VICTORIA SPONGE CAKE

IMG_1563.jpeg

Another trip to Portland, Maine has come and gone, and once again I’m counting down the days until Alex and I can return. This being our third time visiting Portland, we went with the plan of hitting up our favorite spots that we miss while back at home (Bonobo for our favorite pizza, Belleville for the best croissants I’ve ever had, Ruski’s for drinks, etc.), but made it a point to try things that we never had time to try on prior trips. And thanks to finally having a rental car, we were able to leave the peninsula and see places that I always had wished to.

Among these must-see places were: Palace Diner in Biddeford for a perfect breakfast set in a 15-seat dining car; driving up to Yarmouth to check out More and Co. - a shop that sells amazing ceramics and glassware.; and hiking around Mackworth Island, where fairies apparently live (don’t ask). But most importantly, with a car, we were able to make the trek up north to see Mount Desert Island, home to Acadia National Park. Since we only spent one night in MDI, I don’t have that many tips** on what to do or see (besides the basic tourist-y locations in the park), and therefore, I won’t be giving a guide for MDI. BUT, I did update my Portland City Guide post and added some new spots that I deemed worthy of checking out, with a few of them being a short car ride away from the peninsula.

IMG_1465.jpeg

And now, it’s time for baking again. Leading up to our trip to Maine and the week after we came home, I tried my best to eat as “cleanly” as possible. This pretty much meant no sweets, dairy, or alcohol, which was a lot easier than I thought it would be especially since Alex joined me in on this “detox”. But it also meant taking a mini break away from the blog because what fun is it to post something for you guys when I can’t eat it? No fun at all.

Today’s recipe is for a cake that I didn’t even know existed until watching an episode of the Great British Bake Off - the only baking competition show that I enjoy and cherish. I won’t go into detail about the show because I’m sure most of you have at least heard about it, but if you haven’t given the show a watch yet, I strongly recommend you do so (all the episodes are available on Netflix). In one of the season finales, the remaining three contestants had to make a quintessential British cake called a Victoria Sandwich, also known as a Victoria sponge cake. This very traditional layer cake has been around since the Victorian era and is essentially two sponge cakes with raspberry jam and/or a whipped cream OR buttercream frosting sandwiched between, with a generous dusting of confectioners’ sugar on top.

IMG_1505.jpeg

There is much debate on what is most traditional - having a whipped cream or buttercream frosting filling - and after some research, it honestly seems like it’s split down the middle. On the GBBO, the contestants were asked to make one of the judge’s, Mary Berry, version of the simple cake, with raspberry jam and a buttercream frosting. But today, I am giving you a recipe with a whipped cream filling and instead of raspberry, a strawberry jam. I felt like adding a buttercream frosting would make the cake too decadent and I wanted my cake to be more reminiscent of a strawberry shortcake, which is light and fresh. As for using strawberry jam instead of raspberry, that’s due to my preference over the two as well as how amazing the strawberries have been recently at my local farmers market. Therefore, I also added fresh strawberries to the filling, which definitely isn’t the standard, but I think a welcomed addition.

IMG_1600.jpeg

This recipe is kind of perfect to me due to the fact that it is equal parts easy to bake, beautiful to look at, and insanely delicious. Those three vital components are what I look for in recipes and its those dishes that I continue to bake time and time again. The cake layers come together rather quickly (only bake in the oven for less than 30 minutes) and nothing is easier than making fresh whipped cream and cutting up strawberries. If you want to make your own jam, by all means go ahead, but if we really want to call this a simple and quick recipe, store bought will definitely come in handy.

The two layers of sponge cake should be as identical as possible due to the fact that there’s no hiding any flaws that would normally be covered up with frosting. Much like my carrot cake, a Victoria sponge cake is “naked” and therefore you want to make sure the layers are even so the cake looks uniform. But as for the filling, I like having it more rustic-looking with the whipped cream and jam spilling out, especially when you slice into the cake. In my opinion, I think it makes the cake look more appetizing since the ingredients are more on display. The contrast of the perfect cake layers with a “messy” filling makes it that much more beautiful.

If you’d like to go more traditional, then definitely stick with the raspberry jam, or you can fill it with any other jam/fruit that your heart desires. I plan on making a couple Victoria sponge cakes for my sister’s baby shower in July (yes, I’m going to be an aunt!) with one being filled with an assortment of berries and another filled with an in-season stone fruit like apricots or peaches.

