Victoria Sponge

What better way to celebrate the royal wedding than with a traditional English dessert? I’ve wanted to bake a Victoria sponge for a while now, and yesterday’s Harry-and-Meghan-extravaganza presented the perfect opportunity.

Victoria sponge, also called a Victoria sandwich or Victorian cake, was named for long-reigning British monarch Queen Victoria. This simple cake is an absolutely delicious treat; two layers of cake filled with raspberry jam and whipped cream. The cakes themselves are very easy to make, requiring only butter, sugar, eggs, self-rising flour, and baking powder; no extracts of any kind. You might wonder if they’ll turn out bland, but trust me, they don’t. The tart raspberry jam and sweet whipped cream go a long way to complement the cakes, which are a bit like pound cake. This recipe is adapted from Mary Berry’s Victoria sandwich from BBC Food; I measured all of my ingredients by weight for the cakes, rather than volume, to ensure that my ratios were correct.

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces (1 cup) butter, at room temperature, plus more for pans
  • 8 ounces superfine sugar*
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 8 ounces self-rising flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cup raspberry jam
  • 2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar

*To make superfine sugar, place regular granulated sugar in a food processor and pulse to a fine consistency, like sand. 

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two 8-inch round cake pans with butter, then line each with a circle of parchment.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until combined; add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Mix in flour and baking powder.

Divide batter evenly between the two cake pans, leveling the tops with a spatula. Bake for 20 minutes, then check to see if cakes are done; they will be golden brown on top, have pulled away from the sides of the pan, and will spring back when pressed lightly.

Remove from oven and allow to cool in pans for 5 minutes; run a butter knife around the edge of each cake and turn onto a wire rack to cool.

Once cakes are cool, place one layer on a cake plate (handling very gently using a large spatula – my cake cracked easily when I started to move it). Top with raspberry jam.

To prepare whipped cream, place cream and powdered sugar in a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whip at high speed for a few minutes, until soft peaks form. Be careful not to over-whip your cream, or you’ll end up with butter!

Drop whipped cream in dollops over the jam and gently spread to cover the whole surface. Top with remaining layer of cake; dust the top with powdered sugar if desired. Store, covered, in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Most recipes note that Victoria sponge is best eaten within about 12 hours after it’s made.

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Princess Cupcakes

Princesses have come a long way in popular culture. As a kid, I had the classics: Cinderella, Aurora from Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and the coolest princess ever, Princess Leia. Since my 1980s childhood, we’ve seen many strong female role models emerge in children’s stories. Today’s princesses aren’t lying around waiting for some rich guy to kiss them; they’re going off to battle, undoing spells from witches to save their families, and discovering that what makes them different is actually what makes them awesome. Even Princess Leia became a general, not that I’m surprised.

Princess cake and cookie flavor is a vanilla-citrus-flavored baking emulsion (read: flavoring that is water-based, so it won’t bake out) that you can find at cake stores and specialty baking suppliers like King Arthur Flour. This is the first time I’ve used it, and I’m very pleased with the results. I decided to go the traditional princess route and tinted my frosting pink, then added some pearl sprinkles as well.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon princess cake and cookie flavor
  • 3 tablespoons milk

For the frosting

  • 4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon princess cake and cookie flavor
  • 3-4 teaspoons milk
  • Red food coloring
  • Pearl sprinkles, if desired

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake tin with 6 paper liners.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until very well-blended. Add egg and princess cake and cookie flavor and beat until combined.

Add flour and milk alternatively in two batches, beginning and ending with the flour and beating until completely combined.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of batter into each cupcake well.

Bake for 16-20 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and immediately place cupcakes on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

To make frosting: beat butter in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed for 1 minute. Add powdered sugar all at once and beat on low speed until the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter; this will take a few minutes. Once all the sugar is incorporated, beat on medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes, then add flavor and 2 teaspoons milk; if frosting is too thick, add remaining milk. Add a few drops of red food coloring to tint frosting pink.

