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Guest Post: Victoria Sponge Wedding Cake

Guest post: Victoria Sponge Wedding Cake

I have a little secret to tell you: my little sister and I share a love for baking. In fact, she’s probably a better patissier than I am. I’ve been trying to convince her to share her Mississippi Mud Pie or lemon squares as a guest post but it just hasn’t happened so far (don’t worry, I haven’t given up yet!). But when I got married three months ago, she baked my wedding cake and it was just too awesome not to share. So here it is: the story of my Victoria sponge wedding cake by my sister Eline.

Eline cake

When my sister told me she was getting married last year, I laughingly suggested that I could make her wedding cake as a contribution to all of the wedding planning madness. Little did I know what kind of project I was taking upon myself…

Now, I am quite an experienced amateur baker and have made my fair share of baked goods – mostly cookies, cakes and pies, but I’d never even attempted any sort of multi-layer cake, so this was quite a big project. After months of sending each other pictures of wedding cakes and Aude Pinteresting every monstrosity of a cake she could find, we still hadn’t settled on what it should be. 3, 4 or 5 layers? Chocolate cake, vanilla cake, fruit cake, biscuit (a firm favorite of our mom’s, it can be compared to a very light, fluffy angel food cake), or some other type? We pored over blogs and cookbooks endlessly and in my kitchen in Dublin I tried a few recipes. Luckily I still had a whole summer to figure out what this cake would end up looking like, so I wasn’t too worried yet.

As I don’t have any experience with fondant, I thought covering  a 4-layer cake with it would be too much of a challenge, so we settled on buttercream frosting and fresh flowers or fruit to decorate. However, after several tasting sessions with different types of cake and frosting including one crumbly frosting disaster, I was covered in frosting from head to toe and ready to throw in the towel. We all came to the conclusion that we’re simply not much of a buttercream family, and buttercream was ruled out. So on I went, experimenting with vanilla powder, gelatin and whipped cream to come up with a more stable frosting. Even though everyone was enjoying the endless stream of test cakes, it seemed about time to settle on something definite.

Then, one Sunday afternoon in August, I wanted to make a very basic cake and, as my mom and I have fallen in love with Victoria sponge cake ever since we’ve started taking trips to the UK, I settled on a Victoria sponge cake, the quintessential British icon, and looked up a good recipe. I came across a few pictures of stacked, gorgeous-looking sponge cakes and started googling some more. According to some wedding blogs, sponge cakes were all the rage; apparently they were the wedding cake vintage hype of the year (thank you once again, Pinterest). As Aude didn’t mind the cake looking rustic and homemade, and I was much more comfortable with this than with  some frosted monster, we’d finally figured it out!

As you might imagine, the following weekends were spent trying out different sponge cake recipes and frostings, and finally, on September 6th, I produced the largest cake I’ll probably ever make (never say never though, I guess). Without further ado: here’s the recipe for the ultimate Victoria sponge cake!

Victoria Sponge Wedding Cake

Victoria Sponge Wedding Cake

Proportions are for a normal afternoon tea (21cm cake), not a wedding. Further down, I give you some basic tips on how to multiply the quantities and stack the cakes – but do test this beforehand.

Ingredients:

  • 3 large eggs

  • weight of the 3 eggs in self-rising flour, unsalted butter and fine sugar

  • 1,5 tablespoon baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 3 tablespoons milk

Filling

  • crème de framboise liquor or another fruity liquor (optional)

  • raspberry jam

  • Frozen fruit (mix of berries or raspberries), defrosted and mixed with few spoonfuls of sugar OR fresh fruit if available

  • 250 grams mascarpone

  • 250 ml whipped cream

  • bag of vanilla sugar or vanilla extract

  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  • powdered sugar for decoration

  • fresh fruit for decoration (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a 21 cm spring-form and put in a circle as large as the bottom of your tin, cut out from baking paper. Put the butter and sugar into a food mixer, or use a hand mixer to combine until light and really fluffy, this can take a few minutes. Add the eggs to the mixture one at a time while beating very well until everything is properly mixed, again this can take a while. Scrape down the sides of your bowl to make sure all ingredients are mixed properly.

