Recipes From Jane
Jane’s Perfect Victoria Sandwich – a template for new bakers
Experienced bakers can skip the detailed instructions for this recipe and not bother to look at the pictures, but for those just starting I hope this can work as a kind of ‘master class’ to give you the confidence to tackle the thousands of wonderful cakes from recipes all over the world that begin in this same way.
Over the years I’ve been baking, I have tried just about every different combination of ingredients and methods for making what most of us call a ‘sponge’, and for the purposes of this book I went through it all again so that I could test some of the new fats and flours now available.
In fact, a true sponge cake contains no fat at all: it’s fun to make if you have the patience - and makes you feel pretty smug when it works - as the lightness is achieved simply by warming the egg yolks and beating them like hell until they fluff up. The taste and texture, though, to my mind is too insubstantial and a little dull – this recipe below is the culmination of all my attempts and is absolutely delicious and foolproof. Although it’s an old-fashioned idea, I found that weighing the eggs and then using the same weights of fat, sugar and flour for the mix gave me the perfect proportions, but if you don’t have scales and are using a measuring cup or jug, then 175g of each will give good results. You can, of course, use all butter – or all margarine – but I found that spreadable butter was just the right half-way house: because it’s made with oil it’s lighter than butter, but has more taste than margarine (and much easier to work with).I found the most effective flour to be the new ‘Supreme’ sponge flour: worth the little extra it costs, and no need to sieve! I tested it rigorously, and found that sieving made no difference at all: it’s the creaming of the butter and sugar that adds all the lightness.
For quicker, simpler cakes for everyday teas, you can use the all-in-one method, which uses extra baking powder to achieve the lightness you would otherwise get through the initial creaming. As I dislike the faintly bitter taste this can give, I tend to use all-in-one recipes for flavoured traybakes.
This method, below, of creaming the fat and sugar and then adding the other ingredients in various stages, is a little slower than the all-in-one, but it’s only a matter of minutes, and, with an electric mixer – which I thoroughly recommend – it’s extremely simple to do. It only looks like a long process here because I’ve been so chatty for anyone doing it for the very first time!
- 4 medium eggs
- the weight of the 4 eggs in:
- spreadable butter (I like to use slightly-salted), caster sugar and premium, self-raising sponge flour (or 225g of each)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- a little water, as needed
- (makes 10-12 slices).
- Preheat the oven to 180C (165C fan assisted), 350F, gas mark 4. Prepare two 20cm sandwich tins by greasing the bottom and sides with a little vegetable oil and slip a re-usable silicone liner (or circle of baking parchment) of the right size in the bottom. Put the butter and sugar into a large bowl and beat it hard with an electric mixer until it looks like whipped cream. Scrape any bits that escape - up the sides of the bowl or onto the beaters - back into the creamy mixture with a spatula, so that all of it is whipped up. Keep beating until the mixture is white - and when I say white, I mean really, really pale. You'll see it turn into a beautiful creaminess that is very different from the colour and texture of the original ingredients. This is an important stage - it's when you put all the lightness into your cake - and may take longer than you think: in my mixer, at high speed, it takes about 3-4 minutes.
- Break the eggs into a cup, small bowl or, best of all, a small jug. Add the vanilla extract. Beat the mixture lightly with a fork to break up the egg yolks and to mix them with the whites. With the mixer moter running on full speed (or holding the handheld mixer in one hand), add the eggs very gradually to the butter/sugar mixture. This is almost like making mayonnaise - it's really worth taking time over it, as if you go too fast and the mixture curdles the finished texture just isn't quite right. After all, you're taking the trouble to make a beautiful home-made cake, so a little patience is worth it at this stage.
- Once all the eggs are in, add the flour (don't bother to sieve it) bit by bit. To do this by hand, sprinkle about a quarter of the flour onto the mixture and, with a spatula or large, metal spoon, fold it in. This means gently persuading it to mix in by turning the spoon as you scrape down the side and across the bottom of the bowl and up and over the top again. The idea is not to flatten out all that fluffy airiness that you've beaten into the fat, sugar and eggs. Repeat with the rest of the flour. This also works perfectly well in the mixer - either on slow speed or by using the pulse setting. I sprinkle it into the feed tube of my mixer, from the end of a spatula. The idea is to stop it landing in dollops on the creamy, eggy cake mixture, but instead to add it gradually and gently.
