Mary Berry’s right. You CAN make a fluffy Vic­to­ria sponge with­out that wretched stir­ring!

Daily Mail - - Femail Magazine - By Re­becca Ley

LIKE most women of her gen­er­a­tion, my mother can prac­ti­cally make a Vic­to­ria sponge in her sleep. and not just any sponge, but the best I’ve ever tasted. Feather-light, eggily yel­low, with a thick grout of jam and cream squidged in the mid­dle.

she doesn’t need to con­sult a cook­book, since the recipe was long ago lodged in her head, but she al­ways be­gins by spend­ing about ten min­utes cream­ing — vig­or­ously mix­ing — sugar and but­ter to­gether in a large bowl.

But now, none other than Mary Berry has bro­ken all the rules by ad­mit­ting she’s ditched the ‘tra­di­tional cream­ing and fold­ing meth­ods’ of mak­ing a Vic­to­ria sponge.

In­stead, she swears by her ‘ all- in- one method’, which gives ‘ex­cel­lent re­sults’ every time — and en­tails sim­ply dump­ing all the in­gre­di­ents in a bowl and com­bin­ing, which means the whole cake is pre­pared in five min­utes flat. Berry also adds crisply that home bak­ers ‘ are wrong if they think that you have to take a day off in or­der to make cakes suc­cess­fully’.

I can prac­ti­cally hear my mum’s wooden spoon clat­ter­ing to the floor. no cream­ing?

This sim­ple tech­nique forms the ba­sis of most clas­sic sponge recipes, since it’s sup­posed to in­cor­po­rate small air bub­bles into the mix­ture, which you pre­serve by then care­fully ‘fold­ing’ in the eggs and flour in­stead of stir­ring.

all this labour makes, as the theory goes, for a light and fluffy cake.

named af­ter Queen Vic­to­ria, who liked a slice with af­ter­noon tea, the Vic­to­ria sponge came into ex­is­tence thanks to the in­ven­tion of bak­ing pow­der in 1843, which helped bat­ter to rise higher and so made cakes lighter and softer than be­fore.

Ever since, be­ing able to whip up a per­fectly risen Vic­to­ria sponge has been a bench­mark for home bak­ers, with fierce com­pe­ti­tions waged at vil­lage fetes across the coun­try.

Food sci­en­tist dr sue Bai­ley, for­mer course direc­tor of the Msc in Food science at lon­don Metropoli­tan univer­sity and a culi­nary his­tory con­sul­tant on the Great Bri­tish Bake Off, says: ‘The whole idea with a sponge cake is to trap air into the mix­ture, to give it that dis­tinc­tive light tex­ture.

‘ That’s what the process of cream­ing does. That’s also why you use caster sugar for a Vic­to­ria sponge — the crys­tals are the per­fect size for trap­ping air, whereas ic­ing sugar crys­tals are too small and gran­u­lated too large.’

dr Bai­ley says that in the days when all the beat­ing had to be done by hand, cream­ing was the eas­i­est way of aer­at­ing your cake.

she says, ‘when cream­ing, you can see the mix­ture start to change colour as the sugar crys­tals break down and air is trapped in the mix. It goes from a pale lemony colour, to al­most white. That’s how you know that you’ve done it enough.’ Mod­ern tech­nol­ogy has changed the game how­ever — these days you can eas­ily whip up a light, frothy bat­ter us­ing an elec­tric mixer, and sel­f­rais­ing flour will give your baked goods a lit­tle ex­tra lift.

so, what does dr Bai­ley think of Mary’s sug­ges­tion? ‘Typ­i­cally, ex­per­i­men­tally, it’s been shown that the tra­di­tional method will give a slightly bet­ter rise than the all-in-one method Mary Berry ad­vo­cates.’ But she adds: ‘Mary Berry was prop­erly trained and she knows ex­actly what she is do­ing.’

so, can the cheat’s way re­ally taste as good as the tra­di­tional method? I put both to the test . . .

First I fol­lowed Mary Berry’s method for mak­ing a sponge, which couldn’t be sim­pler.

she even sug­gests us­ing mar­garine, or ‘bak­ing spread’, be­cause you can use it straight from the fridge — un­like but­ter which has to come to room tem­per­a­ture be­fore it’s soft enough to use. while but­ter purists may ar­gue the flavour is su­pe­rior, it’s hard to beat Berry’s method for sheer con­ve­nience. If you re­ally pre­fer but­ter, you can just sub­sti­tute it for the bak­ing spread in her recipe.

You use 225g of bak­ing spread, straight from the fridge, 225g of caster sugar and the same again of self-rais­ing flour. add four large eggs and a level tea­spoon of bak­ing pow­der.

Then you mix it all to­gether us­ing an elec­tric mixer, be­fore di­vid­ing it be­tween two lined sand­wich tins and bak­ing for around 25-30 min­utes.

Cool on a wire rack, then sand­wich with whipped dou­ble cream and straw­berry jam. Top with a dust­ing of caster sugar.

ThIs was laugh­ably easy to do. I fi­nally get what peo­ple mean when they talk about ‘whip­ping up’ a cake — this was in the oven in less time than it would take to pop to the shop for a packet of bis­cuits.

The re­sult was sur­pris­ingly de­li­cious. loyal as I am to my mum’s cook­ing, this was moist with a nice crumb and a lovely, airy tex­ture.

no more ‘for­get­ting’ to make some­thing for the school bake sale then.

Then I fol­lowed the same recipe, but creamed Berry’s pre­ferred bak­ing spread ( you could in­stead use but­ter at room tem­per­a­ture) with the sugar, be­fore fold­ing in the flour and eggs care­fully, to pre­serve the air bub­bles.

This was ob­vi­ously a more laboured process and my arm def­i­nitely started to ache.

The cream­ing prob­a­bly only took about five min­utes but I was also ner­vous about tim­ing it ac­cu­rately.

If you over-cream, you can end up with dense, gummy streaks in your cake.

The but­ter and sugar com­bi­na­tion must be not too hard and not too soft, but just right. I looked for the change in colour from yel­low to white be­fore fold­ing in the other in­gre­di­ents.

I fully ex­pected my ef­forts to be re­warded with a su­pe­rior cake — one with the tex­ture of a cloud. how­ever, it was al­most iden­ti­cal to the one where I just bunged ev­ery­thing in to­gether.

The light tex­ture, the crumb, the com­fort­ing yel­low colour, even the level of moist­ness were all pretty much iden­ti­cal.

VER­DICT

I Know which one I’ll make next time. how could we have ever doubted Mary Berry? Cream­ing is sim­ply un­nec­es­sary.

sorry, Mum.

Whip­ping up a treat: Re­becca starts bak­ing

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