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Recipe: My Prize Winning Victoria Sponge Cake

Summer is the season of horticultural and agricultural shows. Up and down the country, towns, villages and counties have fairs, fates and big shows and often there’s a competition where crafters, growers and bakers enter their produce to be judged against the best.

We were on holiday in the North Devon village of Welcombe during the preparations for their 60th Welcombe Horticultural Show. We have friends and family in the village, and they suggested I enter some of my baking. So that’s what I did. I entered two classes in the cookery section – Victoria Sponge and Homemade biscuits.

A Victoria Sponge should be a fairly straight forward thing to bake. It’s considered my many to be entry-level baking; but with a Victoria Sponge there is nowhere to hide. It’s so simple but quite easy to get a little bit wrong. Before I became more interested in baking I used to make very mediocre Victoria Sponge cakes, but in recent years I’ve perfected my recipe and technique and now my Victoria Sponge is as good as any.

Recipe: My Prize Winning Victoria Sponge

We were staying in a converted barn which had a very well equipped kitchen, so I only needed to buy some new cake tins and some weighing scales, plus the ingredients I needed. I made everything the night before the competition and made sure I read the WI rules for the perfect Victoria Sponge which you can find below.

Guidelines for making the Victoria Sponge sandwich for competition are set out in the NFWI Education Committee’s handbook On with the Show:
  • May be baked in one or two tins
  • No cooling rack marks on top or bottom surface
  • Traditional filling of raspberry jam, sufficient and evenly spread
  • Light sprinkling of caster sugar on top
  • Pale golden colour, evenly baked
  • Texture fine, even
  • Flavour delicate, characteristic, with no strong favour predominating

I followed these instructions almost to the letter, almost because I used icing sugar rather than caster sugar sprinkled over the top. I’ll know better next time.

I had a bit of a disaster with my lemon shortbread biscuits, the mix wouldn’t firm up enough for me to roll out, so I baked it in a traditional round and sliced it into six wedges. I knew that presentation would mark me down, and I was right; but the judges did comment on the lovely flavour and texture. So I just need to figure out what went wrong for next time.

We dropped my entries off on the morning of the show and then had a nervous wait while the judges deliberated. I was delighted when the show opened that afternoon to find that my lemon shortbread had won 3rd prize in its class and my Victoria Sponge was joint 1st.

Recipe: My Prize Winning Victoria Sponge

I genuinely did not think my baking stood a chance against the talented local bakers. The competition was very stiff and I was so pleased with myself for doing so well.

The recipe I used for my Victoria Sponge was based on my fail-safe sponge cake recipe which has done me proud over the years. It never fails, never.

Prize Winning Victoria Sponge cake Recipe

Ingredients:
200 g caster sugar
200 g softened butter or margarine (I use Stork)
4 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1.5 tbsp milk
200 g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder

To finish
1/3 of a jar of good quality raspberry jam
Caster sugar for dusting

Method:
Heat your fan oven to 190c. Grease two 20cm sandwich tins, I also lined the bottom of each tin with a circle of baking parchment. In a large bowl, beat your butter and sugar together until fluffy (I used a hand mixer). Add the eggs, milk and vanilla and combine, then add the flour and baking powder and mix together until you have a smooth batter.

Divide the mixture equally between the two tins. You can weigh them to make sure they’re fairly equal if you’d like. Bake in your pre-heated oven for around 20 mins until golden and they’re cooked. Remove from the tins and leave to cool on a cooling rack.

If you’re baking to WI standard and want to avoid making cooling rack marks, then turn your cakes out onto a cooling rack; but make sure there is a piece of baking parchment between the cake and the rack.

Leave your cakes to cool, preferably overnight before thickly spreading good quality raspberry jam between them and sandwiching them together. Dust with a little caster sugar and serve.

It’s really important to make sure your cakes are cool before you put your jam layer in. I thought mine were cool enough, but they weren’t and my jam seeped into the layers and I got marked down for that.

My Victoria Sponge was victorious! I’m planning to go back again next year and defend my title, enter a few more things into the show and do better with my lemon shortbread.

If you live somewhere where there is a village show, or some kind of Bake Off competition, please do consider entering. It’s really great fun. I entered thinking I didn’t have much hope of even placing, let alone winning anything. I was delighted to have done so well. Good luck, and happy baking!

Recipe: My Prize Winning Victoria Sponge Cake

My top five best bakes (for Christmas)

I was chatting about baking to a mum in the playground yesterday, we discovered a shared love of fairly unusual continental recipes, the kind Paul and Mary would give to Bake Off contestants to try and baffle them into submission. It got me thinking about some of my favourite things I’ve baked and blogged, so I thought I’d choose my top five best bakes and give them another airing.