IMG_1725.jpeg

(*My only tip is to go to Momo’s Cheesecakes in Ellsworth, Maine. It’s a shop located in a garage that is open 24/7 with an assortment of cheesecake slices to choose from. Alex and I got a slice of blueberry cheesecake (which we immediately ate outside the garage at 10 am) and were genuinely disappointed in ourselves for not having more cash on us… it’s cash only and an honor system, meaning you drop the cash in a little box since no one is working the shop at all hours of the day. 10/10 recommend and now I kind of want to open up my own 24/7 cheesecake shop).

Victoria Sponge Cake

Yields (1) 8-inch layer cake

Recipe adapted from the New York Times

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

  • 3 1/4 tsp. baking powder

  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

  • 12 tbsp. (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. granulated sugar

  • 3 large eggs, room temperature

  • 2 tbsp. milk, whole or 2% preferably

  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup strawberry jam, homemade or store bought (no judgement!)

  • 1 cup heavy cream

  • 1 tbsp. granulated sugar

  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

  • 8 oz. fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced in half or quarter, depending on size (save some for garnish)

  • Confectioners’ sugar, for topping

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease two 8-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Set aside.

  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and kosher salt.

  3. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl if using a hand mixer) cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix fully until adding each one. Pour in the milk and mix again. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

  4. With the mixer off, pour in the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Evenly distribute the batter between the two cake pans (a scale would be useful here) and smooth the tops using a spatula.

  5. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Let the cakes cool completely before adding the filling.

  6. Meanwhile, make the whipped cream. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the heavy cream, granulated sugar and vanilla extract until stiff peaks are formed.

  7. Take one of the cake layers (preferably the least attractive of the two) and place it on your desired cake stand or plate. Spread an even layer of the jam over the cake using an offset spatula or butterknife. Next, add about 3/4 of the whipped cream and spread evenly over the jam - leftover whipped cream can be used for serving. Over the whipped cream, arrange a layer of the fresh strawberries as evenly as possible. Place the second sponge cake on top and dust with confectioners’ sugar. Enjoy!

THE BEST CARROT LAYER CAKE

IMG_9985-3.jpg

Today we are celebrating with cake because it is the ONE YEAR anniversary of The Vivid Kitchen! I feel like I’ve come a long way since my first post featuring skillet strawberry cobbler (which is still a favorite of mine, btw). This past year, I’ve been consistent with my posts but allowed myself time off when needed, I’ve gained confidence in areas of baking where I never was before (hello, cheesecake), and I’ve kind of learned to stress less about the whole process. The last one is forever a flaw of mine, so it’ll take more than a blog and a year to change that!

I started this blog because I really wanted to put my voice out there. My recipes may not be the most exciting or instagram-worthy, but I fully stand behind every single one of them. Each recipe was posted because I had a story to tell with it… none of them were random or because I thought it would “do well”. I waited for each post to happen organically and only if I could add my personality or anecdotes to it.

2B5A5A62-F26D-44D8-BC4C-E69F995DFC82.jpg

Although the blog brings me a lot of joy, I do have to be honest and say that it’s hard and expensive being a food blogger. Buying the items for each post adds up, especially when you are testing a recipe multiple times or have to remake the whole thing because the pictures you shot of the first batch came out horribly. Or, how people just expect you to have a never ending supply of props for each photoshoot… different glasses, plates, bowls, napkins, cutlery, vases. And let’s talk about photo backgrounds: I see how some bloggers have at least 5 different colored wood backdrops and each of those costs over $150. And we’re not even getting into the photography side of things! Some people have multiple camera bodies, half a dozen camera lenses, the best editing software, and so on and so forth. It all adds up. And it’s tough to not compare myself to these other bloggers who have been around for years and who have all the right tools to make amazing content. I try to focus on what I have, what I can share, and hope that you’re all recognizing that I’m doing the best that I can.

D4225A7A-C0AB-4F03-AD63-72411E055D8E.jpeg

But back to the good. Years from now, I’m going to look back on this blog not only so I can refer to my favorite recipes all in one place, but also as a way to read what was happening in my life. Although I do believe in privacy, I did share a good amount of personal anecdotes and happenings in my life and because I documented them here, I know I’ll forever be grateful that I wrote about it. I really do love writing and it’s something I’ve missed ever since graduating college. So this is a definite outlet for me that I’m so lucky to have.

