Victoria sponge is the centrepiece of a traditional tea table. It’s one of my favourite cakes and I’ve been making the recipe on repeat over this winter in Sydney, trying to get exactly the right consistency. It’s a labour of love!
I’ve blogged another version before, see here. That is a great recipe, but I’ve since refined my technique if not the ingredients, to make my current version.
The secret to this recipe is making a sabayon with the eggs and sugar, as you would with a Genoise sponge, before adding the other ingredients. This isn’t a Genoise, but the technique works well. The other secret is cooking the cake at 160 degrees C, a relatively low temperature.
And you need to fill the cake with both strawberry jam and strawberries! As well as lashings of cream of course!
Here’s the recipe. These quantities will make 3x20cm layers or 2x23cm layers. I’ve included the quantities for a smaller cake at the end of the recipe.
4 free-range eggs at room temperature
200g caster sugar
11/2 tablespoons tepid milk
200g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
200g strawberry jam (homemade is good)
300g fresh strawberries
250ml whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons icing sugar
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C. Grease the baking tins, whether you are using 3 tins or 2. Line the bottom of the tins with baking paper.
In an electric mixer using the whisk attachment, whisk the eggs and sugar for 5-8 minutes until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is tripled in volume.
Meanwhile carefully melt the butter in the microwave.
With the motor running, pour the melted butter into the mixture. Add the tepid milk. Turn the mixer off and fold the flour and baking powder into the mixture using a metal spoon, being careful not to lose too much volume.
Pour the batter into the prepared tins, smoothing the tops if necessary.
Place into the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cake is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake cones out clean.
Remove from the oven and cook in the tins before turning out onto a wire rack. Be careful with step – these sponges can be quite fragile!
While the cakes are cooling, whip the cream and the vanilla to soft peaks.
Once the cakes are quite cold, you can assemble them with the filling. Place one cake on serving plate. Spread half the strawberry jam over the layer. Spread half whipped cream on top of the jam. Top with 1/3 halved strawberries (quartered if they’re big).
Place another layer on top and repeat fillings.
(If you’re only making 2 layers, then adjust the quantities of jam, cream and berries.)
Place the top layer on the cake. Dust with icing sugar and place some whole strawberries on top of the cake.
This cake is best cut and eaten a couple of hours after being made. That way the flavours have developed and soaked into the sponge. And while it’s best to eat the cake on the day, it’s still pretty delicious the next day, that is if there’s any left!
Small Cake Ingredients
2 free-range eggs at room temperature
125g caster sugar
1 tablespoon tepid milk
125g self raising flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
100g strawberry jam (homemade is good)
125mls whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons icing sugar
This cake can be baked in 2x20cm tins for 20 minutes.
This is one from the archives. A relatively easy cake that packs a real blueberry punch! Because of all of the blueberries, it is a moist cake that keeps well.
Blueberries seem to be perennially in season here in Sydney and are relatively inexpensive. I have them permanently on hand for my breakfast granola with Greek yoghurt. But they’re yummy baked in a cake too.
This cake maximises the blueberry thing with fresh blueberries, dried blueberries and blueberry jam. The main hit comes from the fresh blueberries, and you could easily leave the dried ones out altogether- they’re not always easy to buy. Or substitute some raisins instead.
The “jam” is actually pretty simple – some blueberries cooked with sugar and water to make a rough preserve.
And a double hazelnut hit from the ground hazelnuts and the toasted hazelnuts.
It can be dressed up or down – great for afternoon tea or for a dessert.
125g softened butter
115g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 free-range eggs
1 heaped tbls sour cream
90g ground hazelnuts
1/4 cup toasted and finely chopped hazelnuts
100g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
30g dried blueberries, soaked in 1 tblsp of water for an hour (or substitute raisins or leave out altogether)
200g fresh blueberries
75g caster sugar
You can make this cake in a stand mixer, but I prefer to use a food processor. Either will work well!
Preheat oven to 170 degrees C or 160 degrees C fan-forced. Grease a 20cm spring form tin and line base with baking paper.
