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.
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.
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.
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.
(*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
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
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease two 8-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and kosher salt.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!