Victoria Sponge…..WTF Mary

Psst….that first picture is Mary’s cake, not mine.

WTF is castor sugar, jam sugar, self-rising flour and a sandwich tin?  Reading through the first recipe getting ready for the first bake I came across not one, not two, but four terms/ingredients that I had to google and subsequently had to DIY.  I was raised in a family with British background I have read all of Jane Austen (except Persuasion) and I proudly stream BBC shows when possible but I have no idea what Mary Berry is talking about. Thankfully google exists and after some baking homework I was ready to take on recipe 1 – Victoria Sponge.

So, I may have been slightly cocky going into this, I thought just follow the recipe to a “T” and it will come out perfectly.  And that might have happened…. if I had followed the recipe to a “T”.  But sadly, I am me, a scattered person that tries to multitask and sometimes makes due with whats on hand.

All started well, I made my jam sugar, measured everything, mixed in the pectin (that was liquid (oops)) but seemed to work ok.  I put everything on the stove and it looked great, see….


Then I realized I left out 50g of sugar.  No problem, scrambled but got it in.  Boiled it to the right temperature and got jam!

Next was the cake.

I did the all-in-one method per Mary’s instructions, but I was terrified of over mixing since this is apparently a grave sin in the cake world.  I mixed until just combined but I could still see bits of butter.  I forged ahead and I don’t think it made a difference but it just made me think that creaming the butter and sugar before adding the eggs and flour would probably have made the batter smoother.  My next WTF Mary moment was reading her description of how the batter should be, “dropping” consistently. Really?  What does that mean?  It did drop, but I wasn’t sure of the rate at which the drop should fall.  These are real problems people!  When satisfied with my drop, all be it somewhat concerned about the butter situation everything went into the oven.

I had to do some major googling to figure out the oven temperature and I felt like all the time I spent arguing with my Dad about math in school might have been better spent listening, but again, I am me.

The buttercream thankfully was a walk in the park, came together exactly as Mary said it would.  I was surprised overall that there is no vanilla in the whole recipe.  I’m so used to thinking of vanilla as the neutral flavor that I just assumed I was making a vanilla cake with vanilla butter cream.  My husband speculated that maybe when the recipe was written vanilla wasn’t as readily available or just too expensive.  We love a good theory so with that we were satisfied and vanilla wasn’t thought of again.

So now things start to go a little sideways.  I was worried about the cake collapsing if I opened the oven door so I set the timer for 20 minutes and called my Mom.  I chatted to my Mom happily for the full 20 minutes only to open the door to find a pretty “over baked” cake.  I left everything to cool and was consoled by my Mom and Husband reminding me that it will be a better story to show my progress than to start out being amazing.  Definitely accomplished not being perfect on recipe 1.  Let the progress begin.

By 9:30 I was ready to call it a night and get out of the kitchen so with the cakes cool I started assembling everything.  Unfortunately, I didn’t even think about the jam still being warm so it kind of oozed off the sides and made the butter cream a little melty.  Cue the icing sugar.

The end result, as you can see, isn’t perfect, but was really tasty!  The lack of vanilla made everything taste extra buttery.  My husband and I figured out my over baking mishap was a down to math again!  My tins were 9 inches instead of 8, lesson learned.  I will also be chilling everything in the fridge from now on to make sure there is no more oozing/melting on assembly. All in all, an ok first bake but I don’t think I would have been Star Baker this week.  Luckily my friend got me the most perfect mug so I can be Star Baker anytime I want!


4 thoughts on “Victoria Sponge…..WTF Mary

  1. Amazing first bake! It looks like it was scrummy despite some oozing. Let me know if you ever need a taste tester!


  2. Hi Jess, its Jenny (Dave’s colleague that hangs out at your family dinners!) – if you ever need terminology help feel free to reach out. All of your things listed above make complete sense to me and I have been navigating the difference for 6 years. Good luck in your endeavor, I look forward to following the progress!


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