Cream butter, caster sugar and vanilla extract in a food processor. Add the free-range eggs and process until eggs are well incorporated. Pulse in the sour cream. Sift the ground hazelnuts with the chopped hazelnuts, SR flour and bicarbonate of soda. Stir in the sifted ingredients into the mixture with a spoon, then stir in the milk.
Fold in the soaked dried blueberries or raisins if using, and half of the fresh blueberries. Spoon into the springform cake tin.
Bake for about 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
Meanwhile, cook the remaining blueberries and caster sugar with 2 tablespoons of water in a small saucepan for a few minutes until the sugar is dissolved, the blueberries are slightly softened and the liquid slightly reduced. You can gently press on the blueberries with the back of spoon to help them release their juices.
Cool the cake completely in the tin before removing the ring of the springform tin. As the cake is quite moist and therefore a bit delicate, carefully remove it from its base using an offset spatula or indeed a ordinary metal spatula.
Pile the blueberry “jam” onto the top of the cake. Serve with more fresh berries and a sprinkling of sugar if desired, with whipped cream, creme fraiche or sour cream, any kind of cream goes well with this sweet blueberry baked delight!
There’s always a dilemma when making sourdough, that is, what to do with left over starter. I often add sourdough starter to baking with man-made yeast, for added rise and that extra sourdough flavour.
Making sourdough crumpets is another favourite. There are recipes that suggest only using starter, with bicarbonate of soda added of course. Having tried these recipes, I’m not a fan of the resulting intensely “sour” flavour of the crumpets.
So I have experimented with a few versions and have come up with a recipe that is now my go-to crumpet recipe. In fact it’s easier than ordinary recipes involving man-made yeast!
The quantities are simple: equal amounts of strong flour, sourdough starter and water, plus a little salt and sugar and the bicarb. No proving or waiting involved. And the result is beautiful, flavoursome, dense crumpets complete with those crumpet holes!
200g strong flour
200g sourdough starter
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2-3 tablespoons butter for cooking/greasing
You will need a fairly large frying pan for the recipe plus crumpet rings. I used to use silicone egg rings until I invested in proper metal crumpet rings. The egg rings are fine, but I do like the stability of the metal rings.
Mix the flour, sourdough starter and water to a smooth paste. Add the salt and sugar and mix again. Add the bicarb. At this stage you will see some bubbles from the bicarb reaction. I get varying degrees of bubbles but I find that the crumpets still do their thing even when there are less bubbles.
Add a tablespoon of butter to the pan and melt over low heat. Once the butter melts, use a pastry brush to carefully butter 4 crumpet rings. I use this method as it saves on melting butter separately. Add another tablespoon of butter, turn up the heat to medium and leave the rings in the pan to heat up.
Now it’s time to cook the crumpets. Several important things to remember. Clean the crumpet rings in between cooking and butter again, otherwise the crumpets are in danger of sticking. Fill the crumpet rings half to three quarters full. Half for a traditional size crumpet and three quarters for a whopper size. I like my crumpets thick but I’ve learned from experience that filling the rings with too much mixture means the crumpets spill over the top and quite frankly end up so thick they don’t fit in the toaster!
Cook the number of crumpets that can fit in your pan. In my case, I can cook three at a time. I’ve always got the fourth ring ready to go with more mixture. Keep on cooking until you’ve used all the mixture. I usually get 6-9 crumpets from a mixture.
Fill each ring with the required amount of mixture and leave for a good 6-10 minutes to cook. The crumpets should rise and have almost cooked through. Remove the rings with tongs and flip over. The crumpets should be brown underneath. (If you can’t remove the rings don’t worry, turn the crumpets over in the rings and then remove the rings once cooked.)
Cook for a couple of minutes on the second side until brown. Remove from the pan. I find that the crumpets don’t all cook at the same rate so I remove them at different times.
Use the remaining tablespoon of butter as necessary to butter the rings for the next round of crumpets and also to add a little more butter to the pan as you cook more crumpets.
A word on holes. When you cook the first side, after a few minutes you will see the trademark holes forming on the top. The holes develop and pop as the mixture dries out.
