04 August 2022, The Tablet

Cooking up the perfect Victorian sandwich sponge

A recipe for light and fluffy sponge reveals the secret: a low oven temperature.

Cooking up the perfect Victorian sandwich sponge

Trestle tables, marquees, giant carrots and fruit scones – these are the mainstays of our glorious tradition of country shows. Inside, members of the Women’s Institute display their achievements: pots of jam and chutney, maybe a quiche – and there are always the coffee and walnut cakes and the stolid Dundees. Yet the prize to win is always for the best Victoria sandwich sponge.

Having had the terrifying honour of being occasionally invited to join the WI’s judging panels, I feared this category most. Not because it is difficult – you are looking for the lightest, evenly baked, vanilla-pungent cake, filled with good strawberry jam. But choose the lightest cake and you may find that in among the crumb is an old enemy (of mine), margarine, now known as “spread”. I do not like its composition – hydrogenated plant fat containing unhealthy fatty acids – and I hate its lack of flavour more.

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