Tomorrow at our English class we are going to have a typically English tea party… I know the class is in the morning but we are going to bring in our best china, table cloths, napkins, milk jugs and an array of different tea time treats.

I’ve volunteered to make some cakes and I think I’ll make a coffee cake and a Victoria sandwich or sponge. Queen Victoria was very fond of cakes, and the new 1860’s craze for afternoon tea parties was a great way for her to indulge her sweet tooth.  A Victoria sponge, named after her is in fact quite simple, a light sponge cake filled with jam, or jam and cream and topped with castor or icing sugar. However when I consult the different recipes, I find that there seems to be a confusion with the number of eggs… there should be equal quantities of butter, castor sugar and flour, but then is it three or four eggs? Eggs weighed in their shells even?

Although Eliza Acton was writing before the tea-party rage, she has a recipe for ‘a good sponge cake’ and ‘a smaller sponge cake (very good)’.

A GOOD SPONGE CAKE

  • rasped rind of 1 large lemon
  • fresh eggs, 8 or 10
  • their weight of dry, sifted sugar
  • and half their weight of flour
  • baked 1¼hour, moderate oven

Rasp some lumps of well-refined sugar, the rind of a fine sound lemon, and scrape off the part which has imbibed the essence, or crush the lumps to powder, and add them to as much more as will make up the weight of eight or ten fresh eggs in the shell; break these one by one, and separate the whites from the yolks; beat the latter in a large bowl for ten minutes, then strew in the sugar gradually and beat well together. In the mean time let the whites be whisked to a solid froth, add them to the yolks, and when they are well blended sift and stir the flour gently to them, but do not beat it into the mixture; pour the cake into a well-buttered mould, and bake it an hour and a quarter in a moderate oven.

A SMALLER SPONGE CAKE
(very good)

Five full-sized eggs, the weight of four in sugar, and of nearly three in flour, will make an exceedingly good cake; it may be flavoured, like the preceding one, with lemon-rind, or with bitter almonds, vanilla, or confected orange-blossom reduced to powder. An hour should bake it thoroughly. All the ingredients for sponge cakes should be of good quality, and the sugar and flour should be dry; they should also be passed through a fine sieve kept expressly for such purposes. The excellence of the whole depends much on the matter the eggs are whisked: this should be done as lightly as possible, but it is a mistake to suppose they cannot be too long beaten, as after they are brought to a state of perfect firmness they are injured by a continuation of whisking and will at times curdle, and render a cake heavy from this cause.

A very intersting article about Eliza:

https://usingmainlyspoons.com/2012/03/04/eliza-acton-victorian-recipe-creator/

… and something about Victoria sponges:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/8753182/The-great-Victoria-sandwich.html

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