I give the holes a helping hand, by popping the emerging holes with a skewer. I think this is quite acceptable as the ultimate aim in having holes is to allow more butter to be absorbed!
The crumpets, as is traditional, need to be toasted. Don’t be tempted to eat them untoasted just because they are freshly made!
I make these crumpets whenever I have left over starter after bread making and sometimes I top up my starter just to make a batch of crumpets.
They also freeze beautifully – I always have a few packs of crumpets ready to unfreeze and then toast.
I serve them with lots of butter and good quality honey or jam. In the photos I served them with my homemade strawberry conserve, recipe here.
If you’re a dedicated sourdough bread maker, this is the perfect recipe to use that precious starter you have worked so hard to develop and want to put to good use.
I’m a huge fan of marmalade, and I’m always willing to try different citrus fruits in search of something a little different. I have to admit though, that my traditional marmalade using seville oranges, is not as good as some of my other marmalades and jams. Seville orange marmalade is clearly a work in progress..
Ruby Sunrise Marmalade is so named because of its rich orange-red hue, a little like a beautiful Sydney sunrise. It’s surprisingly simple – just three different kinds of fruit – blood orange, ruby grapefruit and mandarin. I only make small quantities at a time, so this batch was made with one each of the blood orange and grapefruit and two mandarins.
Great with toast, or adds a touch of tangy citrus to desserts.
1 ruby grapefruit
1 blood orange
3 mandarins (thin skinned preferable)
Water to cover fruit
Cut the grapefruit in half. Using a vegetable peeler, remove as much of the peel as you can from the fruit minus the pith. Cut the thick pith from the grapefruit halves and discard. Chop the flesh into segments. For the blood orange and mandarins, chop the fruit into segments, peel and pith included. Remove as many pips as you can.
Put all the fruit into a heavy bottomed saucepan.
Cover the fruit generously with water, making sure you have enough in the pan so that the fruit does not boil dry. Bring to the boil and simmer until the fruit is tender. This should take from between 30-45 minutes.
Measure the pulp and the remaining liquid. Return to the pan adding 1.5 cups of sugar for every 1 cup of pulp. Bring to the boil, making sure the sugar is dissolved. Cook until setting point is reached – 20 to 30 minutes. I use the saucer test* to check for setting point. Leave for 10 minutes before stirring gently. Pour carefully into sterilised jars and leave to cool.
* Testing for setting point Take the saucepan off the heat and allow the bubbles to subside. Take out a small saucer previously placed in the freezer, and spoon a little liquid onto the saucer, then return to the freezer for 1 minute. Push the marmalade along the plate with your finger. If setting point has been reached then the marmalade surface will wrinkle slightly and the marmalade won’t run back straight away. If it’s not at setting point, return to the heat and boil again for a few more minutes (maximum 5 minutes) before re-testing. Repeat until setting point is reached.
With spring very much in the air in September in Sydney, the produce that is available in fruit and vegetables is amazing. We are seeing in particular lots of early summer berries, and at great prices too. The markets are full of big juicy strawberries and punnets of oversized blueberries, with both kinds of berries going for a song. So delicious, so tempting!
September is the also the season for blood oranges, and I have been buying these to cook with, or just to eat, as I love their ruby red fresh and intensely sweet juice.
With so much lovely produce on hand, I have been jam making madly! My current favourite jam I call “Ruby Sunrise”. It’s a marmalade made from blood orange, ruby grapefruit and mandarin. It’s got a great colour and that blood orange tang. Recipe to be posted soon!
These little tea cakes were just an excuse to use my Ruby Sunrise marmalade and to make a rich sticky blueberry compote, to adorn those little cakes.
The tea cakes are made from my go-to easy cake recipe featured in the last post – Yoghurt Cakes with Middle Eastern Flavours. This is such a great recipe as its easy to make in the food processor, the cakes turn out really well and they are light and moist.
I halved the quantities from the original recipe this time. I got 5 good sized tea cakes baked in my popover moulds. I could have got 6, if I’d gone a little smaller. If you used ordinary muffin moulds, I think you could get 6-8 little cakes from the mixture. Or you can use the original recipe quantities if you are cake making for a crowd.