Add the flour, baking powder and salt and mix this in properly. Then add the milk, making sure the dough is still firm but will easily drop off your mixer when you shake it. Don’t over-handle the dough, as this will make the cake less fluffy. Put the dough into the pan, smooth the top and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the cake is golden, has risen and a toothpick comes out clean. Then let the cake cool for a while in the tin, open it and let it cool further on a grid.

If you want a perfect-looking cake (or you need it to be flat for stacking several layers), cut off the top when it’s completely cooled to make it perfectly flat. If a homemade look suits you better, leave it on. Then cut your cake through the middle, take the bottom half and sprinkle the top with the crème de framboise so it’s well soaked. Spread a thick layer of raspberry jam on top.

Mix the mascarpone cream and whipped cream with a tablespoon of sugar and a bag of vanilla sugar or a few drops of vanilla extract. Beat with an electric mixer until it becomes very stiff and looks like thick whipped cream. Then take the defrosted frozen fruit or fresh fruit and spread a thick layer on top of the bottom cake. Top this with the mascarpone mixture until the whole of your cake layer is covered, then lay the top half of your cake on top. Dust with powdered sugar and decorate with fresh fruit if you like. Enjoy (as the British do, during some fine afternoon tea)!

(read on for the wedding cake instructions)

the cutting of the cake

 

If a simple Victoria sponge just doesn’t satisfy your inside megalomaniac and you’re ready to take on the challenge of making a 4-tiered (wedding) cake, here’s how I made mine, good for about 80 small portions:

The cake as seen in the picture consists of 4 layers, so you need 4 different spring forms: 30 cm, 26 cm, 21 cm and 16 cm.

Basically, you can recalculate the ingredients for the cake on the basis of the number of eggs, since you use the eggs to weight the other ingredients. Take 0,5 tablespoon baking powder per egg, one tablespoon of milk per egg and add a slight pinch of salt (don’t exaggerate with the salt). Use 2 eggs for a 16cm cake, 4 eggs for a 26 cm cake and 5 or 6 eggs for the 30 cm bottom cake. The filling isn’t as easy to multiply accurately, but if you’re going to make a large stacked cake you’ll need at least 1kg of mascarpone and 1 liter of cream, and you can easily make more from there.

When it comes to stacking, you essentially need two things: something that acts as a dowel to put inside the cake, and those golden cardboard pie plates to put underneath every layer (you can buy these at paper specialty stores, craft stores, large food or patisserie supply stores or ask you baker). Because I couldn’t find any real dowels, I used those plastic firm sticks they use to attach balloons to (can be found at party/craft stores). Some bloggers suggest plastic straws, but I’m not quite sure if these are strong enough – remember, the bottom cake carries the weight of all the others combined .

Cut the golden cardboard into circles the exact size of your cakes (if they’re too small they might not be supportive, but if they’re too large they will be visible). The dowels go into the ‘supporting’ cake at strategic points and are used to ensure the cake doesn’t cave under the weight. Put your bottom cake on a cardboard and then on a sturdy plate or pie stand. Always spread a little frosting on your cardboard circle before you put the cake on, this will make it less prone to sliding and moving around. Put the smaller cardboard circle on top of the supporting cake and put toothpicks right near the rim at four points so that they form a square. Remove the circle and carefully insert the dowel into the cake at about 1 cm inwards from the toothpick. Mark the top of the dowel with a food-safe pen and take the dowel out. Cut right under this mark and put the dowels back into the cake. Stack and fill the next layer on top, then repeat until you’re at the top layer (which doesn’t need to be done). Decorate the cake to your liking, I used more cream mixture and fresh berries (and of course the gazebo with the plastic wedding couple!).

