The humble sandwich was 250 years old on Saturday. Apparently the 4th Earl of Sandwich (in Kent) wanted to eat while he finished a card game and ordered his servants to bring him beef between two slices of bread. His fellow card players requested the same, and the sandwich – pretty much as we know it today – was born. So when did the Victoria sandwich (sponge) come to be so known? Who decided to cut a cake in half, fill it with jam, cream or other sweet stuff and stick it back together again?
I don’t know whether the Victorians referred to the Victoria sponge as a cake or a sandwich, but either way – this particular baked item seems to have established itself (here in Britain at least) as the measure of a good baker. You need to know about the 5 crucial baking secrets in order to bake the perfect Victoria sponge (or sandwich).
- Make sure the butter is at room temperature before you start. Why? Because having it at just the right temperature means the maximum amount of air can be beaten in – and air is important in Victoria sponge (unless you want a biscuit).
- You have to use a metal spoon – Why? The sharp thin edge of the spoon will cut through the mixture with the minimum of air release.
- After you’ve added the eggs, use a figure of eight movement to fold the rest of the flour in. Why? We don’t have a clue but it makes a difference!
- Don’t even think about looking in the oven before the first two thirds of cooking time is up. Why? Because you’ll alter the temperature by letting cold air in…and that means the chemical reactions taking place at the perfect temperature will stop…and your cake will sink.
- Tap the sides of the baking tin while humming ‘Patter Cake, Patter Cake Baker’s Man’ before removing the cake. Why? No reason at all (well it might help loosen the cake), but it amuses the kids!
Try it and let me know how you get on. Do you have any baking secrets you’re willing to divulge?