The great British Victoria Sandwich, 1897 style

23 Aug

You can’t really get a cake more British than a Victoria Sandwich and before I leave these shores for Canada I thought I should bake one last Victoria sponge.  Ever since we opened our exhibition about Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, Jubilee – A view from the crowd, and my colleague at Kensington, Tim Powell, masterminded the wonderful ‘How to … ‘ video with food historian Annie Gray demonstrating how to make a Victoria sponge 19th century style I’ve been meaning to give it a go.

My lack of Victorian equipment, like a copper bowl, means that my cake is something of a hybrid, with the 19th century ingredients and basic method alongside the helping hand of modern conveniences.  Although Victorian utensils clearly helped their cooks acheived the desired results; they’d use a copper bowl for whisking the eggs the copper reacts with the eggs to form a natural raising agent – clever!

The other distinctive feature of the cake is that it uses no fat, apparently common for cakes in the Victorian period and as Annie says, good for the waistline, although the quantity of eggs and 12oz of caster sugar may cancel out the effect somewhat.  The following photos illustrate the process and finished result.


Whisking up the 6 eggs, which took about 6 minutes so that they were really foamy.  The final cake reflected something of this lovely, warm yellow colour.

ImageReady to add the flour to the egg and caster sugar mixture.  Annie suggests giving the cake an authentic touch by adding orange flower water, a popular flavouring in the 19th century.


In it goes; the cake gets about half an hour in the oven.  A nice touch is prepping the tin with sugar as well as butter so that the cake crust has a lovely crunch.


Next step, preparing the cake for sandwiching; Annie suggests cutting the cake into fingers and trying out different flavours for the filling jam so I’m trying apricot and raspberry.

ImageThe finished result!  We might be used to round Victoria sponges but Victorians were far more likely to arrange theirs in stacked fingers.  As you can see my pile (a bit like a Victoria sponge Jenga) was a little bit wobbly so I used some strategically placed cocktail sticks to make sure it stayed in place for the photo.

The texture was much denser than a normal Victoria sponge.  Of the two fillings the raspberry jam is definitely my preferred flavour; more distinctive and not so sweet, which worked well against the orange flower flavouring in the sponge.  I think on balance I’d probably go for modern, lighter Victoria sponge but it was fun trying … now two days before I head off and the Canadian experimentation begins!


One Response to “The great British Victoria Sandwich, 1897 style”


  1. The great British Victoria Sandwich, 1897 style « maplesyrupandcastersugar - August 23, 2012

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