- Once all the flour is mixed in, take a spoonful of mixture and check the texture. It should drop gently off the spoon as you turn it upside down: if it doesn't, then add a tablespoon or so of water (I usually do). With the spatula or large spoon scoop half the mixture into each of the two sandwich tins, being as even as you can by eye, but again, not worrying about perfection. It may seem as if there isn't enough, but there is.
- Bake for 25-35 minutes, in the centre of the oven, until they are well risen and golden brown. I recommend using a timer: you may think you'll remember that you have cakes in the oven but, if you're like me, it's only too easy to wander off and get involved in something else. To check if they are cooked, either feel the tops with your finger - a robust 'springiness' is what you're after - or slide a sharp knife blade into the centre, down to the bottom, and check if there is any slimy uncooked mix on it when you pull it out. If this is the case, give them 2-3 minutes more and check again. If the knife comes out clean, you know they're done.
- Check they are not stuck to the tins, by sliding a small plastic spatula round the edge of each cake (or you may be able to see that they have already shrunken away from the side), then turn each one upside down, banging the edge of the tin on the worktop, if necessary, to dislodge the cake onto your other hand. Gently peel off the liner. Whichever cake has the better looking top should then be put on to a rack the right way up: the other one should be inverted so that what was the top flattens a little as it cools. Leave them to cool completely on the rack before decorating.
Chocolate Sponge Cake
For those new to baking, here’s the basic method to produce the perfect chocolate sponge cake.
(1 quantity = 1½ pints)
- 150g (5oz) butter
- 175g (6oz) castor sugar
- 6 eggs, separated
- 100g (4oz) dark plain chocolate
- 150g (5oz plain flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4, 180°C (350°F). Grease and flour the cake tin which should be 15cm (6 inch) round for this amount of mixture.
Cream the butter with 100g (4oz) of the sugar and beat in the egg yolks one by one. Break up the chocolate and place in a microwave bowl. Cover and cook on full power for 1-2 minutes until the chocolate is melted. Alternatively melt the chocolate in a bowl over hot water. Add the chocolate to the egg and sugar mixture. Whisk the egg whites until light and fluffy and fold in the remaining sugar. Sieve the flour and baking powder together. Fold in alternate spoonfuls of flour and egg white into the chocolate mix. Pour the cake mix into the tin and cook for 35-40 minutes. The cake is done when the top is springy and the sides are shrinking from the sides of the tin.
Allow the cake to cool before removing from the tin.
|Tin||Quantity of Sponge Mix||Baking Time|
|10cm/4in round||½||15-20 mins|
|15cm/6in round||1||20-25 mins|
|20cm/8 in round||1 ¾||25-30 mins|
|30cm/12 in round||5||50-55 mins|
|20cm/8 in square||1 ¾||25-30 mins|
|25cm/10 in square||3||45-50 mins|
|2.25 litre/4pint pudding basin||2 ½||45-50 mins|
For rectangular shapes bake a square, i.e. 20cm x 15cm (8in x 6 in), cook 8 in cake and trim to size.
For chocolate sponge add 10-15 mins to the baking times.
Old Fashioned Bread & Butter PuddingAn old family favourite.
INGREDIENTS (Serves 4)
- 225g/8oz bread, brown or white, without crusts
- 275ml/10fl.oz milk
- 50g/2oz butter, melted
- 75g/3oz soft brown or white sugar
- 2 level teaspoons mixed spice
- 1 egg, beaten
- 175g/6oz mixed fruit– currants, raisins, sultanas,
- candied peel
- Grated rind of ½ orange
- Freshly grated nutmeg.
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4, 350F, 180C. Butter a 2-2½ pint (1.25-1.5 litre) baking dish. Break the bread into suitably-sized pieces and place them in a bowl. Pour over the milk, then give the mixture a good stir and leave it for about 30 minutes so that the bread becomes well soaked with the milk. Add the melted butter, sugar, mixed spice and beaten egg. Using a fork, beat the mixture well, making sure that no lumps remain, then stir in the mixed fruit and orange rind. Next spread the mixture in the prepared baking dish and sprinkle over some freshly grated nutmeg. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 1¼ hours. Serve either hot with custard or cold.