Ingredients 125mls canola or vegetable oil 165g caster sugar 1 free-range eggs 140g Greek yoghurt 150g self-raising flour 1 teaspoon orange blossom water (or vanilla extract or almond essence if you prefer) 1 quantity blueberry compote 2 tablespoons any good marmalade
Method Preheat oven to 170 degrees C fan forced. Grease and flour whatever moulds you are using – popover or conventional muffin tin.
Place the oil, caster sugar and egg in the bowl of a food processor. Process until well combined. Pulse in the yoghurt, followed by the flour. Stir in the orange blossom water to the mixture.
Pour the mixture into the popover or muffin moulds.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. If you’re cooking in muffin moulds, you might like to check after 15 minutes.
Remove from the oven, and cool for 10 minutes then turn out the cakes onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Spoon over some blueberry compote and some marmalade onto each cake while they are still warm. The quantities are up to you, but a good teaspoonful over each little tea cake seemed about right to me.
To make the blueberry compote: Place a punnet of blueberries (125g) in saucepan with 3 tablespoons of sugar and 2 tablespoons of water. Stir gently till the sugar dissolves. Simmer for a few minutes only until the some of the blueberries have broken down, the compote is slightly reduced and is thick and syrupy.
Serve the little tea cakes more Greek yoghurt, or cream, with a spoonful more of the compote or marmalade if desired.
This mixture makes 12 cupcakes, but you are looking for a larger than cupcake size in this recipe. You should get 6 good size cakes from the mixture. Liberally grease a 6 mold pan. I used my popover pan, as I love the deepness of each mold. A Texas muffin pan with 6 holes will work too.
Put all the ingredients except the milk in a food processor and blitz till smooth. Add the milk while pulsing to make a soft, dropping consistency.
Spoon the mixture into the molds, filling the molds equally.
Place the pan into the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until the cakes are cooked and golden on top.
Pop the cakes out of the molds and leave to cool on a wire rack.
For the lemon curd, place all the ingredients in a double boiler or bain marie. Cook over a medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. When cool, refrigerate until ready to use.
For the meringue, place egg whites in the clean, dry bowl of an electric mixer and whisk on high speed for 3-4 minutes to soft peaks.
Add caster sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, allowing each to be incorporated before adding the next, whisking until mixture is glossy. The meringue will be shiny and will hold stiff peaks when the whisk is lifted from the bowl.
To assemble, take each cake and “poke” 3 holes in the top of each cake, using the end of a wooden spoon. Be careful as you do this, as the cake might break. The idea is to get holes big enough to pipe the lemon curd into, but the end of the wooden spoon is just a little too large for the “poking”. If you have something a little smaller, by all means use that instead.
Fill a piping bag without a nozzle with the lemon curd, and gently pipe some curd into each hole in the cakes. The aim is to fill the holes. Once each cake is filled, pipe or spoon the rest of the curd over the tops of the cakes.
Fill another piping bag also without a nozzle with the meringue. You will only need half the mixture, so you can make a few spare meringues with the remainder of the mixture. Pipe a swirl of meringue on the top of each cake. Now using a blow torch, scorch the meringue topping as little or as much as you like.
The lemon meringue cakes look good and when you cut them open or bite into them, they should ooze with lemon curd from the “poke” holes. Very delicious and quite mooreish!
There are a few recipes that I make on a regular basis, and I love to post new versions on the blog to show you what I’ve been making. Soon I’ll be getting ready to make hot cross buns. I’ll probably wait till March, even though I was shocked to find hot cross buns already in the supermarket after Christmas!
One of my favourite things to make is granola. I make a batch every couple of weeks, as I really need my cereal fix every morning. I’ve posted the recipe a few times already here.
I thought I would add this version as I’m particularly keen on it. But it may not be to everyone’s taste. As the title implies there is salt in this recipe. Quite by accident, I bought salted nuts instead of unsalted for the granola. They were delicious! I love the combination of the sweetness from the dried fruit and honey, with the saltiness of the nuts. And hey, first it was salted caramel and, then salted chocolate, so why not sweet and salty granola?
