20 April 2012

a right royal (random) knees up

So it’s the Queen’s birthday tomorrow. Her actual birthday, as opposed to her public birthday in June. I’m not a rampant royalist, I’ve never really given the whole thing much thought... my inner little girl thinks that Kate’s awfy pretty and isn’t it a shame she didn’t bag the princess gig, but other than that they’re just elegant people in photos.

But I do like that the monarch is still allowed to do some arbitrary stuff, like having two birthdays. I mean what’s the point in being Queen if you can’t say “I’m tired of the rain on my April birthday, and I do likes me a good picnic, so I’m going to have one in June too – MAKE IT SO toadies!”

If I were Queen I’d enjoy the random powers. Apparently she can actually appoint whoever she likes to be the Prime Minister! I could have some fun with that one. I would definitely proclaim a national cake, and that cake would obviously be a Victoria sponge. Because Victoria sponge has inherently perfect style.

Let me explain…

I had this maths teacher at secondary school, and he was all about solving your quadratic or geometric problems with style. It was no use simply to arrive at the correct answer with lots of squiggly calculations along the way. With him you got the real praise for getting to that answer in a way that made your classmates gasp at the clarity of your solution. Spotting the slick common denominator at the earliest stage, rendering the most complicated of equations effortless, that was the key. I loved maths, and will never in all my days forget him, striving for style amongst the cosine curves.

A proper Victoria sponge has precisely that style.

Choose your eggs according to your sandwich tins (3 eggs for 18cm, 4 for 20cm tins works for me). Before you begin, weigh the eggs in their shells, and then use exactly that same weight of soft butter, caster sugar and self-raising flour. Isn’t it genius? Blend together, adding a splash of vanilla if you like, divide into tins and bake for 25 minutes.

Every time I make a Victoria sponge I relish the pure stylish clarity of the recipe. (For an inspired and seasonal filling, look at this gorgeous variation published today by GoddessonaBudget… now I think that's a Vicky sponge fit for any Queen.)

But I digress, this week I was baking for someone else’s birthday: not royal but no less dignified is Dom from Belleau Kitchen and his 2nd blog birthday. For the occasion he asked his random recipe followers to make him something celebratory and randomly selected from a baking book. Now a baking book I have! Just look at these bad boys…

hurrah! the first things rescued from the unpacking chaos : )

Using a random number generator I selected page 12, which was Apple Cider Pudding Cake printed out from the Joyful Baker last autumn. (Curiously, it seems to have been the last post she wrote since then, I hope it’s not something I said…)

It’s a very American recipe, and I’m afraid we parochial small islanders do tend to struggle with those. Inches? Fahrenheit? Cups? I had to find an actual ruler and an online conversion chart, and rescue my measuring cups from my daughter’s toy kitchen. And I just don't understand two cups of Granny Smith apples, why not just tell me how many apples? I wasn’t feeling any pure stylish clarity by the time I eventually got started, but that’s likely my fault not hers.

It’s a squishy, treacley, appley pudding with a delicious crunchy crumble topping. I served it with a dollop of natural yoghurt, which it definitely needed because it’s quite sweet. If I were to make it again, I’d significantly streamline the ingredients. Less salt, less sugar, and definitely smaller quantities of spices (mine had a distinct aftertaste of both salt and pepper which I'm sure wasn't intended). I’d probably use self-raising flour rather than all the baking powder and soda. And comparing my photos with the Joyful Baker's, my sugar was clearly a grade darker than hers, which probably wasn't ideal.

The crumble topping is inspired, definitely the best bit. But ultimately, if I knew you were coming for tea Dom, I think you’d right royally agree with my conclusion: stick with slick Vic. (or Vik?!)

Happy Birthday Belleau Kitchen, and Gawd bless ya Ma'am.

all cakes taste better with tea and a doily


  1. what an excellent blog post but I do take umbridge to being referred to as The Queen... beautiful way to pick your random recipe too... everyone's come up with such interesting ways to help me celebrate... I love it... the cake looks wonderfully gooey... divine, thank you x

    1. haha! think you'll find you made that reference all by yourself Dom!

  2. Oh it would be fun to be queen for a day at least. Love the idea of Victoria Sponge Cake, will have to try it. Sounds lovely!

  3. Wonderful post! Now I'm off to read all about Victoria Sponge Cake. Sounds so elegant.

  4. Had a slice of a beautiful Victoria sponge cake made by a colleague the other day and it just reminded me of what a perfect piece of baking it is. I think I tend to overlook it - going for newer things - need to get back to the simple perfection of a Vicky sponge.
    I love your crumbly apple pudding - that looks really good. A drizzle of single cream on that would be nice too, I reckon. Sometimes I get really fed up trying to adapt American recipes so well done for persevering.
    See you tonight for yummy Japanese. x

  5. I've never actually made a Victoria Sponge. Come to think of it, I don't think I've even eaten one. But I do like its style, so probably it's about time!

  6. "It’s a squishy, treacley, appley pudding with a delicious crunchy crumble topping". sounds almost impossible to resist really, I love apple pie and even just baked apples really, there's just sth about the oven that transforms apples to a delicious sweet gooey treat, but especially liek the idea of adding cider to it, for extra apple-y depth!

    I feel your pain about the measuring conversions too, I guess apples do come in all sorts of sizes though. hmm though in that case, I much prefer a recipe that goes by weight. trying to move away from needing measurements and tools and such but it's difficult for baking!

  7. ♥ How delightful it'd be to have a cup of tea and this cake with you...see, I'm used to those measurements...but when i see a recipe that calls for kilograms and the temp is in celcius...I have to convert, too...so I understand you!
    P.S. that beet colored doily is lovely!

  8. What a lovely recipe- like apple crumble in bar form! x

  9. Victoria Sponge is Mr Gams favourite cake and whilst many people consider it a little dull I love it's simplicity. The crunchy topping on your apple cake/pudding looks really delicious. I think you're probably right to opt for the self raising flour rather than the baking powder and soda. GG


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