 Jam layer

First layer

 

The stacking process

 

The fruit layer

 

IMG_0652

 

 

Mango speculoos no bake cheesecake

This cheesecake is one of the closest things I have to a ‘family recipe': I remember having it at birthdays and summer parties at home and helping my mother with the preparations. I first made it myself when I was studying abroad in Spain, because it’s such a refreshing and fruity summer dessert. Over time, I’ve created my own version, keeping the basics but substituting the ‘accessories’. The original recipe uses petit beurre biscuits that you arrange on the bottom (no crumbling) and canned abricots as fruit – in fact, I don’t think mangoes existed in the Belgian supermarkets when I was a kid. My version uses speculoos biscuits, fresh mangoes and passion fruit. Basically, you can use any kind of dry and sweet biscuits/cookies (no chocolate chips or any of the sort though) and fruit, I’ve also made it with strawberries for example. The recipe is not complicated, but there are some tricks you can apply to make it succeed, so follow the instructions. It takes about an hour to make and needs several hours to set properly, if possible you can make it a day ahead. Enjoy!


Ingredients for a 26 cm cake tin

8 gelatin sheets (I prefer these to powder, but powder will probably work too. If you’re a strict vegetarian you could use agar agar, but I have no experience with that. 8 gelatin sheets are about 13 grams.)
200-250 ml of (tropical) fruit juice/pineapple juice
juice of one orange
3 passion fruits
200 grams of sugar
500 ml of heavy whipping cream
4 bags of vanilla sugar
500 grams of no-fat fresh white cheese/quark/plattekaas (this is a very basic product in Belgium, but somehow it’s not always available in other countries. Use a fresh, soft, white, unsalted cheese, for example ricotta, if you can’t find it.)
200 grams of dry biscuits of your choice (I used Vermeiren speculoos)
75 grams of unsalted very soft butter (not melted!), use only if you’re going to crumble the bottom
2 mangoes

Soak the gelatin sheets in cold water. Squeeze out the orange into a measuring cup and add the contents of two passion fruits. Fill up with fruit juice (pineapple, tropical…) until you have 300 ml. Heat the juice with the sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Squeeze out the gelatin and add into the warm juice, stir well. While this is cooling down, stir every now and then so the gelatin doesn’t set too much yet.

Whip up the cream with the vanilla sugar in a large bowl until stiff. Mix in the fresh cheese in large round motions, using a spatula or spoon. While the juice is still cooling down, crumble the biscuits, using a mortar or in a food processor. They don’t have to be completely crumbled, you can leave some small chunks. Mix with the soft butter and spread out over the bottom of a 26 cm spring cake tin. Cut a mango and one half into wedges and cover the biscuits with them.

When the juice is sufficiently cooled down (it can still be a little warm but not hot), add it slowly into the cream mixture. Start with a few spoons, mix well, and continue like this. It is really important to mix in the liquid very well, or you will have jelly-like inclusions in your cake later on (which are also yummy, but not very pleasing to the eye). Now comes the most crucial part: pour the cream-juice mix over the mangoes, but do this very slowly, or the mango wedges will come floating up (once again, just as tasty but not the intention!). Slowly keep pouring until you have poured out all of the mixture. Cover with plastic wrap or a cover if your cake tin has one and let it sit in the fridge for at least 3-4 hours.

To test if the cheesecake is ready, wiggle the tin a little bit. The white top part should move as one solid mass. You can decorate the top with leftover mango wedges and the extra passion fruit. Carefully cut around the sides with a sharp knife and then remove the sides parts of the tin. Don’t keep the cake out of the fridge for too long, or it will start to get wobbly again, and possibly collapse. Enjoy!

(the pictures below are my first version of the cheesecake and the one I made for my bake sale party, as you can see they’re always a little different)


 

Layered trifle with red fruit

 

This is one of my all-time favorite desserts. A trifle is a typically English layered dessert that includes fruit, cookies or cake and some kind of creamy inbetween (and no, it’s not pronounced ‘triffel’ in Dutch). It’s really quite easy to make and it’s impressive because of the many differently colored layers. I usually make it in a big cylindrical glass bowl, which has a big wow-factor. The downside of that is that once you start dividing portions, the effect is ruined and it’s also not easy to give everyone a balanced portion (fruits-cake-mascarpone-custard-wise). The red fruit layer has blended in a bit with the cake layer in my trifle in the picture, because I was pressed for time and didn’t let the red fruit thaw properly, so that its juice thawed into the cake (sounds delicious though, doesn’t it?) If you’re more patient or using fresh fruit, making a pretty cake layer will be easier. It’s also an easy dessert to make in small portions: use glasses (regular glasses or wine glasses) or another kind of bowl, but make sure that you have something transparent so that the visual effect pays off. If you have small bowls, you can easily decorate the top with a sprig of mint or a strawberry with a bit of whipped cream. The original recipe puts whipped cream on the custard, but usually I find this a bit over the top (can a dessert ever be over the top though?). Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients, it’s really not that hard or time-consuming to make.

