The Victoria Sandwich, a British Teatime Classic
"One Victoria Sandwich, please!"
If you were to walk into a British bakery and ask for a Victoria Sandwich, you might be surprised to be presented with a cake!
A fancy jam sandwich is a good way to think of the Victoria Sandwich. The slices of bread are represented by two layers of soft sponge cake. The butter is replaced with rich buttercream frosting. The jam is... well, the jam is raspberry jam (homemade!).
The Victoria Sandwich cake became popular, perhaps unsurprisingly, in Victorian England. It is thought that this was one of Queen Victoria's favorite cakes. Queen Victoria enjoyed tea parties, and was famous for her love of cakes. It is highly likely that this simple but delicious sponge cake was a part of the royal high tea.
One origin story of the Victoria Sandwich suggests that Victorians were worried that young children taking tea might choke on fruit and seeds find in the more traditional fruitcake or seedcake. So the lighter, sweeter Victoria Sandwich was created as a child-friendly alternative. It proved very popular, and quickly found its way to the adult's tea table.
Based on the traditional pound cake (a plain cake made with equal parts eggs, flour, butter and sugar) the Victorians added a brand new ingredient to the mix. Baking powder was a recent invention that was added to help the cake rise to fluffy, airy heights.
To this day the Victoria Sandwich remains extremely popular and is one of the most traditional cakes served at teatime in the UK.
Simple for Beginners, a Test for the Experts
The simple ingredients and easy recipe make the Victoria Sandwich a perfect cake for beginner bakers to practice and learn their skills.
It also presents a fantastic opportunity for more experienced bakers to really put their skills to the test. Baking a perfect Victoria Sandwich can be tricky, as it is very sensitive to oven temperatures and baking times. It is such a good indicator that an oven is working correctly that oven manufacturers in the UK test their ovens by baking Victoria Sandwiches!
It is also a popular contender in baking competitions at British village fairs, and the Women's Institute in the UK, known as the W.I., hosts an annual Victoria Sandwich competition. The W.I. has strict rules about the recipe and ingredients used in its competitions; raspberry jam should be used as the only filling, with no buttercream or cream. Most British people would expect a Victoria Sandwich to contain buttercream frosting, so this is a contentious subject!
Variations on a Classic
Thanks to its simple recipe, it is very easy to alter parts of it to make variations on the traditional Victoria Sandwich. The raspberry jam is often replaced with strawberry jam, or occasionally even lemon curd. Fresh fruit can also be added to the filling. Either buttercream frosting or fresh whipped cream can be used. Traditionally, fine granulated sugar is sprinkled on top, but confectioner's sugar is more popular nowadays. Frosting the top of the cake is rarely done, and many Brits may think that a frosted Victoria Sandwich isn't really a Victoria Sandwich at all!
At Tina's Traditional, we stick to the tried and tested traditional recipe. Two fluffy sponge layers with a buttercream frosting and homemade raspberry jam filling, topped with a sprinkling of confectioner's sugar.