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Teeny tiny Victoria sponges with a buttercream and homemade vanilla and strawberry jam filling

April 21, 2012

These little sponges are absolutely beautiful and as they
are so little you can eat a whole cake by yourself and not feel
too naughty!

You can now get baking tins that have individual sponge indents with straight edges and removable bottoms, however I haven't used one and there is a very good reason for it.

By making your own jam to fill these little babies you also are likely to be left with a nice little pot of 'leftover' jam.. and it would be a shame to see it go to waste so spoon it onto scones (not blue cheese!) with cream or have it on your morning toast!

Recipe:

I'm a big fan of the 4,4,4,2 method of baking sponges as my mum taught me so I've doubled the quantities for this recipe to give me two sponges for my tops and bottoms.

For the sponge-

230g caster sugar
230g baking margarine, having used butter in the past I find that the cake becomes a bit
hard if it gets too cold, margarine says nice and moist and makes a lighter sponge
230g self raising flour
4 eggs

For the buttercream-

150g salted butter, the salt in the finished butter cream adds a real depth to the buttercream and make its richer and more indulgent.. there's only a little bit on each cake so you can afford to be very generous with your flavours!
300g icing sugar, this is guide, to be honest I rarely weigh the sugar I just make it to taste and texture, you'll know when it's right

For the jam-

1 punnet of strawberries
equal weight of jam sugar to strawberries
a splash of water
the husk of a vanilla pod, I keep my vanilla pods after scraping out the seeds for custards and the like so I usually have a 'used' pod lying about, if you don't I would slice a pod through the middle lengthways and just use one half, the vanilla adds a warm note to the jam but the strawberries are so sweet that the addition of a whole vanilla pod would be lost amongst the sticky sweetness of the berries.

Put the oven on to 180c.

To make the sponge I cream together the margarine and the sugar with an electric hand whisk in a large bowl so I have plenty of space to move the mixture around. Whisk the margarine and the sugar until it has become considerably paler than the original shade of the the marg, keep a tsp of marg aside to check if you wish! This lightness of colour shows that the mixture has been aerated and will be fluffy and light.

Find another largish bowl and wash and dry it thoroughly to make sure there is no trace of any grease in it at all, they will get greasy just being in a cupboard in the kitchen. You want to crack your eggs over your beautifully clean bowl, holding back the yolks in lightly clasped fingers, a bit like one of those grabby cranes at a fair ground! Let all of the crystal egg white drain through your fingers, help it through by pulling at it with your other hand but make sure you do not crack the yolk. Drop the yolks into the bowl with the marg and sugar mixture as you break your eggs.

Now whisk your egg yolks into your marg and sugar mixture, adding in a sifting of flour every few minutes, as soon as your last sifting is no longer visible add a bit more. The mixture will probably feel very thick and heavy at this point but do not fret that will soon change.

Wash the whisk beaters thoroughly and dry them making sure they are completely grease free. This pedantic grease eradication is so that when you whisk your egg whites they blossom into fluffy white peaks... grease is the enemy of clouds of egg white, they will remain stubbornly flaccid and sloppy should any grease be lurking in the bowl or on the beaters.

Using the beautifully clean electric hand whisk, whip the egg whites into a bubbly frenzy until they resemble a large and pearly 99 ice cream in your bowl. Now, take a large spoonful of your stiffened egg white and gently pour it into your marg, sugar, yolk and flour batter, using a spatula fold the white foam into the batter until it has disappeared, repeat until all of the egg white is gone. Some recipes say to use a metal spoon as its sharp edge cuts through the batter without knocking any of the air out, I use a silicone spatula as I find it eases all of the mixture away from the sides of the bowl and make sure its thoroughly mixed.

Line two square or rectangular baking tins that are about an inch deep with greaseproof paper. Divide the mixture equally between the tins and smooth over with the spatula, do not bang the tins to level the mixture or you'll lose all the air you've spent ages putting it to the cakes!

Place on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for about 20 mins, then check. The cakes should be lightly coloured on top, a golden brown, and slightly firm to the touch, bouncing back when a finger is pressed lightly against their surface.

Leave the cakes until they are very cool, you can make your buttercream and jam in this time, and you can't ice your cakes until they are cold anyway as the buttercream will melt and slip off.

Before you make the jam put a saucer and a large dinner plate in the fridge, then cut the stalks off your strawberries and half them, if there are any giants then chop them into quarters. You want a bit of texture to your jam so dont cut them up too small or they will just dissolve and you'll end up with more of a jelly.

Tumble the strawberries into a high walled frying pan or a saute pan and splosh in enough water to half cover the strawberries. Turn the heat up high under the pan and bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer for the strawberries to stew. After about 5 mins shake over the jam sugar and throw in your vanilla pod, rather than stirring the mix, which will make your jam cloudy, swirl the pan around to dissolve the sugar. Leave this to bubble and thicken for about half an hour, occasionally scooping off any creamy foam that appears on the surface this will again make your jam cloudy.

When the jam is thick and a very deep, jewel red colour take a tea spoon of jam and dab it onto the cold saucer from the fridge. Within second it should firm up into a recognisable jam consistency, sticky and thick. If it is still too drippy then cook for a further 10 mins, if after this time it is still too loose add two more tablespoons of jam sugar and bubble for another 10 mins.

If your jam has passed the cold plate test then pour all of it onto the large dinner plate, move it about a bit with a spoon to cool it a little then pop it in the fridge to become completely cold. If you don't intend of using the jam immediately it can be put into sterilised jars to cool, this will create an airtight seal. But if you want to use the jam to finish your cakes on the day then use the plate method to cool is considerably quicker.

To make the buttercream icing, use your electric hand whisk again to cream together the butter and icing sugar. Like with the margarine, you should whisk the butter until it has lightened considerably in colour, this will be more obvious with the butter than with the margarine. Make sure you taste the buttercream and adjust the amount of icing sugar until it is just perfect.

To build your Victoria sponges you must wait until the sponge is completely cold, then using a 1 1/2 inch circle cutter cut out as many sponge rounds as you can get from the trays. I managed to get fourteen circles which eventually made seven finished Victoria sponges. The offcuts of sponge can be kept and frozen for use in further recipes, one of which I will be posting in a few weeks' time for a certain monarchs birthday.. any guesses?

If one of your trays was a little deeper than the other make sure that all your bottoms are from one tray and all your tops are from another, this way the sponges will not only all be the same height but will also look a lot more uniform when finished.

Spread a cake bottom round with a good thick coating of buttercream, be generous they are only little, I aim for about 1/2 inch. Then dollop on a heaped teaspoon of your cooled jam into the middle of your buttercream, don't try and spread it out as it'll mix into the butter cream rather than remain as two separate layers. Taking a top cake round, press it onto the jam, this will spread it out and ensure the top is glued on tightly and won't fall off your finished cake which just wouldn't do.

Repeat this will all your tops and bottoms them dust with icing sugar, if you are going to store or transport your cakes then hold off on your dusting as the moisture in the cakes will make the icing sugar go translucent rather than powder soft and snowy.

Enjoy with a lovely cup of tea!




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