I may have mentioned that I relocated recently. I’ve moved to Nottingham, about 60 miles from where I was living before. The more significant news is that Mr Scrumptious and I have moved in together!
So now we’re sharing a life, and a kitchen, although as I’m off work with my still-healing ankle, I’m taking care of most of the cooking.
This is no hardship, though, because I love cooking and I now have access to a beautiful huge oven and a big five-ring hob. I’m really pleased because it’s a gas hob too, which means it’s really responsive (good for not burning your food), and also costs less per unit than electricity. I’m a bit of a geek about gas cookers.
Also, we have our own garden now, and it has an established herb bed, so I’m really pleased, because I love growing my own. I’ve added my own basil and parsley, and we’re hoping to add some thyme and marjoram to the herb garden, because in my opinion fresh herbs are just so much tastier than dried.
Mr Scrumptious’ dad has donated us a couple of lovely tomato plants, too, so hopefully we’ll be enjoying a few delicious garden-fresh tomatoes soon. (Black Russian and Big Mama varieties, in case you were interested)
In addition to these, I’m experimenting with some vegetables which have sprouted in my fridge- a few potatoes which were more sprout than spud, and a couple of neglected spring onions. I’ve shoved them in compost and hoped for the best. As it’s a rented place, I can’t rip up the weed (as in plant out of place!) patch at the back of the garden and turn it into a vegetable plot, so I’ve had to content myself with a few pots on the terraces.
There’s a lot of work to be done in the garden, and we won’t be self-sufficient in vegetables any time soon (if ever), but I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in and shaping it to be a bit tidier and more productive.
Getting back to the kitchen:
The first cake I’ve baked since arriving at the new place was this mini Victoria sponge.
For the cake
100g self-raising flour
100g butter or margarine (I used Aldi’s own blended butter and vegetable oil spread- it looks like Lurpak)
100g caster sugar
For icing and decorating
50g butter or butter blend
110g icing sugar
Jam or conserve of your choice
Sprinkles or decoration of your choice
- With a wooden spoon, beat the butter for a minute to soften. Add the caster sugar and cream together until well mixed.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs together until the yolk and white are no longer separate.
- Add the eggs to the butter and sugar (buttercream) slowly, around a quarter at a time. Each time you add some egg, beat well until the mixture is uniform and has no lumps of buttercream visible.
- Sieve the flour into the wet ingredients a tablespoon at a time. I made my cake without sieving, but it’s best to sift the flour to get out any lumps (if you’re not feeling aggressive). Keep going until all the flour is gone!
- Keep mixing until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Then spoon or pour it into a lined cake tin. I love my Jane Asher cake tin liners, and you can get a 15-pack at Poundland! They take the measurement and fiddling about out of lining the tin, and the mess out of cleaning it up afterwards.
- Bake at 160-180º for around 30 minutes, until golden on top. The cake is done when it’s risen to a gentle dome shape, and a butterknife, fork, or knitting needle can be inserted and pulled out cleanly. Resist the urge to open the oven to check your cake, as a drop in temperature can cause it to collapse. So can poking it too early. Instead, be patient, and peek through the door!
When the cake is golden and cooked through, set it aside to cool. Take it out of the hot tin so it doesn’t carry on cooking and burn underneath. Rest it on a rack or ceramic plate. While it’s cooling, make the icing.
Icing the cake
- Again, beat the butter gently to soften it. Add the icing and cream together until smooth and lump-free. If you want to add any food colouring, add it a drop at a time, and mix well. It should only take a few drops to colour your entire bowl of icing.
- If the cake is still hot, store the icing in the fridge until it’s ready to use. It may need some extra beating and a few minutes to warm up before it’s ready to spread.
- Once the cake has cooled, slice it in half horizontally with a long, non-serrated knife. A carving knife would be ideal to get a smooth cut. A breadknife will do in a pinch, but it will leave a messy, fluffy cut, so only use this if it’s your only big knife.
- Spread jam over one side of the cut, and buttercream over the other. Sandwich together neatly.
- If you have enough buttercream left over, ice the top, too, smoothing over gently with a knife blade or silicone spatula.
- Decorate with your favourite sprinkles or decorations. These are handy for hiding any bits of buttercream which aren’t as smooth as you’d like!
A traditional Victoria sponge cake is usually made by sandwiching together two separate cakes, or by cutting a much bigger one. This is quite a small cake for a Victoria sponge. The cake I made was supposed to be a ‘light’ version, to be thinner, and have a single central layer of buttercream. However, it turned out I had enough to ice the top, too, so I did, decorating with red sugar sprinkles. If you want only one layer buttercream, you can store the excess in the freezer for another time, or simply make less. You could use 40g butter, and 90g icing sugar, for instance. Use a ratio calculator online and round up.
Once you’ve mastered the basic recipe you can start to vary it and experiment for yourself, remembering that for every 50g of other ingredients (flour, sugar, and fat), you use 1 egg. So to make a cake 1.5 times the size of this one, you’d use 100g sugar, flour, and fat, and three eggs. This is a handy rule and applies to most sponge mixtures.
I’d love to hear about your baking experiments in the comments below!
Miss Scrumptious xx