit of a crunch and that lovely nutty flavour too.
Yum I say YUM!!! If you can stand to wait an hour or so before you have your cake and eat it too - then the flavours will have married some, the juices will have soaked into the sponge and the cake tastes even better. 

Many people in the UK make the cake and then just sandwich it together with strawberry jam - which is really good too but with strawberries and cream - how can you go wrong?

And now for my latest fabric design - I had mentioned on my Facebook page earlier this week that I was working on a new design for my Spoonflower shop - based on the design I had created in the round which was used as a dinnerware pattern by PTS America a few years ago:
 In my head I had imagined this as an allover print with no direction - but this is how it ended up as a stripe with two directions:
  - honestly you just never know where your designs will lead you! The print isn't available yet from Spoonflower as I haven't received my sample to approve but I'll let you know when it is!

...and please let me know if you make the cake. Here's to a happy and delicious summer for us all full of strawberries and cream - Patricia 


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