Friday, October 25, 2013

Victorian Sponge Cake

Tribute to Queen Victoria ,

 the humblest yet one of the best Cakes

Before you read this post I have to say that my Victorian Cake has remained the same over the years but what has changed is the quality of the photographs 

 The Classic Cake 

I have observed that in recent times there is a craze for artistically crafted cakes. So the rage is to be a Michelangelo in baking but I personally still fail to understand the charm of fondant coated cakes over so many delicious pastries. We all have our personal likes and dislikes. I believe this diversity ultimately unites us but for me the allure of  traditional baked goodies would always  win over artistic cakes which really need artistic hands but the taste , well is too sugary, for what is fondant or other cake decorative items but unhealthy masses of sugar, almonds and other ingredients.

I have gone back to the basics. This cake is said to be famous from Queen Victoria's times. Legend has it that the Queen herself would enjoy this delicious cake with rich whipped cream and tea every afternoon.          

 Rich, buttery and delicious , it is a perfect tea-time accompaniment. The smell is intoxicating and the ingredients are so basic that it is probably the first cake that an amateur should take a shot at. A very old baker once told me that a baker's quality can be best tested with the kind of Victorian sponge cake also known as pound cake one makes. Simple yet not to be unjustly not given due respect. The only thing to be kept in mind is that all the ingredients should be of an equal amount. You can make a loaf or the classic round cake.

I have seen that the quality of ingredients is the key to any good dish. It does not matter if one does not have access to some exotic ingredient but freshness and good quality are the only secrets which maketh or breaketh a dish. I have found that in Calcutta the unsalted butter from J.Johnson's is fresh and creamy and renders the best of cakes.

Serves 4 to 5

Pan size to be used - 6 inch to 7 inch pan

The basic ingredients are:

125 gm unsalted butter + 1.5 tsp for buttering the cake pan
125 gm all purpose flour + a 1 tbsp for using on the cake mould. (If you are using a cup which holds 250ml liquid then use 1 cup of the flour minus 1 tsp since a cup which holds 250ml liquid holds 128gm of flour)
125 gm castor sugar
Baking powder (Now for this please do read the package to know how much to use) I personally require half a tsp
2 large eggs

For the filling and topping for round cakes

250ml double cream (I would always recommend the dairy cream )
170gm strawberry
100gm castor sugar
1/4th of juice from a lemon

Start with the strawberry compote.

First mix the sugar and 120 gm (leaving 6 strawberries for decoration) strawberry together and let it sit for about 1 hour and then use the juice of lemon and bring to a boil and then simmer till ti reaches a soft sticky consistency. Whip you cream and keep it ready in the refrigerator.

The first thing to do is to butter the baking mould  ( 6 inch to 7 inch)  and dust it with flour. Timing is everything for baking. You should have your cake pan ready.

One should begin by sieving the all purpose flour and baking powder together. While one mixes the cake batter one should pre-heat the oven to 180 C. From my experience in the area of baking, the best cakes are the ones baked over a long period on medium heat. Too much heat would make the outer parts crispy and the inner parts uncooked.

Once you have started the process of preheating you need to be a bit quick because a  batter which sits out  for too long is a ruined batter. The Victorian sponge cake is one of my favourite cakes and so I have not only made it numerous times but have learnt to improve upon it overtime and only recently did I learn that using a wooden spatula yields the best result. So use the wooden spatula to soften the butter and then cream the butter by using the spatula against the wall of the bowl till its fluffy and add the sugar bit by bit to fluff it up to a point where all the sugar has melted and you are left with something which tastes light as air. Then add the eggs one by one and it is now that you should use your whisk to fluff up the batter and then reject the whisk again when you add the flour and switch to the wooden spoon and finally fold the flour and baking powder sifted from before by sifting it a second time . Your batter should be light and have a dropping consistency. (Remember that extra baking powder would invariably result in a cracked top and zinc like taste so be very careful about it)

 Seasoned bakers say that  the batter should never be over mixed.

Then all one needs to do is to pour the batter in the baking pan and bake it for  40 minutes to 50 minutes  in case one is using a convection oven or 30 minutes to 35 minutes for regular ovens. Do not open the door at any cost during this period. For a fool proof recipe (wrap a tea towel around the cake pan because when you use an aluminium pan the sides tend to heat up faster and as a result your sides often get overcooked, besides this might also lead to cracked tops so a tea towel ensures slow even baking)

Now patience is the key to success. So once done do insert a toothpick to check if its done. If the toothpick comes out clean your cake is ready but first it needs to sit in the pan once you take it out from the oven for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges and then flip it over a rack and flip that back and let it cool for another half an hour before slicing it in half for the whipped cream and strawberry compote to be applied. Apply a thick layer of whipped cream and strawberry compote and then place the other half of the cake on top and then apply a generous amount of whipped cream on top and decorate with strawberries. Enjoy this classic cake with a cup of steaming hot tea

Here are a few tips which might help in achieving that light firm yet airy Cake.

  1. Never over mix the batter 
  2. Creaming the butter and sugar to a fluffy airy consistency is a must 
  3. Once you start making your batter be as quick as possible 
  4. Once you have transferred the batter in the cake pan, wet your hands and gently press the batter. This helps in achieving an even top. 
  5. B every careful about the amount of baking powder since even a tiny pinch of  extra baking powder would lead to a cracked top. 
  6. If you double the recipe use 2 , 8 inch pans