I promise you they’re all easy, I lack the patience, time and skill to do anything too fancy and time consuming; but they’re all delicious. 

Lebkuchen Cake 

Traditionally a moreish soft biscuit, I decided to attempt a German Lebkuchen Cake with considerable success. The recipe is easier than it looks to make and the results are truly scrumptious!

Lebkuchen Cake

Joulutorttu

Traditionally Joulutorttu are made with puff pastry and a special Finnish prune jam. However I made mine with a Christmas preserve, but it does need a good firm set jam. Try plum or prune conserve for authenticity. They look a bit tricky to make, but it’s ready-roll puff pastry and jam and  a bit of arty twisting of the pastry.

Joulutorttu

Birnenpfannkuchen

Birnenpfannkuchen is a German Pear & Ginger Pancake. This is a brilliant store cupboard standby, and a real family favourite when you need a quick pud. It’s a bit like a fruity toad in the hole, only better!

Birnenpfannkuchen

Cinnamon & Raisin Shortbread

I originally created this shortbread recipe in 2013 in celebration of the Great British Bake Off and it’s still popular today. Cinnamon and raisin are a great combination and this lovely crumbly shortbread is a great bake.

shortbread

Microwave Jam Sponge Pudding

I’ve always hated the thought of “baking” in the microwave, but I’ve cracked it with this delicious sponge pudding. From mixing bowl to table in under ten minutes – perfect for busy families.

jam sponge

So that’s my little round up of my five best bakes. What would you have in your top five?

Recipe: Easy Chocolate Malt Cake

Since joining “the motherhood” I’ve had to get acquainted with my mixing bowl. I’ve never been a great baker of cakes, but seemingly the minute you become a mother, someone thrusts a whisk into your hands and asks you to bake two dozen fairy-cakes for some occasion or other.

My go-to cake has been a Victoria Sponge and my Vicky-Sponge is generally pretty well received, but I have failed in my attempts to make a good chocolate version, until now that is. There was always something missing, a lack of depth of rich chocolateyness and I couldn’t figure out why. I was sent a jar of Rayner’s Classic Malt Extract to try, my first port of call was to tentatively add it to a chocolate sponge cake, and by Jove I’d cracked it!

Easy Chocolate Malt Cake Recipe

My easy chocolate malt cake recipe is by definition easy, quick to throw together in a cake emergency and tasty enough to offer the Vicar for tea. It probably won’t win any prizes for innovation or decoration, but it’s a delicious stand alone cake, or it works well with a dollop of ice cream and some fruit.

Easy Chocolate Malt Cake

Serves 8
A real simple, really tasty chocolate sponge cake with an undercurrent of malty richness.

Ingredients
4oz sugar
4oz butter or margarine
2 medium eggs
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons Bourbon cocoa powder
2 teaspoons Rayner’s Malt Extract
4oz self raising flour
Splash of milk

Instructions
Beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Stir in the eggs, baking powder, cocoa powder and malt extract, mix until well combined. Gently fold in the self raising flour, add a small splash of milk if the mixture is too stiff.

Pour the cake batter into a lined loaf tin.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 190 for 30 minutes, check if it is cooked through and if it is remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Easy Chocolate Malt Cake

Note: I was sent a jar of Rayner’s Classic Malt Extract free of charge to use in a recipe. All images and opinions are our own.

Introduction to Baking Class at Wilmslow Kitchen Cookery School

It’s August, which can only mean one thing – the nation goes Great British Bake Off crazy! I love baking and I class myself as an enthusiastic amateur rather than a master baker, my main problem is confidence, I look at the glorious show-stoppers on GBBO and I know my creations would be laughed out of the show tent. Thankfully (and excitingly) I was invited along to an Introductory Baking Class at the Wilmslow Kitchen Cookery School, an foodie blogger event hosted by kitchen legends – Kenwood and Currys PC World.

Wilmslow Kitchen Cookery School

We were introduced to the rather beautiful Kenwood kMix mixers, they come in a variety of lovely colours and I was drawn to the teal one, which perfectly matches my blog. I did point this fact out rather loudly and hopefully, but alas my request to take it home where it so clearly belonged fell on deaf ears.

Wilmslow Kitchen Cookery School

The Kenwood kMix is a contemporary version of the classic Kenwood mixer, it comes with the K beater, power whisk, flexi beater as well as a metal or glass bowl.

