Wednesday 15 January 2014

Orange and Almond Victoria Sponge

It’s been brought to my attention that when it comes to worldly matters I can be of a somewhat delicate disposition. I'll admit, I cannot watch the news because it upsets me too much so I suppose the accusations levelled at me (words such as 'wuss' and wimp spring to mind) are pretty fair ones.

I do realise burying my head in the sand in an attempt to avoid anything remotely sad in the world is perhaps not the most pragmatic approach to life; thus I’ve decided, 2014 is about toughening up. Yes, it's time to channel my inner Rocky and, well, man up (cue ‘Eye of the Tiger’ music!)

To that end, next month I am embarking on a three-week trip to Bolivia to carry out voluntary work at an orphanage. Given I’d genuinely rather read stories about Mrs Pepperpot than the front pages of a broadsheet in my attempts to avoid anything distressing, you can probably imagine what a challenge the trip is going to be for me, but whilst I am filled with a not insignificant degree of trepidation about it, I’m also extremely excited: it’s not every day that such an opportunity arises and though I don’t flatter myself to think I am capable of making a huge impact, it would be nice to think I may be able to help make a difference in some small way, even if it’s no more than introducing the joys of Mrs Pepperpot to a whole raft of Bolivian children!
As for whether I will come back from my trip any more resilient to real life, who knows, but one thing I do know, Rocky or no Rocky, the baking posts will continue. In fact, this month’s post marks two years of blogging. Happy bloggiversary to me! To celebrate the occasion, I’ve gone back to basics with a twist on an old classic: an orange and almond Victoria Sponge. Simple, yet moist and delicious; the perfect accompaniment to an afternoon read of the Sunday papers...or indeed Mrs Pepperpot should you prefer.
Note that if you bake this cake, you’ll find that the orange flavour in the sponge becomes more intense after a few days, as does the moisture thanks to the ground almonds so it actually tastes better after a couple of days. A simple but effective way of dressing up a reliable favourite.
  • 250g unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra to grease
  • 250g golden caster sugar
  • 5 medium eggs, lightly beaten
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 75g ground almonds
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Zest of two medium-large oranges
  • 100g flaked almonds

For the filling
  • 300ml double cream
  • Raspberry jam, at room temperature
  • Icing sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan). Grease and line two 8" shallow sandwich tins with baking paper.

  1. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and golden caster sugar until really light and fluffy (use the K-beater on a high speed if using a freestanding mixer).

  2. Add the eggs and beat again, this time on a very low speed, to incorporate.

  3. Sift the flour, ground almonds and baking powder together (three times ideally), then add in thirds to the butter-sugar-egg mix, folding through and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each fold.

  4. Add the orange zest and again fold through the batter.

  5. Divide the mixture between the two tins, sprinkle the flaked almonds evenly over the surface of both, then bake on the middle oven shelf for 22-23 minutes until a skewer pushed into the centre comes out clean.

  6. Remove the sponges from the oven and leave to cool in the tins for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

  7. For the filling, whip the cream to soft peaks until it only holds its shape (if over-whipped it will become too solid to spread).

  8. Put one of the sponges on a serving plate, right side up and spread with the cream.

  9. Dollop a few generous spoons of jam (probably three or four tablespoons) over the cream and gently spread it over with a palette knife.

  10. Place the other sponge on top, again right side up, and press down lightly. 

  11. Finish with a dust of icing sugar.