Fit a large pastry bag with a Wilton M1 tip and pipe generous swirls of frosting onto each cupcake. Top with pearl sprinkles.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Makes 6.

Confetti Cupcakes

I work with a great group of smart, hilarious women, and there’s a lot to celebrate on our team right now. Cyndy just had a birthday; Melissa is expecting her second baby; Megan got engaged last weekend, and it’s also her birthday later this month. Naturally, this calls for cupcakes.

You’ve probably had funfetti before – at least, I sincerely hope you have. These confetti cupcakes are a scratch-made alternative to Pillsbury’s brilliant sprinkles-in-the-cake idea, made with a fluffy vanilla buttercream and topped with more sprinkles, because is there really such a thing as too many? This recipe is adapted from one I found at Brown Eyed Baker; I cut the recipe down a bit to make a slightly smaller batch of just 18 cupcakes. You could easily double this recipe for a larger crowd.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1/2 cup plus 6 tablespoons cake flour
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup plus 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, cut into 1-inch cubes, at room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon rainbow sprinkles

For the frosting

  • 12 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • rainbow sprinkles

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cupcake tins with paper liners; my recipe made 18 cupcakes.

Combine milk and vanilla; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine cake flour, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Beat on low speed for about 1 minute, then slowly add butter, a few cubes at a time, beating on low until the mixture looks like coarse sand. Add eggs, one at a time, beating on low and scraping the sides of the bowl after each. Keep beating on low while slowly adding milk/vanilla mixture, then beat on medium speed for 2 minutes, until batter is smooth. Stir in sprinkles.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, drop batter into cupcake wells, filling about two-thirds full.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove cupcakes from pans and cool on a wire rack completely.

To make the frosting, using the whisk attachment on your mixer, whip butter for about 5 minutes until light and fluffy, scraping the sides of your bowl a few times. Add powdered sugar one-half cup at a time, beating well between each addition to fully incorporate the sugar into the butter. Once all powdered sugar is added, whip for 1-2 minutes on medium-high speed, then add vanilla extract and whip for another 1-2 minutes.

Frost cupcakes and top with sprinkles. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days. Makes 18.

Winter Wonderland Cake

When most people think about Christmas desserts, they probably think of cookies. And while there are some amazing cookie recipes out there, I like to get creative for our Christmas desserts. This year, I wanted to do something peppermint-based, and this little vanilla peppermint cake turned out very well.

I found several recipes for pine tree/winter wonderland cakes online, but decided to make my own from recipes I’ve previously baked. To make the pine trees, I melted some vanilla candy coating (rather than using candy melts, as I don’t really like the way they taste) and tinted them green with candy coloring.  It’s important to use candy coloring, which is oil-based and available at cake shops, rather than liquid or gel-based food coloring. Oil-based coloring will blend into your melted coating very well, while liquid or gel-based coloring will make the coating clumpy.

Ingredients

Candy Pine Trees

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces vanilla candy coating*
  • Green candy coloring
  • 10 lollipop sticks
  • Nonpareils

*I use CandiQuik vanilla candy coating, available at Target.

Preparation

Line two baking sheets with waxed paper; set aside.

Chop candy coating into pieces, then place in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 2 to 2 1/2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds to distribute the heat.

Add green candy coloring and stir well.

Dip the top of each lollipop stick into the melted coating, then place several inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Spoon candy coating into a zip-top bag; carefully snip off one corner and pipe coating onto lollipop sticks in tree shapes.

Sprinkle nonpareils on trees while they are still wet; allow to set completely, then carefully peel off waxed paper. Trim stick bottoms, leaving about 1 inch to insert into the cake.

Vanilla Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 6 tablespoons milk

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two 6-inch round cake pans, line each with a parchment circle, and lightly grease the parchment.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until very well-blended. Add eggs and vanilla extract and beat well to combine, scraping the sides of your bowl a few times.

