Vic­to­ria sponge with straw­ber­ries & white choco­late cream

SERVES 8

Taste - - Eat Summer Sweets -

The se­cret to the sponge, which is light but also rich and but­tery, is the re­liance on air be­ing whipped into the eggs as the rais­ing agent, rather than chem­i­cal leav­en­ers. Melted but­ter is then trick­led into the cake bat­ter and folded in for ex­tra rich­ness. All this re­quires a deft and light hand (and a bit of el­bow grease to be­gin with), but the re­sult is a de­li­ciously ver­sa­tile sponge for your reper­toire. There’s some­thing a lit­tle magic about mak­ing a per­fect genoise sponge. Be­hind the magic, though, there’s quite a lot of method. None of it is com­pli­cated but all of it is im­por­tant.

WHITE CHOCO­LATE CREAM 70g white choco­late, finely chopped 70ml dou­ble cream, plus an ex­tra 120ml to fin­ish SPONGE 4 large eggs 100g caster sugar Scraped seeds ½ vanilla pod (keep the pod for the straw­berry jam) Finely grated zest 1 lemon 60g un­salted but­ter 100g plain flour 1/8 tsp salt 150g hulled straw­ber­ries, sliced 5mm thick 1 tsp ic­ing sugar, for dust­ing STRAW­BER­RIES 250g hulled straw­ber­ries, roughly chopped 70g caster sugar 1½ tsp lemon juice

1 To make the white choco­late cream, place the choco­late in a medium bowl and set aside. Put the cream in a small, heavy-based saucepan and place over a medium-low heat. Cook un­til it is just start­ing to sim­mer, then pour the hot cream over the choco­late. Leave to sit for 3 min­utes, for the choco­late to soften, then stir gently un­til the choco­late is melted and fully com­bined. Cover with cling film and re­frig­er­ate for 1 hour un­til com­pletely cold.

2 Pre­heat the oven to 170°C (150°C fan­bake). Line a large bak­ing tray with bak­ing pa­per and place eight 8cm cake rings, un­greased and un­lined, on top and set aside. If mak­ing this in a 20cm round spring­form tin, you don’t need the bak­ing tray, but you will need to line the bot­tom of the tin with bak­ing pa­per.

3 Put enough wa­ter into a medium saucepan so that it rises about 5cm up the sides: you want the bowl from your elec­tric mixer to be able to fit in the saucepan and sit over the wa­ter with­out ac­tu­ally touch­ing it. Bring the wa­ter to a boil, then re­duce to a sim­mer.

4 To make the sponge, place the eggs, sugar, vanilla and lemon zest in the bowl of an elec­tric mixer and place the bowl on top of the saucepan of sim­mer­ing wa­ter, mak­ing sure (again) that the bot­tom of the bowl is not touch­ing the wa­ter. Whisk con­tin­u­ously by hand for about 5 min­utes, un­til the mix­ture is frothy, creamy and warm. Re­move the bowl and place it on the elec­tric mixer with the whisk at­tach­ment in place. Whisk on a high speed un­til the mix­ture has tripled in vol­ume and is no longer warm.

5 While the mix is beat­ing, melt the but­ter and set aside to cool. Com­bine the flour and salt in a bowl and sift it twice. When the egg mix­ture has tripled in vol­ume and is no longer warm, sift half the flour (yes, a third sift!) di­rectly over the mix­ture and gently fold it in with a large rub­ber spat­ula. Sift the re­main­ing flour over the mix­ture and fold in again. Now driz­zle the cooled, melted but­ter down the sides of the bowl. Fold in gently and swiftly to in­cor­po­rate.

6 Spoon the mix­ture into the cake rings – it should be filled two-thirds of the way up the sides – and bake for 15–18 min­utes (or 25 min­utes if bak­ing one large cake), or un­til the cakes are a light, golden brown and the sponge springs back when lightly pressed in the mid­dle. Re­move from the oven and set aside to cool for 20 min­utes in the rings be­fore us­ing a small knife to re­move them (take care here, to pre­vent the cakes tear­ing or stick­ing to the sides). Trans­fer to a wire rack to cool com­pletely.

7 Mean­while, cook the straw­ber­ries. Place the straw­ber­ries, sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan (along with the empty vanilla pod) and mix well. Bring to the boil over a medium heat and cook for 4-5 min­utes, stir­ring reg­u­larly, un­til the sugar has melted and the mix­ture has thick­ened. Re­move from the heat and set aside to cool.

8 When ready to as­sem­ble, place the white choco­late cream in the bowl of an elec­tric mixer with the whisk at­tach­ment in place. Add the ex­tra 120ml of cream and whip on a medium-high speed for about 30 sec­onds un­til com­bined and thick. It should just hold on the whisk (it can over-whip very quickly, so be care­ful).

9 Cut the cakes hor­i­zon­tally across the cen­tre and spread the cooked straw­ber­ries on the cut side of the bot­tom piece (dis­card vanilla pod). Spoon half of the white choco­late cream on top, fol­lowed by the sliced straw­ber­ries, fol­lowed by the re­main­ing white choco­late cream. Fin­ish with the top half of the sponge. 10 If you have made one large cake, take care

when slic­ing it in half; you’ll need to sup­port it un­der­neath when lift­ing it back on top of the cream and straw­ber­ries. If you have a cake lifter or jumbo cookie spat­ula, now is the time to use it. Dust with ic­ing sugar and serve.

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