Sarah, David and Brian from Wilmslow Kitchen Cookery School gave us a run through of our busy afternoon of baking. In pairs (I was with Emma from Farmer’s Wife & Mummy) we were each going to make meringues, a Swiss roll and a rich chocolate tart. I was particularly excited (and terrified) as the thought of making and rolling a Swiss roll is an idea fraught with peril, the demonstration drew gasps of amazement from the watching crowd of bloggers.

Wilmslow Kitchen Cookery School

We were to tackle what I thought were some fairly difficult tasks, thankfully we were expertly walked through it all and what’s more it was all very enjoyable. I have long feared the meringue, but after trying my hand at the Intro to Baking session at Wilmslow Kitchen Cookery School I went home and made my own delicious batch.

The Swiss roll was, and still is frankly terrifying, but doable, and I’ve had a request to try and recreate the recipe at home. I am increasingly diary intolerant, so decided not to use cream in my Swiss roll and was given the option of a vegan buttercream, which was half a cup of vegan soy based spread whipped with half a cup of icing sugar and a lot (their words) of vanilla extract. It was pretty yummy and I didn’t miss the cream.

Wilmslow Kitchen Cookery School

Here’s what we made, the meringues were by far my favourite, the small boy liked them too. If you like a rich hit of chocolate then the chocolate tart is for you. But the Swiss roll was the winner – really light and if you’re brave, really easy to roll – honestly, if I can do it, you can too!

Recipe: Cinnamon & Raisin Shortbread

If you’re a novice baker, biscuits and shortbread are a great place. Biscuits are fairly easy. They don’t need to be light and fluffy and they don’t need to rise. The one thing I can successfully bake,which usually gets stacks of compliments is shortbread. I usually bake plain or lavender shortbread but I’ve decided to mix things up and bake a cinnamon and raisin shortbread instead.

I inherited the basic shortbread recipe from my Grandma who was a cook and a pastry chef. She used to make fantastic puddings. I’ve taken her shortbread recipe and added a few other ingredients. I’m really pleased with the results, they’re a buttery, short, crumbly shortbread with a lovely cinnamon and raisin twist!

Recipe: Cinnamon & Raisin Shortbread

Cinnamon and Raisin Shortbread

Ingredients:
225g butter
130g caster sugar
350g plain flour
3 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
50g raisins
Caster sugar for sprinkling

Method:
Pre-heat your oven to 180. You’ll need to have a couple of baking trays covered with greaseproof paper ready.

Rub the butter and sugar together with your fingers or using a food mixer. Then lightly rub in the flour and the cinnamon with a wooden spoon (I do this in stages to avoid a flour cloud in the kitchen). Add the raisins and mix through the dough.

I find the following method tidier and it stops you manhandling the dough too much. Once the cinnamon and raisin shortbread dough is almost together; tip it out onto a large sheet of greaseproof paper. Bring the dough together with your hands and then fold the paper in half with the mixture sandwiched in between.

With a rolling-pin, roll it out between the sheets of paper, so it’s about 5mm thick and cut into rounds. I used a glass for this and carefully lifted each cinnamon and raisin shortbread biscuit onto the baking tray. Sprinkle a pinch of sugar over each round.

I managed to get 18 large shortbread rounds out of the dough and I got another 18 mini round shortbreads too. Bake the mini rounds for just 10 minutes, they’re lovely with a cup of tea and their mini size makes them seem much fancier.

Bake the large shortbread rounds in the pre-heated oven for 12-15 minutes. Keep an eye on the shortbread, they don’t really want to brown. Once they’re baked, remove from the oven and leave to cool on a rack.

Recipe: Cinnamon & Raisin Shortbread

Shortbread can be a tricky beast, you don’t want your shortbread to brown, it needs to be pale in not over-baked. It’s tricky to see these shortbreads brown as the cinnamon makes them darker to begin with. Different ovens cook differently and I’ve found different butters behave differently too. So it’s best to keep having a peek. You want it to still be pale, but cooked through. You don’t want to dry it out and over-bake either.

Try if you can (I failed) not to gobble one down while they’re still hotter than the surface of the sun. Once cool, enjoy with a streaming mug of tea. They can happily be stored in an airtight tin for a few days, if they last that long.

Recipe: Cinnamon & Raisin Shortbread

These shortbreads were a massive hit, they were loved by all. I was cautious with the cinnamon as not everyone likes it. I think next time I’d put more cinnamon, but it depends how much of a fan of this spice you are. If you’re not sure how much you want to add, you can always taste the raw dough and add more if you think it needs it.

If you enjoyed this recipe, you might also like my recipe for Crumbly Cranachan Shortbread with Whisky.

Recipe: Cinnamon & Raisin Shortbread