2 cups of rolled oats 1 cup of bran flakes or similar 1/2 cup of salted nuts like macadamias, cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts A handful of mixed seeds like pepita, linseed, sesame 1/3 cup of honey, warmed to pouring consistency in a microwave 1/2 cup of any dried fruit – sultanas, raisins, apricots, cranberries, sour cherries.
Pre-heat the oven to 140 degrees C. You could try 160 degrees C for a quicker toasting but be careful you don’t burn the mix. Line a large baking tin with baking paper. You need to be able to spread the mix out so that all the mix is exposed to the heat.
Mix the oats, seeds and nuts together in a large bowl. Loosen the honey before microwaving with a little bit of water to make it more runny and easier to mix. Pour the warmed honey onto the mix and quickly stir it through. The mixture will be quite sticky, so stir fairly aggressively.
Spoon the mixture onto the baking paper in the tin, spreading it out so that it covers the base of the tin and there aren’t any big lumps.
Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the mixture is golden brown and thoroughly toasted. You will need to turn the mixture over half way through cooking, so that the underneath mixture gets its time on top and gets toasted. The oven time is a bit of guess work – just keep checking and remove when the mix is golden and not burnt!
Let cool for 5 minutes then add the dried fruit, combining everything well. Don’t worry if there are some clumpy bits stuck together with honey – they are a bonus!
You can serve this granola in so many different ways. Milk and Greek yoghurt are favourites with me. I will always have fresh fruit on hand to add to the granola. In high summer in January in Sydney, berries are plentiful and so cheap! Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, all amazing, all wonderful, and I eat them by the punetful. And stone fruit too, is really coming into its own this month. Yellow and white peaches, apricots and nectarines, all delicious. And passionfruit is delicious any time of the year.
If summer fruit is plentiful, then I’m making jam. I’ve made lots of jam in this last week – apricot, blackberry, strawberry, mixed berry, and my new find mango! I will be posting recipes for these shortly.
I’ve been eating my sweet and salty granola with Greek yoghurt and lots of fresh fruit and a dollop of mango jam. A fabulous addition to breakfast! Just delicious! But eat your granola with whatever takes your fancy.
I make croissants maybe a couple of times year. Not that often, as it’s an 18 hour process with so much proving to happen.
A while back I made croissants to take away to Bundanoon, in the beautiful Southern Highlands in NSW. We were staying at the lovely “Fulford Folly”, an idyllic country retreat with the added bonus of the company of two mini donkeys! We had a great break, and home made croissants on the verandah for breakfast seemed appropriate.
In previous posts I talk about my experimenting with enriched dough recipes, coming up with a recipe that works for both croissants and Danish pastries. So here is the recipe again, with photos of our breakfast. I served the croissants with lashings of cultured butter and my Plum, Raisin and Walnut Jam, the recipe is here if you’re interested.
450g strong flour 40g caster sugar 10g salt 10g instant yeast 10g unsalted butter, chilled 300mls full fat milk 250g unsalted high quality butter, chilled 1 free-range egg
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix the flour, sugar, salt and test until combined, rubbing the salt and yeast in at opposite sides of the bowl. Roughly rub in the 10g butter until crumb-like, then add the milk and form into a dough.
Mix the dough on a slow speed for 2 minutes, then on a medium speed for 6 minutes, until it has become smooth and doesn’t break when stretched. Place in a large plastic zip lock bag and refrigerate for at least an hour but preferably overnight.
Once the dough has rested, take the additional butter and place it between 2 sheets of greaseproof paper or cling film. Using a rolling pin, bash the butter until it flattens into a square, roughly 30cm x 20 cm. Return the butter to the fridge and remove the dough.
Roll out the dough on floured surface until it is a rectangle, about 50cm x 20cm. Lay the butter on the dough so that it covers the bottom two-thirds of it. Make sure that it is positioned neatly and comes almost to the edges.
