Traditional Victorian Sandwich Cake

Saturday 28 August 2010

One of my favourite television shows over here has to be Larkrise to Candleford. Based on a trilogy of novels written by the author, Flora Thompson about the countryside of north-east Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire at the end of the 19th Century, neither Todd nor I have ever missed an episode in all of the three series that have come out now. In fact we purchased them on DVD so that we could treat ourselves to turn-of-the-century village life anytime we wanted to!

A reader recently contacted me, and asked me if I had any knowledge of the type of food that would have been cooked in that era. An American, he and his wife are also great fans of the show, and were very curious about a cake that they had seen the old cook beating together in a bowl during one episode in series one.

Well, since the series takes place in the late Victorian era, I would have to say, without a doubt and with fair certainty, that it was probably a Victoria Sponge, or Victoria Sandwich Cake . . . a lovely buttery sponge cake that would have benefited greatly by some strong armed beating in a bowl.

It was the Victorians that invented this lovely cake by adding butter to an ordinary sponge mixture, which baked better in two flat tins rather than one deep tin. (Oh those Victorians, they were very clever at inventing things I have to say!)

The two cakes were then stuck together with a layer of tasty jam. According to Victorian manuals of the day, sponge cakes would have been made more for the nursery tea table than the drawing room, but we won't quibble the facts . . . the fact is that this cake is delicious, and I would serve it to anyone, child or adult!!

This is just the sort of cake one would imagine Dorcas and her employees at the Post Office sitting down to late in the afternoon . . . teatime . . . a china pot of steaming, freshly made tea at the ready to be served along side of lovely thick slabs of this moist and delicious sponge.

This is a real favourite around this house, and more or less tends to get treated like an ordinary every day kind of cake . . . but upon reflection, I know not why . . . coz it is fine enough to please even the most discerning of palates, and is anything but ordinary!!

I think Dorcas Lane would highly approve . . . it surely being my only weakness . . . something of which she knows full well . . . of this we would be in agreement. (Recipe adapted from the WI Cakes Cookery Book by Liz Herbert. If there is one thing the WI know alot about, it's baking cakes!)

*Traditional Victorian Sandwich Cake*
Makes one 7 inch cake
Printable Recipe

Popular during the reign of Qyeen Victoria, this cake remains popular to this day, which is a huge testament to it's taste and ease of baking! Don't be tempted to use all butter. This is one recipe that is better for the use of a mixture of butter and margarine.

3 ounces of butter, softened (6 TBS)
3 ounces soft margarine (6 TBS)
6 ounces caster sugar (1 cup)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs, beaten
6 ounces self raising flour (a scant 1 1/2 cups)

To finish:
3 TBS raspberry jam
buttercream to fill (optional)
icing sugar or caster sugar to dust the top

Butter and base line two 7 inch sandwich tins. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.

Cream the butter, margarine, sugar and vanilla together until light in colour and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs, a little at a time, beating well after each addition. If the mixture begins to curdle, add a spoonful of the flour.

Fold in the flour with a metal spoon, taking care to use a cutting motion so as not to knock out too much of the air that you have beaten into the batter. Divide the batter evenly between the two cake tins, leveling off the surface. Make a slight dip in the centre of each.

Bake on a centre rack of the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the sponges have risen well, are golden brown, and spring back when lightly touched. Allow to cool in the pan for five minutes before running a knife carefully around the edges and turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Once cooled, place one layer on a cake plate. Spread with raspberry jam and buttercream (if using). Place the other cake on top, pressing down lightly. Dust with icing or caster sugar and serve.

By the way Commentor #63, Sheilagh, a Random Numbers Generator has picked you as the winner of the Delightful Hamper Giveaway. Contact me with your details and I will let the HamperGift people know where to send it. Thanks so much to everyone who participated and joined in on the fun. I wish you could all be winners. Don't be too disappointed though as I will soon be hosting another giveway hosted by the lovely people at Kellogg's . . . yes the people who bring us all those delicious breakfast cereals!


  1. Ohhh a good slice of cake has to be my 'one weakness' too!

  2. Good morning Marie! Victoria sponge surely has to be one of the first cakes we British learn to make, I love it too, so simple but oh so very delicious!
    We LOVE Larkrise too and also have the dvds of the series, it's just so well made that you almost believe that you're right there with Larkrise or in Candleford! I never want the series to end!
    Have a good weekend with Todd and Mitzie! xxx

  3. I LOVE Lark Rise as well, waiting for the third season on dvd to be available at the library! I have made a victoria sponge a couple of years ago and it was delicious...I'll give your recipe a try :)

  4. Mmmmmmmm. A piece of Victoria Sponge with a cuppa = a very special treat!

  5. The secret to making this cake is that the portions of ingredients are of equal weight - weigh the eggs and then equal their weight each with butter, sugar and self raising flour although Delia thinks that you should gross up the eggs to the next larger size after weighing and who am I to argue with Delia. I will admit to never having heard of the use of margarine in this recipe. I thought the use of margarine in baking had gone out of style years ago.

