I’ve been living in Finland a year and a half now. In that time I have made a number of cakes, biscuits, brownies and puddings.
Most of which I end up eating a bit a day for the next couple of weeks because as it turns out S and his parents (who we shall refer to as Appi and Anoppi, which mean father-in-law and mother-in-law respectively) aren’t much into those sorts of delectables. If they want to indulge their sweet teeth they’d rather tuck into a bag of salmiakki or such. But I’m not complaining, it means more for me!
I distinctly remember asking, the first time I baked here, whether the flour was the “right” flour for cakes, and was assured it was. After a few lacklustre and slightly stodgy cakes, though surprisingly not all of them, I insisted that S double-check by translating self-raising flour and checking that this was in fact what we had.
As it turns out, Finland does not sell self-raising flour. At all. In the whole country.
S promptly insisted that self-raising flour is just lazy. (And we’re not lazy and don’t need ready mixes. -S)
Well, maybe it is… But, it would’ve been good to know that I needed to be adding raising agent to my cakes. And maybe discovering this fact, I don’t know, a year and a half earlier might’ve been good!
But never mind. I know now. And luckily we discovered the fact just in time for Anoppi’s birthday. Which meant we could make her a proper cake, rather than one that looked distinctly like it had found itself too close to a steam roller.
We weren’t sure at first what to make her for her birthday. I did ask what she wanted, but she insisted we surprise her. We toyed with the idea of cheesecakes, or snowy white mountains of meringue studded with jewel-bright berries. But considering we had not made anything like that before, we decided it was probably best to leave the experimenting for another occasion.
The recipe we used was adapted from Nigella Lawson‘s How To Be A Domestic Goddess which I treated myself to after Christmas. And it turned out quite well! I even ate a couple of slices myself despite not liking strawberry!
The recipe is in grams, but I’m converting it to ounces for people who prefer it that way. Imperial measures are approximate.
225g/8oz unsalted butter, very soft (best to get this out of the fridge a few hours before you plan to bake. Perhaps even the night before.)
225g/8oz caster sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs (these should be at room temperature! Eggs for cake should always, always be at room temperature. Get them out at the same time as the butter.)
200g/7oz self raising flour (or alternatively, plain flour with about 3tsp of baking powder added in*)
1tsp baking powder
3-4 tbsp milk
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.
Put all the dry ingredients in a large bowl with the vanilla, eggs and butter.
With an electric whisk, mix all the ingredients until smooth, making sure to get plenty of air into the mixture.
Gradually add in the milk, a tablespoon at a time, whisking carefully with each addition. You’re aiming for the mixture to become a smooth, dropping consistency. We actually needed slightly more milk than the recipe suggested.
When the batter is ready, pour it into two 21cm/8 inches cake pans, ideally about 5cm/2 inches deep. If they are loose bottomed pans you don’t have to line them, but you can if you prefer. We only had one tin so we cooked them one at a time.
Put the cakes into the pre-heated oven, and bake for about 25 minutes. The cake should be beginning to come away from the edges, and it should feel springy to the touch. Poke a cake-tester (we used a cocktail stick) into the centre of the cake. If it comes out clean, then it’s ready!
Put the cakes onto a wire rack, leaving them to cool in their tins for ten minutes, then turning out onto the rack to cool completely. Once cool our cakes had sunk slightly so they were nice and level ready for decorating, rather than domed as they had appeared when we took them from the oven.
Once they’re completely cooled, it’s time to decorate!
(*The quantity of baking powder added to the plain flour is based on the use of 1tsp baking powder per dl of flour.)
2-4tbsp strawberry jam (to be honest, we didn’t measure, we just used as much as we thought looked right. You want to use a good quality jam, ideally with whole lumps of strawberry. If it doesn’t have lumps, but some fresh berries to put in to the cake too.)
2dl/7fl oz double cream (this is more than the recipe said, but we decorated the top with cream as well as using it to fill the cake)
Vanilla sugar, to taste (optional)
Strawberry sprinkles (optional)
When you’re ready to eat the cake, put one side on a cake board, plate, or whatever you intend to serve the cake on, or keep it in.
Spread it with jam until you have a nice, even layer that is as thick as you like it. Try not to go to close to the edges of the cake otherwise the filling will squeeze out messily when the top layer is put on. If you’re adding fresh berries, make sure they are washed and trimmed as necessary, and scatter them over the jam now.
Whip the cream until it is nice and thickened, but still soft. If you’re adding vanilla sugar, this should be put in just before the end of the process, so when it is almost thick enough. You may wish to whip some strawberry sprinkles into the cream at the same time.
Once you’re happy with the taste and consistency of the cream (try not to eat too much when you’re “testing” it!), dollop some onto the middle of the cake and spread carefully over the jammy, fruity layer. You want them to remain separate layers so make sure you’re not swirling them together.
When you’re cream layer is ready, carefully place the other layer of cake on top. Don’t press it down too much as you don’t want your filling to escape, but equally, make sure it is securely in place.
We spread the extra cream we had over the top of the cake, and then sprinkled with strawberry sprinkles. If you have enough extra cream you may wish to cover the cake completely! Alternatively, don’t put cream on top, but sprinkle with a dusting of icing sugar instead.
Et voilà! One Strawberry Victoria sponge!
The cake is best eaten within a few days. Due to the cream filling, it should be kept in the fridge. I don’t much like keeping cake in the fridge as I think it makes it go a bit stodgy, but needs must.
Enjoy your baking!