Fold the exposed dough at the top down one-third of the butter. Now gently cut off the exposed bit of butter, without going through the dough, and put it on the top of the dough you have just folded down. Fold the bottom half of the dough up. You will now have a sandwich of two layers of butter and three of dough. Pinch the edges lightly to seal in the butter. Put the dough back in the plastic bag and chill for an hour to harden butter.
Gently roll the dough out into a new rectangle about three to four times as long as it is wide. Gently take both ends and fold them over towards each other, so that they meet in the middle (your rectangle should now be half as long as it was). Then, fold the new shape in half again, closing it like a book. Place in the ziplock bag, and refrigerate for at least half an hour.
Carefully, repeat the instructions in the last paragraph twice more, so that the dough has been folded and rested three times altogether.
The dough now needs to be left in the fridge for 8 hours, or overnight, to rest and rise slightly. It is then ready to use.
Line 2 or 3 baking trays with baking paper.
Put the dough on a lightly floured surface and roll out to a rectangle, about 40cm long and 30cm wide. Trim the edges to neaten them.
Cut the rectangle lengthways into 2 strips, then cut triangles along the length of each strip, about 12cm wide at the base and about 15cm high. You could use the first triangle as template for the rest, but I find it easier just to measure and cut each one. Hopefully you will get 6 triangles from each strip, but I don’t think it matters if you get one more or one less!
Hold down the wide base of the triangle and gently tug the opposite thin end to cause a slight tension in the dough. This helps with getting a tight roll. Starting at the wide end of the triangle, roll up into a croissant shape. Repeat with each triangle. Keep the ends of the croissants straight, apparently this is more authentic.
Put the croissants onto the baking trays, leaving space in between each of them to expand. Put each tray inside a clean plastic bag (I have some really large clear plastic bags I saved from a delivery or purchase)
Leave the croissants to rise at room temperature until doubled in size. This should take about 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.
Whisk the egg with a pinch of salt to make an egg wash and brush the top and sides of the croissants with the eggwash. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Cool on a wire rack. Of course you can eat them warm, but they do freeze well, so if you’re going to freeze them, do it as soon as they have cooled slightly.
It’s marmalade making season in Sydney with winter in full swing and citrus plentiful.
A colleague at work has a wonderful grapefruit tree which she tells me is very bountiful, bearing lots and lots of fruit that is both tangy and quite sweet tasting. The taste is almost like that of ruby grapefruit.
Recently in receipt of some of the bounty, I made a couple of batches of marmalade. The first batch, I hesitate to say, I made without a recipe, throwing the ingredients together, measuring by eye! Luckily for me the batch turned out, the fruit yielding a couple of jars of beautiful marmalade.
The second batch I made I followed the recipe below, successfully making a few jars. I added some crystallised ginger slivers to one jar to add a little heat.
500 g grapefruit
6 cups water
5 cups sugar
Wash the grapefruit, then remove the peel with a speed peeler. Cut the peel into thin strips and place in a large heavy bottomed saucepan. Cut the pith off the grapefruit, as this thick pith is bitter. Reserve the pith, putting it in a piece of muslin or muslin bag and tie up. Place the bag into the pan.
Chop the grapefruit into small chunks, and put into the saucepan, making sure you get as much of the juice as possible in the pan. If you can, try and remove the pips as you chop up the fruit.
Add the water to the saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer until the fruit peel is tender – this could be between 45 minutes and an hour and a half. Depending on how long you boil the fruit for will dictate how much liquid you’re left with. Don’t worry if you have a lot of liquid – it will eventually set into a fantastic jelly as the grapefruit has a lot of pectin.
When the peel is tender, remove the muslin bag and squeeze the juice into the saucepan.
Add the sugar, stirring until dissolved. Boil rapidly until setting point is reached. To test for setting point, take the pan off the heat. Put a little marmalade into a cold saucer and put in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes. The surface of the marmalade should be set. If it’s not set, return the pan to the heat and test again after a few minutes.
Skim the froth from the marmalade. Leave for 10 minutes before pouring into sterilised jars.
You can add a few slivers of crystallised ginger to one of the jars if you like.