Blueberry MuffinsAmerican muffins are like large cupcakes, though less sweet and more wholesome. I adore them – for brunch or tea – and with blueberries they are unbeatable. Try blackcurrants if you can’t find blueberries.
Ingredients (makes 12)
- 425g (15oz) tin blueberries, strained
- 3 tablespoons corn oil
- 1 egg
- 175g (6oz) milk
- 120g (4oz) butter
- 250g (9oz) plain flour
- 3 tablespoons caster sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- Pinch of salt.
Heat the oven to 400F, 200C, gas mark 6. Grease 7cm (2 ¾) diameter muffin tins with 1 tablespoon of oil. Beat the egg in a bowl, stir in the milk and remaining oil. Mix in the butter and all the dry ingredients until the flour is absorbed, but still lumpy. Now fold in the strained blueberries and mix well. Fill the muffin tins two thirds full with the mixture.
Cook in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the muffins have risen and come away from the sides.
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20-25 minutes
- 100g spreadable butter
- 50g castor sugar
- 150g flour
- 25g cornflour
- Pre-heat the oven to 165°C (150°C fan assisted, 325°F, gas mark 3). Prepare a baking tray (see page **)
- Cream the butter and sugar together in a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon until it’s pale and creamy
- Mix together the flour and cornflour and add it to the butter/sugar, encouraging it to blend in with the back of the spoon
- Turn the mix out (even if it’s still in separate lumps) onto a work surface or silicon sheet dusted with flour, and work the dough gently with your hands until it comes together (don’t overdo it or the dough will become oily and tough)
- Put the dough onto the baking sheet and press it with your knuckles into a round, about 8” across, gently squashing and encouraging it into shape, making it as even as you can (but the homemade look is attractive – so don’t panic!). If you want your circle perfect, then an easy way is to put a greased flan ring (or side of a loose-bottomed cake tin) onto the baking sheet and press the dough into it. Once the shortbread is evenly pressed to the edge all round, just lift off the ring.
- Score right across the round gently with a knife or small spatula four times, marking the shape into 8 pieces. Press the end of the handle of a teaspoon round the edge, to make a fluted pattern.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the edge is just beginning to turn golden brown
- Remove from the oven and, with a fork, decorate with little holes. Immediately cut gently into 8 pieces while still warm and soft.
- Sprinkle with a little extra castor sugar while still warm.
Banana Wacky Cake
100g/4oz self raising wholemeal flour
100g/4oz sifted plain flour
5ml/1tsp baking powder
1.25ml/ ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1.25ml/ ¼ tsp mixed spice
50g/2oz/4 tbsp butter
1 medium-sized egg
75g/3oz dried, stoned, chopped dates
3 bananas, mashed
50ml / 2 fl oz milk
100g/4oz soft brown sugar
Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Mix together the dry ingredients. Using a wooden spoon, cream the butter with the sugar. Add the egg and beat well. Stir in the dates and mashed bananas. Fold in the flour mixture alternately with the milk. Spread the mixture evenly in a greased round 20cm/8inch cake tin and bake for one hour or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Then turn the cake out of the tin and cool on a wire rack.
SEVILLE ORANGE MARMALADE
1.4kg (3lb) washed Seville Oranges
2.7kg (6lb) sugar (half white, half demerara for a richer taste)
3.4L (6pts) water
Put the Seville oranges into a pan with the water and simmer it, covered, for about two hours. Leave the pan overnight to cool, then take out the oranges, halve them, scoop out all the flesh and pips, then sieve it back into the pan of orangey water. Add the sugar (I use half white and half demerara to give it a richer taste) and put over a low heat to dissolve the sugar. Meanwhile, chop or process the skins briefly and add them to the pan. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly for about 30 minutes. Once setting point is reached take the pan of the heat and remove any scum with a slotted spoon. Leave it to stand for 10 minutes or so, then stir gently to distribute the peel and pot as usual.