  6. This recipe, as I said is from the WI book of cakes. It is also to be noted that in Mary Berry's Ultimate Cake recipe book she uses all margarine in both her large and small Victoria Sponge's witht not a speck of butter insight. All butter results in a much heavier sponge so I guess that the use of it all depends on the results you are looking for. The WI recipe is a happy compromise betwixt the two and is a very lovely light and moist cake.

  7. When I was in Yorkshire last October, a customer in a tea shop recommended the Victorian Sponge to my sister and I on our way in. I was to full after my cheese and onion toastie and tea to have a piece, and I've been obsessed by the regret ever since!! I can't wait to make this!

  8. Ooo... Victoria Sponge... my one weakness! ;o) One of many weaknesses where cake is concerned...LOL! Oh, I just love Lark Rise to Candleford and that late Victorian period is so fascinating. So glad there will be a series 4! This cake is WONDERFUL, Marie. I must have a go making it...mmm... Happy Weekend, dear friend--LOVE YOU LOTS!! ((BIG HUGS))

  9. I have to disagree with you about the margarine! The best Victoria sponge is made with all butter. I am willing to concede that for speed and convenience you could use a spreadable butter of the type that is butter and vegetable oil, but for me the flavour is all important and margarine is good enough to go in a sponge cake of mine.

    I think lots of bakers do use margarine becuase it is cheaper and can be used straight from the fridge.

    I would happily accept a heavier sponge for the flavour of butter, but any heaviness can be rectified by the addition of a small amount of baking powder.

    Apparently the traditional recipe is supposed to say that it should only be filled with raspberry jam. For me though the buttercream is an added bonus and I prefer strawberry to raspberry jam too.

    Happy baking.

  10. thanks so much,. Im here in the States and just added it to my Netflix, per your love of the show.!!! Cant wait. Also the sponge cake looks heavenly...

  11. Great post! That cake really looks good.

  12. Oh am I tickled pink!!!

    Thank you Marie, I am delighted to have won the hamper, I never win

    I will email you right now.

    I am with you on the series, the Victoria Sandwich Cake looks wonderful. My nine year old granddaughter made her first recently and it was delightful.

    Thank you so much



  13. Oh...sigh. I'm just getting ready to start watching season 3 on the computer. It hasn't come out here in the US yet!!! :( A few more weeks...

    That cake looks so lovely. I loved every single thing about this post.

  14. It doesn't get any better than this Marie! This is superb. I have been watching the Great British Bake this week on BBC2 and thought of you - you should have been on it - you would have won! Lucie x

  15. Oh my ! my mum used to make this when I was a child! but in the day she used real butter ! goodness me I havent seen one in years ! Thanx for the post, YUMMY !!!!

  16. LOVE Lark Rise to Candleford and can not wait for Season 4. This cake looks amazing and I have to agree, I think this is definitely something Dorcas would approve of, I can just see Minnie in the kitchen whipping one up.

    Now you've made me want to go back and rewatch, think that's what I'll do.

  17. In UK as a child my mother frequently made Victoria Sandwich sometimes with jam filling other times with buttercream. I like fresh cream filling. She always used butter with 4oz butter, sugar and flour with 2 eggs. However here in Canada I have tried a few times to make it, and it comes out heavy. Maybe I should try more baking powder.
    Loved watched Larkrise last 2 winters we'll miss it this year. PBS Buffalo who show it on TV, we can't get on our satellite.

  18. Well, I think it's me that you're talking about in your post. I'm excited to see the sponge here! It's been awhile since I've had a chance to check back on your blog and I was thrilled to see you tackled this recipe! I can't wait to try it. By the way, I just picked up a used copy on of the Lark Rise Recipe Book. It's out of print now, but a fun book to read - full of selections of writings from Flora Thompson as well as a nice selection of classic recipes that date to the Victorian era. Thanks for following my suggestion, I'll be checking back to see more Lark Rise inspired recipes!

  19. So glad I found this link for the Sandwich cake. I love your blog! Blessings.....

  20. What I like best about LR to C is watching the prim Dorcas, who is played by the actress who was the daughter in Absolutely Fabulous.

    The Victorian sandwich cake morphed a bit when it came to North America and became Boston Creme Pie. No idea why they didn't stay with the jam.


  21. P.S.

    Now Marie Alice if you could just give us a "receipt" for Mrs. Bridges walnut cake, a single round high cake with no icings or jams, I would be estatic. It was sliced like a pie and eaten out of hand.

  22. Hi, I am Elizabeth and jumped over from Diane's blog. I am so glad to have found your blog. I love it!

  23. I tried this recipe and absolutely loved it. I used strawberry jam because I didn't have raspberry. Going to be my favorite desert.

    1. Hi Brenda! So pleased that you enjoyed this cake. Thank YOU so much for taking the time to let myself and my readers know! That makes me happy! xo

  24. They did not have shortening in the Victorian era!

    1. There is no shortening in this cake recipe.


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