Fit for the Queen: Victoria Sponge and Triple Berry Trifle

I was blog surfing when I came across a British one called "How to Make Cakes." There, I found a lovely recipe for Victoria Sponge that promised to be simple and delicious. I've never had Victoria Sponge, and it's not easy to find any in the area, so the best way for me to see what it tastes like is to actually make it. Besides, a "toss-everything-in-a-bowl-and-stir" cake that promises to be light and fluffy? This, I had to try.

I was surprised at how well it turned out. The eggs made the cake very flavourful and it was very tender. It's not what North Americans would call a "sponge cake"; it's more of a cross between butter cake and pound cake. Traditionally, jam and cream is sandwiched between two tall layers, but I had other plans instead...

One of my favourite English desserts has to be the trifle. I also think it's the perfect dessert to bring to potlucks for several reasons:
It's "make ahead" and tastes better the day after it's made.
It's assembled in a bowl so transportation is easy (a buttercream layer cake sliding around in the car in the summer heat=tragedy waiting to happen).
It looks pretty and pretty impressive.
It's not too heavy and rich after a big meal.
It can be adjusted to serve a few or many people.
And nobody can resist cake, berries, and cream.

There is much debate over what goes into the trifle bowl. Generally speaking, trifle consists of cake, cream, custard, spirits and fruit. There are hundreds of recipes and combinations out there, but in the height of summer, I like to make a simple, lightened version with tangy lemon curd and lots of fresh berries. However, the Victoria Sponge cake made it a little heavier than usual. If you try making trifle with chiffon or sponge cake and don't sog it down too much, the dessert could just float away...

Lemon Triple Berry Trifle
Serves 15

1 pint each: strawberries (halved and then sliced), blueberries, raspberries
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoon lemon juice

2 cups whipping cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 tablespoons icing sugar

1 recipe of Victoria Sponge (or pound cake, or sponge cake, if desired)
1 recipe lemon curd (about 1 1/2 cups), thinned with a tablespoon of whipping cream if necessary

In a large bowl, combine berries, sugar, and lemon juice. Stir and macerate at room temperature for 30 minutes.

In a large chilled bowl, whip cream on high speed with an electric mixer until billowy and soft. Add vanilla and sift in icing sugar. Continue whipping until soft peaks form.

In a deep glass bowl, place a layer of cut up cake. Top with half the berries and drizzle juice on top. Make sure some berries are pushed to the side of the dish so you can see them through the side. Drizzle with lemon curd and then cover with a layer of whipped cream. Repeat layers, ending with a layer of whipped cream.

Decorate the top with whole berries (toasted flaked almonds are nice too). Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours.

Victoria Sponge (http://www.howtomakecakes.co.uk/2007/09/back-to-victoria-sponge.html)

285g Self-raising flour
2.5 teaspoons (12.5ml) Baking powder
285g Margarine
285g Caster Sugar
5 Eggs
Raspberry or Strawberry Jam

Buttercream Ingredients
150g Softened Butter
340g Icing Sugar
3 tablespoons (45ml) Warm water

Equipment required
2 greased 8-inch sandwich tins
Large mixing bowl
Electric whisk

- Sieve the flour and baking powder into a large bowl
- Add all the other ingredients into the bowl
- Using an electric whisk beat the ingredients together, starting slowly then medium until you get a smooth, creamy consistency
- Divide the mixture between the two sandwich tins and bake at 170 degrees centigrade (340 degrees Fahrenheit) for 30-40 minutes. The cake should be springy to the touch.
- When cooked immediately turn out onto a wire rack.

- Soften the butter and beat until smooth
- Gradually add the icing sugar, beating well
- Add the water and beat until smooth

Spread some jam on one half of the sponge and buttercream on the other and sandwich together. Sieve icing sugar on top

My tips for a good Victoria Sponge are:
1) Use good quality 8-inch sandwich tins. Line them with greaseproof paper to avoid the cake sticking
2) If you have a fan oven, do not use the fan feature. Cakes cook much better on the traditional oven setting
3) Be careful not to use too much jam or buttercream otherwise the cake may slide apart when sandwiched together. Do however spread the jam and buttercream to the edge of the sponges as this will enhance the appearance of the cake
4) When turning out the cakes onto the wire rack, try turning one out onto a solid surface (like a chopping board) and then put it on the wire rack so that the top of the cake does not get the marks from the wire rack. This will make it look much better.

Lemon Curd:
Yields 1 1/2 cups

3 large eggs
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely shredded lemon zest
3/4 cups sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cool and cut into small pieces

In a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and lemon juice until blended. Cook, stirring constantly (to prevent it from curdling), until the mixture becomes thick (like sour cream or a hollandaise sauce) (160 degrees F or 71 degrees C). This will take approximately 10 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately pour through a fine strainer to remove any lumps. Cut the butter into small pieces and whisk into the mixture until the butter has melted. Add the lemon zest and let cool. The lemon curd will continue to thicken as it cools. Cover immediately (so a skin doesn't form) and refrigerate for up to a week.

Victoria Sponge recipe courtesy of Mark Sanford and How to Make Cakes
Lemon Curd recipe courtesy of Joyofbaking.com
Image and trifle recipe property of beets and bites

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