Ingredients for at least 12 people

For the cake layer (I just use a regular 4/4 cake recipe but you’re welcome to use your own favorite recipe):
4 eggs
250 grams of sugar
250 grams of butter
250 grams of self-rising flour (or regular flour with a big teaspoon of baking powder)

For the red fruit layer
a sweetish fruity liquor like Grand Marnier, Cointreau, Kirsch… (not Passoa or Pisang!)
a cup or jar of red fruit jam (strawberry, raspberry or red berry mixture)
about 700 grams of red fruit (I usually use frozen in winter, let it thaw a bit before use)

For the white creamy layer
500 grams of Mascarpone
milk
sugar (I never measure this, sorry)

For the yellow custard layer
1 liter of full-fat milk
1 vanilla bean
8 egg yolks (you’ll probably have a lot of egg white leftovers, I try not to waste these – you can freeze them or make chocolate mousse with them, just melt at least 300 grams of chocolate au bain marie and add to the beaten egg whites)
200 grams of sugar
65 grams of corn starch/maïzena (the original recipe uses flour but I find it very hard to make the custard without clots then)
For the lazy ones among us: you can use pudding mix from a package but of course it won’t taste the same as the homemade stuff).

Start by making the cake. Heat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius and prepare a regular cake tin with butter and flour. Separate the eggs and beat the yolks with 200 grams of the sugar until it is a fluid and white mixture. Melt the butter in the microwave and add it slowly while stirring. Add the flour. Now beat the egg whites with the 50 grams of sugar: add in a spoon when you start beating them, then add another spoon when you’re halfway, then add the rest of the egg whitewhen they’re stiff. Mix the egg whites with the flour mixture, be careful not to stir them but sort of ‘shovel’ them under, leaving air in the batter. Pour the batter into the cake tin and put it in the oven for 40-45 minutes. The cake is ready when you can insert a toothpick and it comes out clean, or when it starts moving ‘away’ from the tin and it springs back when you push on the top. Le the cake cool down and cut off the crust on the top and sides. Cut into blocks and fill the bottom of the glass cylinder. Tip: you can also use store-bought cake, cake leftover that have been sitting around for a few days or crunchy cookies (I’d only use cookies if I was making it in small portions though).

Sprinkle the cake layer with some liquor, to prevent it from drying out and give it a more refined taste. Spoon the jam over the cake layer (if the jam is too rigid you can heat it up a bit first), then add the red fruit.

Make the custard layer before the mascarpone, because it needs to cool down. Start by putting the milk in a saucepan with the vanilla bean, after you have cut through in the length and scraped the black seeds out – add these to the milk. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat. In the meantime, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until it becomes whiter and fluid. Add the corn starch to the egg mixture. When the milk has boiled, add the hot milk to the egg mixture and beat with a wire whip. Put the mixture back on the fire and keep whipping and scraping the bottom so it doesn’t burn. Continue until the mixture is bubbling, let it boil for a bit (don’t stop whipping!), take it from the fire and pour it into a clean, cold bowl. Let it cool down and stir now and then to prevent it from forming a ‘sheet’ on top. Remove the vanilla bean before use.

Make the mascarpone layer by emptying the mascarpone in a big bowl and adding a few sips of milk, then crush with a fork and mix until it is a creamy mixture with the consistency of toothpaste. Add sugar to taste – if you want, start with 50 grams and then add until it’s sweet enough.

Put the mascarpone layer on top of the red fruit and smooth out the top. Add the custard layer once it’s cooled down and make it smooth as well. Done! Just at tip: if you make it at least a few hours beforehand and then put it in a cold spot, the flavors can work into each other really well (it’s also a great day-after-the-party leftover-munch). Enjoy!