This cake is the quintessential British cake. If you browse GBBO recipes, and even on the show itself, they talk about it as the favorite of the British Isles. Now I'm not sure how true that is, but it is definitely something I have seen and heard reference to in British media.
It has featured in a couple of seasons of GBBO. We've seen it as part of or as the technical challenge in series 5 (Netflix season 1) and series 7 (Netflix season 4), both seasons in the Final episode. In series 5, it was part of a trio of things the bakers had to make - Victoria Sandwich, Tarte au Citron, and Scones. In series 7 it was a stand-alone challenge bake.
I find it interesting that it was the technical bake for the final episode in a later season. The cake itself is honestly fairly easy and straightforward - and genuinely hard to fuck up, I think. But then again that also provides something that the judges could be extremely nitpicky about.
For this recipe I decided to use this one from the Great British Bake Off official website. It is virtually identical to the Mary Berry recipe on the site, just slightly smaller. It also uses whipped cream instead of buttercream, which isn't a huge difference in my opinion - it's just a matter of how rich you want the cake to be.
For the sponge:
3 medium eggs, at room temperature
about 175g unsalted butter, softened - but not so soft it gets oily
about 175g caster sugar
¾ tsp vanilla extract
about 175g self-raising flour
1 tbsp water from the warm water tap
For the filling:
6 tbsp good-quality raspberry jam
150ml double or whipping cream, well chilled
icing sugar, for dusting
2 × 20.5cm round deep sandwich cake tins
whisk - stand mixer whisk, hand mixer, or whisk it all by hand if you're a masochist
1) Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Grease and line the cake tins with butter and baking paper.
2) Weigh the eggs – 3 medium eggs in their shells weigh around 175g – then use this same weight for the butter, sugar and flour. (I'm telling y'all. If you don't have a kitchen scale - GET ONE!)
3) Put the soft (but not oily) butter into a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a food-mixer and beat well with a wooden spoon or the whisk attachment until very creamy and mayonnaise-like. Scrape down any butter mixture from the sides of the bowl with a plastic spatula, then gradually beat in the sugar a couple of tablespoons at a time. Scrape the mixture off the sides of the bowl again and beat well for 1 minute or until the mixture looks very light and fluffy. Scrape down the mixture again.
4) Break the 3 eggs into a small jug, add the ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract and beat with a fork just until the eggs are broken up. Gradually add to the butter mixture a tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl from time to time. If the mixture looks like it might be ‘splitting’ or curdling, rather than appearing smooth and creamy, stir in a tablespoon of the flour with each of the last two additions of egg.
5) Sift the rest of the flour onto the mixture. Start to gently fold in the flour with a large metal spoon or plastic spatula and after two or three movements add the warm water. Keep folding in until the flour is well mixed in and there are no streaks.
6) Divide the mixture between the two prepared tins – if you want to be really precise, use your scales, or just do it by eye, then spread it evenly.
7) Bake for 20–25 minutes until the sponges are a light golden brown, and starting to shrink back from the sides of the tin. (Check the sponges after 15 minutes and if they aren’t baking evenly rotate the trays.) Check that the sponge springs back when lightly pressed in the middle.
8) When cooked, take them out of the oven and run a round-bladed knife around the inside of each tin to loosen the sponge. Leave for a minute to firm up, then carefully turn out the cakes onto a wire rack. Leave until they are completely cooled.
9) Put the mixing bowl and whisk (or whisk attachment) in the fridge to chill.
10) To assemble the cake, set one sponge crust-side down on a serving plate. Using the back of a tablespoon, evenly spread the sponge with the 6 tablespoons of raspberry jam.
11) Pour the cream into the chilled bowl and whip with the chilled whisk or attachment until it thickens and soft peaks form when you lift out the whisk. Spoon the cream onto the cake and then gently smooth it evenly over the jam. Top with the second sponge, crust-side up, and dust with icing sugar.
Final Thoughts + Tips
Ultimately this cake was delicious.
And really, it's a very straightforward bake. I found this quite easy. As a result, I have nothing much in the way of tips for you on how to master it. It's easy to master, especially if you're using store bought jam and pre-whipped whipped cream. I made my own whipped cream, because I love it, but you certainly don't have to.
If you're feeling fancy you could also make buttercream instead of whipped cream. As I mentioned, this is what Mary Berry's version of the recipe does.
Here is one pro-tip I can give you, though! Make sure you use the right size cake tin. I thought I was doing a good thing for my household by making the slightly smaller version of this recipe (Mary Berry's has all quantities at 225g, one more egg and increase the weight of everything else accordingly). What I did not realize is that I grabbed the cake tins that are appropriately sized for Mary Berry's version and NOT for this version.
As a result, my sponges were rather thin for what they're supposed to be. On the plus side, because I recognized this, I reduced the cooking time and did NOT overbake them.
Did I mention this cake is delicious? Seriously. It's wonderful. It's a light dessert (not necessarily calorie wise, but in flavor and feel and profile). It's not too sweet, and not so rich that it will make you feel nauseous. This recipe is probably going to be something I turn to as a quick and easy dessert for events and to please a crowd. The raspberry jam is a beautiful accompaniment to a light sponge - and the whipped cream just brings it all together.
If you attempt baking nothing else from GBBO, do bake a Victoria Sponge. It's worth it.