London has been revelling in hot, sunny, summery weather for the last week or so, obviously interspersed with some terribly British rain too. It’s that rare time of year when we see temperatures climb to 30 degrees, reducing commuters to dripping messes and turning flats into saunas. Our flat is particularly prone to building up to inferno-like temperatures during the day, so really, what better time to roast a chicken and bake a cake, all in the same evening?!
A Victoria sandwich/sponge, call it what you will, is not a cake I would naturally choose. My brownie and chocolate munching tendencies are sadly too strong. But a slice of a friend’s home-baked Victoria sandwich filled with fresh cream, tiny tip strawberry jam and fresh strawberries recently completely changed my mind and was the inspiration behind today’s bake.
With so many delicious strawberries in the shops, now is definitely the time for a cake featuring this plump, sweet berry. And what better addition to a strawberry cake (other than chocolate, of course) than a sprinkling of tangy lemon zest and a good dollop of lemon curd butter cream?
So here’s my summery version of a very traditional cake: Lemon and Strawberry Victoria Sandwich. The pale yellow-hued lemon curd buttercream looks so beautiful with the bright red berries and is a great flavour combination. Even if your strawberries aren’t quite up to peak summer sweetness, don’t worry as the icing is sweet enough to make up for it.
You’ll have to excuse my slightly droopy buttercream filling…the result of a seriously hot flat and a lack of patience to wait for it to firm up in the fridge before applying!
Lemon & Strawberry Victoria Sponge
For the sponge (recipe from Leiths Cookery Bible)
Butter/oil for greasing the tins
170g unsalted butter at room temperature
170g caster sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon
3 medium eggs
170g self raising flour*
For the filling and icing
100g unsalted butter at room temperature
200g icing sugar
5 tablespoons lemon curd
200g strawberries, hulled and halved/quartered depending on size. Reserve one whole one for decoration
1. Grease and line two 20cm loose-bottomed cake tins. Pre-heat the oven to 180°c/160°c fan/350°f/gas 4.
2. Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, and lemon zest until light and fluffy.
3. In a separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs, then gradually add them to the butter mixture. If the mixture starts to curdle, add a couple of tablespoons of flour to bring it back together (this happens if your eggs are too cold).
4. Using a big spoon, fold in the flour. If the mixture is too stiff, add a drop of water or milk to bring it to a dropping consistency (i.e. will fall off the spoon with a light shake).
5. Divide the mixture between the cake tins and smooth the tops with the back of a spoon or spatula. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20-25 minutes until they are well risen and golden. If you insert a skewer or toothpick into the middle you can tell the cake is done if it comes out clean.
6. Leave the cakes to cool for a couple of minutes in the tin before turning out onto a cooling rack to cool fully.
7. Meanwhile make the filling and topping by beating the butter for a minute before gradually adding the icing sugar. Beat until the buttercream is light and fluffy, then add the lemon curd, mixing until well combined.
8. Once the cakes are fully cooled spread half of the buttercream onto one cake, then arrange the halved/quartered strawberries on top. Place the second cake on top and spread the remaining buttercream on top. Decorate with a whole strawberry.
The cake will keep happily overnight in an airtight container but due to the fresh strawberries making the sponge a little soggy, this doesn’t keep all that well for more than a day or 2.
The buttercream can be made in advance and stored in the fridge. Just bring it back to room temperature before using.
*If you don’t have any self raising flour, you can use plain flour and just add 2 teaspoons of baking powder to every 150g plain flour.