Friday, 2 March 2018

Victoria Sponge (The Woman in the Wood) and March #ReadCookEat linky

The woman in the wood

The Woman in the Wood by Lesley Pearse is a compelling family saga set in the early 1960s. Fifteen-year-old twins Maisy and Duncan are sent to live with their cantankerous grandmother, Mrs Mitcham, in the manor house in the countryside. She doesn't have many redeeming features. Cold as fish, ill-tempered and crusty, she has managed to antagonise most of the villagers. She's also a terrible snob.
The twins enjoy the freedom of living in the New Forest countryside, acquire new friends and fall in love. Until one day Duncan disappears without a trace, and the police seem to do nothing to find out what has happened to the boy. Only Maisy doesn't believe that Duncan would just simply leave her and run away without a word.
The Woman in the Wood - she of the title - is a sad, lonely character who tries to avoid contact with people, and who lives deep in the woods. The twins manage to find the way to her heart.

Maisy and Duncan get spoilt by Janice, their grandmother's cook and housemaid, who enjoys baking for children. Her Victoria sponge is mentioned several times through the book, including one of the last scenes, after a dramatic denouement (not telling you, so as not to post any spoilers).

Victoria sandwich

Victoria sponge or Victoria sandwich, a much loved classic and probably the most iconic British cake, was named after Queen Victoria.
Farmhouse Cookery/ Recipes from the Country Kitchen (1980 edition) has a small article on the history of Victoria sponge:
"After the death of her husband, Prince Albert, in 1861, Queen Victoria spent four months of every year in retreat at Osborne, her house on the Isle of Wight. It was left to her husband's former secretary, General Grey, to try to coax her out of retirement.
As well as suggesting that she reappear in public, he urged her to give tea-parties to which various friends, relatives and celebrities were invited. On these occasions, Victoria Sandwich cake was served".

best British cake recipes

I didn't use the recipe from that book, as it asks for quite a small amount of flour, and I thought it would make a small sized cake. Delia's cake recipe from Delia's Cakes is also on the small size.
I consulted a few of cook books in my stash, and opted for the recipe found in DK Family Kitchen cookbook by Caroline Bretherton.
I've slightly reduced the amount of sugar, and adapted it, but overall, it is close enough to the recipe from Family Kitchen.

I've read that the classic cake is made with raspberry jam. In the days of Queen Victoria it was also sometimes made with lemon curd. I didn't have any raspberry jam, and didn't want to trudge through the snowed town for grocery shopping.
I made it with a good old strawberry jam, and it was delicious.

classic English cakes

Victoria Sponge
3 medium eggs
150g caster sugar
1tsp of ground vanilla or vanilla essence
175g self-raising flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda and a generous squeeze of lemon
175g unsalted butter, melted
for the filling:
50g softened butter to 100g icing sugar
half a jar of strawberry jam (or seedless raspberry jam)

In a big mixing bowl beat together eggs and sugar, grind the vanilla pod (or add vanilla essence), sift in the flour and mix. Squeeze lemon juice enough to cover all the bicarb of soda in a teaspoon, until it all goes bubbly, and add it to the mixing bowl. Add the melted butter and mix well.

(The original recipe tells you to whisk the butter and sugar, but it's too cold in the kitchen today for the butter to soften enough to be whisked, I've melted it in a pan, let it cool down a bit, then added to the cake batter).

Bake the cake in a 20cm spring cake tin or two sandwich tins. I baked one cake, then sliced it in two.
Place the cake tin in the oven preheated to 180C and bake for about 35+ minutes, until the wooden toothpick comes clean.
Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool on a wire rack before slicing into halves.

Make the icing by beating the butter and icing sugar with a bit of vanilla. Spread the frosting over the lower half of the cake, then spread the jam over the second half, and gently sandwich the cake together.

Serve as soon as possible. In my case, it was literally as soon as the cake was sandwiched together and dusted with icing sugar, as my kids were pacing impatiently in the kitchen.

classic British cake recipes

best English cakes

I'm resurrecting the #ReadCookEat linky this year. I haven't done it for several months, but have bookmarked recipes mentioned in books, and hopefully will find more enthusiasm to post books-inspired recipes this year.

Have you read a book recently which encouraged you to run to the kitchen and cook to your heart's content?

I hope you are inspired by books to join in the #ReadCookEat challenge.

The idea is to choose a book, either a world classic or modern fiction, or even memoirs and pick up a dish mentioned or described in that book and then recreate it in a recipe. Please say a few lines about your chosen book, and maybe even do a quote from the book.

If you decide to take part, please add the badge to your post and link up back to me, and either use a link-up tool or add the url of your post as a comment. Alternatively, email me with the link to your post (my email is sasha1703 at yahoo dot com).

I will Pin all blogs posts taking part in this challenge, as well as RT and Google+


  1. Yay, great to see the linky back - I won't link up my old posts but I have several in the pipeline so I'm sure I'll have something to link up soon ! That's a lovely looking cake - I could eat a slice right now:)

    1. Thank you, Cheryl! Older posts are fine too, though I've probably commented on them, but always happy to do another tweet.

    2. I'll see if I manage to get through some new ones - there's one already scheduled and another ready to be written up :)

  2. ooh shall have to dig out some of my bookmarked recipes from books. Cake looks lovely and the book sounds an interesting read

    1. Yes please do, Alison! Would love to see what you've been reading and cooking.