April 3, 2011

Basic vanilla Victoria sponge cake

How many things that you learn in school are actually useful and delicious? At my high school in England, we all had to take two years of home economics (aka cooking) lessons. An elderly lady with a bouffant white hairdo oversaw my very first attempt at making Victoria sponge in a large lab kitchen. I remembered liking home ec lessons a lot - too bad there wasn't an option to continue them for GCSE!

I don't make plain vanilla sponge very often and have gone through a period of not being able to make a light airy sponge for the past few years. I blamed the humidity in Hong Kong for turning my attempts at sponge cake into dense bricks, but honestly, I think it was because I was trying to be too fancy and relied on complicated recipes. I've finally come full circle and accepted that there are some things in life you just shouldn't mess with, and Victoria sponge is one of them.

This sponge cake recipe is a good base for cakes and cupcakes.

I adapted my Victoria sponge recipe from Nigella's How to be a domestic goddess, but added extra ground almonds and cornstarch/cornflour for a finer, more tender crumb.

Basic Vanilla Victoria Sponge

  • 225g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 225g vanilla sugar (or 225g regular sugar + 1 tsp vanilla extract)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 200g plain flour + 1 tsp baking powder, sifted & combined together (or 200g self-raising/rising flour)
  • 10g cornstarch/cornflour
  • 15g ground almonds/almond powder*
  • 3-4 tbsp milk
  • icing sugar for dusting (optional)
*If you don't have almonds handy, you can just up the cornstarch to 25g instead. It will still be OK but will lack that little extra special almond fragrance. If you're really desperate you can omit the cornstarch entirely and just use 225g flour instead, but I can't vouch for how your cake turns out - the cornstarch and almonds really make the cake more tender and fine.

  1. Preheat oven to 180C. 
  2. Grease and line 2 x round baking tins (about 21cm/8").
  3. Sift together flour, baking powder (if using), cornstarch/flour and almonds in a separate bowl. Stir it around a bit to combine. SIFT AGAIN. 
  4. Cream butter and sugar in another bowl until pale and fluffy.
  5. Beat in vanilla (if using) and eggs one at a time until incorporated. Add in a heaping spoonful of flour between eggs. 
  6. Fold in the rest of the flour, mix until combined. Add a few tablespoons of milk - only add enough so that the batter has a dropping consistency (i.e. it should drop easily off your spoon).
  7. Pour into the prepared cake tins and bake for 25 minutes or until springy to the touch, golden brown and a cake tester/wooden toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake. It should also pull away a little from the edges of the cake pan.
  8. Cool in pan on a cooling rack for 15 minutes, then remove from pan and let cool entirely on rack. 
  9. To get a flatter sponge (if your cake has a huge dome on top), turn the cake upside down and press gently. This is a helpful tip if you're planning to frost the cake and want even cake layers. 
  10. Choose the "uglier" cake and place it with the flatter side facing up. Spread whipped cream/cream cheese frosting/your preferred filling and ripe fruit over the cake.
  11. Place the second cake on top of your bottom layer and gently press down to "sandwich" your cake. Don't squeeze too hard or your filling will ooze out and create a lava effect. 
  12. Dust the top with icing sugar, if desired.

  • I use 15cm/6" round pans and got a higher cake, or you can halve the recipe, or use cupcake liners if you want cupcakes/fairycakes - it's a very flexible recipe. I use the baking pans with the removable disc bottoms (not springform, which would be even better). 
  • The classic filling is lightly whipped cream and fresh English strawberries, but this proved hard to transport (especially in a warmer climate like Hong Kong's) so for this cake, I used leftover lemon cream cheese frosting that I made for my carrot cupcakes (recipe here). It worked quite well as the lemon helped cut through the sweetness of the sponge cake.  
  • If you want to go all-out, then you can use a thicker frosting to cover the entire cake to make a traditional layer cake.  
  • Once you've nailed the sponge cake, then feel free to go wild with variations - chocolate sponge, Nutella fillings, mango coconut fillings, banana -choc fillings, ...the possibilities are endless.  


  1. Strawberries and cream are something I can't resist...! Simply delicious :D)!

  2. I agree! I usually prefer raspberries myself, but the combination of strawberries and cream is so simple but very hard to say no to. ^^

  3. Tried it 3 weeks ago and everyone loved it. My fussy DH is still raving. Many thanks