IMG_0010.jpg

With that said, I would love your feedback on my blog. What’s working? What’s not working? What recipes would you like to see more of? Less of? Would you like me to do other kinds of posts where I talk about other stuff (movies I’ve seen lately, where I buy my kitchen essentials, workouts that I’m doing, etc. etc. etc.). Seriously, let me know what you think and I really promise that I’ll take it into consideration.

Alright, let’s get to the recipe. Believe it or not but today is the first time I’m sharing a recipe for a frosted layered cake! And not any typical layered cake but the ultimate carrot cake that I’ve been making for years. It’s the one recipe I reach for to celebrate birthdays, other holidays like Mother’s Day, and I even made it for my sister’s wedding, but in cupcake form. This recipe comes from Ina Garten and it is 100% perfect with just a couple tweaks of my own added.

IMG_0378-2.jpg

A great carrot cakes needs to have a couple of things in order to achieve perfection: 1) a super moist texture - which in my recipe comes from the addition of vegetable oil and crushed pineapple. Some people add yogurt or applesauce (or nothing) in place of the pineapple, but I’m telling you, the pineapple makes the texture unbelievably good; 2) a good amount of spice - cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and clove all work perfectly with the sweet carrots and frosting; 3) cream cheese frosting - there’s no better cake duo than a spice-y carrot cake and a cream cheese frosting. Tangy cream cheese mixed with a healthy (re: A LOT) amount of confectioners’ sugar and butter is the perfect pairing for this cake; and 4) additional mix-ins - I don’t think I’ve ever cared for raisins but for some reason I’m of the mindset that a carrot cake without raisins isn’t a carrot cake at all. We also add pecans for extra texture and taste.

This recipe will give you two 8-inch cakes, but as you can tell from my pictures, I cut those two layers in half. I did this just for fun and also because I wanted to do a “naked”-style cake, aka a cake with less frosting. This was my first time doing it this way and I really like the way it came out! It definitely has a more rustic look to it and I’m all about that less than perfect aesthetic. Since I had more layers to frost, I therefore had less frosting to go around the overall cake. So if you want to have 4 layers, plan on having only enough frosting to do it naked-style. Otherwise, keep the two layers intact and you’ll have plenty of frosting to use up. Note: The directions below will reflect the standard 2-layer cake.

16477120-CFCC-4700-91BD-261AAC2C2159.jpg

Carrot Layer Cake w/ Cream Cheese Frosting

Yields (2) 8in. cakes

Recipe adapted from Ina Garten

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 2 cups granulated sugar

  • 1 1/3 cups vegetable oil

  • 3 large eggs, room temperature

  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

  • 2 1/2 cups plus 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour, divided

  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon

  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger

  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg (or fresh if you have it!)

  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves

  • 2 tsp. baking soda

  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

  • 1 lb. carrots, grated

  • 1/2 cup crushed pineapple

  • 1 cup chopped toasted pecans

  • 1 cup raisins

For the frosting:

  • 12 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

  • 8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

    1 tsp. vanilla extract

  • 16 oz. (1 lb.) confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Directions

Make the cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8-inch cake pans, line them with parchment paper, and then butter and flour them. Set aside.

  2. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl if using a hand mixer), combine the granulated sugar, oil, and eggs. Mix on medium speed until the mixture is a pale yellow, 1-2 minutes. Add the vanilla extract and mix until incorporated.

  3. In a separate medium bowl, sift together 2 1/2 cups of the flour, all the spices, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to make sure it’s all combined.

  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients all at once and mix on low until just coming together. Add the grated carrots and crushed pineapple, and mix on low again.

  5. In a small bowl, toss the pecans and raisins with the remaining 1 tbsp. of flour (so they won’t sink to the bottom of the cake while baking). Fold these into the batter using a spatula.

  6. Pour equal amounts of batter between the two cake pans (a scale can be useful here if you’re trying to achieve perfection). Smooth the tops with a spatula and bake them in the oven for 55-60 minutes, or when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

  7. Allow the cakes to cool completely in the pans before removing them.

Make the frosting:

  1. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl if using a hand mixer), cream together the cream cheese, butter and vanilla extract until well combined. Add the confectioners’ sugar all at once, mix on low for 10 seconds, and then mix on medium speed until frosting is smooth.

  2. Place one of the layers on a cake stand or plate. With a butter knife or offset spatula, spread a thick even layer of the frosting on top. Carefully stack the second layer on top of the frosting and frost the entire cake, including the sides. Decorate the cake with pecans, pineapple, or flowers. Store the leftovers in the fridge.