Add flour and milk alternatively in two batches, beginning and ending with the flour and beating until completely combined.

Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 18-22 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow cakes to cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then carefully turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Peppermint Vanilla Buttercream

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons peppermint extract
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • About 2 tablespoons milk
  • White cupcake pearls, optional

Preparation

Place butter in a mixing bowl and beat on medium speed for 1 minute using a paddle attachment. Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed until the sugar is fully incorporated; this will take several minutes. I cover my mixer with a kitchen towel to prevent a powdered sugar storm.

Scrape the sides of the bowl and add peppermint extract, vanilla extract, and 1 tablespoon milk. Beat until well combined, scraping sides of the bowl frequently; beat in additional milk and continue beating for 1-2 minutes for a smooth, even consistency.

To assemble the cake:

Place the bottom layer on your cake stand and frost the top, then top with remaining layer and frost the top and sides. Place remaining frosting in a zip-top bag; snip off one corner and set aside.

Press trees into cake top, starting at the back, and piping additional buttercream around the bottoms as you work toward the front of the cake. Sprinkle with cupcake pearls.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days.

Annabelle’s Honey Cake

For years, loaf-style honey cake eluded me. I tried tons of recipes, but always ended up with loaves that were burnt on the outside and raw in the middle. A few weeks ago, a colleague mentioned a wonderful recipe that her mom, Annabelle, uses each year to make honey cake.

This is that recipe, and it gave me a very important reminder about how the type of pan you use will affect your outcome. The loaf on the right in this photo baked in my King Arthur Flour loaf pan and yielded a nearly perfect loaf, with a bottom and sides that are just slightly darker than my personal preference. The loaf on the left, however, baked in a darker pan from another maker and yielded a bottom and sides that are certainly too dark to serve. Next time, I’ll pull the darker pan much earlier and will cut down the baking time in my King Arthur Flour pan by about 3 minutes.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup strong black tea

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray two 9 x 5 loaf pans with cooking spray and line each with parchment.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat egg whites with a fork to combine. Add sugar, vegetable oil, honey, and tea; stir to combine. Add flour mixture in several small batches, stirring with a wooden spoon to combine.

Divide batter evenly between pans; I used a 1/2 cup measuring cup and scooped portions into each pan to try to get as even a division as possible.

Bake for 40-55 minutes*, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in pans for a few minutes, then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature.

Makes two 9 x 5 loaves.

*The original recipe called for baking for 45-55 minutes, but this was too long for my oven. For a dark pan, I’d recommend baking for about 38-40 minutes, and for a lighter pan, for about 40-45 minutes, to prevent sides and bottoms that are too dark. 

 

Vanilla Bean Cake

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m the kind of gal who bakes her own birthday cake. This year I went back and forth between several ideas, and finally settled on a two-layer, 6-inch cake decorated with a buttercream hydrangea. Happy birthday to me, eh?

A while back I’d bought this color swirl piping set, and it was a total disaster. This time, I tinted my buttercream three different shades of purple and blue, then put them in three separate 12-inch piping bags, all of which went into an enormous, 18-inch piping bag. It worked incredibly well; see more photos of the cake below. A word of caution, though: I actually think this cake would be even more delicious without buttercream frosting. The next time I make it, I think I’ll bake it in a regular 8-inch round pan and either drizzle it with a powdered sugar icing or just serve it with fruit and whipped cream.

Vanilla Bean Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped*
  • 6 tablespoons milk

*Save the pod and make vanilla sugar – just add the pod to a jar of white sugar and let it infuse the sugar with vanilla-ness!

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two 6-inch round cake pans, line each with a parchment circle, and lightly grease the parchment.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until very well-blended. Add eggs and vanilla seeds and beat well to combine, scraping the sides of your bowl a few times.

Add flour and milk alternatively in two batches, beginning and ending with the flour and beating until completely combined.

Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 18-22 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow cakes to cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then carefully turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Vanilla Almond Buttercream

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups butter, at room temperature
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons almond extract
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • Purple, sky blue, and leaf green gel food coloring

Preparation

In a mixing bowl, beat butter for about 2 minutes. Add powdered sugar all at once and beat on low speed until all of the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter; this will take a few minutes.

Add vanilla and almond extracts and beat on medium, then medium high speed for about 2 minutes. Scrape down your bowl, then add the heavy cream and beat for another 2-3 minutes.

To frost and decorate your cake, place one cake on your cake stand and top with buttercream, spreading almost to the edge. Top with the second cake and frost the top and sides, smoothing the buttercream as much as you can.

Divide your remaining frosting into one small portion (about 1/4 cup) and tint leaf green; set aside. Divide the rest into three equal portions and tint one dark purple, another light purple, and the other sky blue.

Place dark purple, light purple, and sky blue frosting into separate 12-inch piping bags. Fit an 18-inch piping bag with a Wilton M1 tip and place the 12-inch bags inside. Pipe petals in a few layers (I did three, and it was a ton of frosting) to make your hydrangea flower, then pipe petals around the bottom edge of the cake.

Fit a small piping bag with a leaf tip and fill with leaf green frosting; pipe leaves on each side of your hydrangea flower, then pipe a few leaves around the bottom of the cake.

Store in a domed cake stand at room temperature for up to 3 days. Makes about 6 slices.

Here’s a detail of the flower.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you look closely you can see the tiny vanilla seeds in the cake. 

 

Strawberry Vanilla Cupcakes

Filled cupcakes became a big deal a few years back, but as I’ve mentioned on this blog before, my grandma Zella made filled cupcakes back in the ’80s and ’90s. Long before shows like Cupcake Wars appeared on television, Zella scooped out her cupcake centers and filled them with lemon curd, pudding, and pie fillings. I think this strawberry vanilla cupcake would have made her proud.

If you’re using a fruit or pudding-like filling, you’ll want a sturdier cupcake so that a) the cupcake doesn’t fall apart when you take a bite and b) the filling doesn’t get too absorbed into the cake. These cupcakes are on the drier side, more like a pound cake and able to hold the strawberry filling very well. When paired with a fresh strawberry buttercream, the flavor combination is a delightfully summery treat. I recommend making your filling first and allowing it to cool completely before you bake your cupcakes and make your frosting to save time during assembly.

Strawberry Filling

Ingredients

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces strawberries, pureed
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons water

Preparation

In a medium saucepan, stir together strawberry puree, powdered sugar, cornstarch, and water. Cook over medium heat until the mixture boils, then allow it to boil for 1 minute, stirring well, until the mixture thickens.

Remove from heat and press through a fine sieve to filter out the seeds – this will take a few minutes, but is absolutely worth it. Allow to cool at room temperature before using; makes about 1 cup.

Old-Fashioned Vanilla Cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup plus 6 tablespoons cake flour
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes, at room temperature
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.

Combine milk and vanilla extract; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine cake flour, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes, then reduce mixer speed to low and add butter a few cubes at a time. Continue to beat for about 2 minutes, until the mixture looks like coarse sand.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well between each. With the mixer running on low, slowly pour in the vanilla milk mixture.

Return to medium speed and continue to beat for 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl well.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of batter into prepared cupcake pans, filling about 1/2 to 2/3 full.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from pans immediately and cool completely on a wire rack before filling and frosting.

Fresh Strawberry Buttercream

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 to 3 cups powdered sugar
  • Scant ¼ cup strawberry puree

Preparation

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and vanilla extract on low speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes.

Gradually add powdered sugar, in half-cup increments, beating until fully incorporated.

Slowly add strawberry puree, mixing until completely incorporated, about 1-2 minutes. If your mixture is too thin, slowly add more powdered sugar, about 1/4 cup at a time, until you reach a consistency that will be easy to pipe.

To assemble your cupcakes:

Use a melon baller to scoop out a small amount of cake from the center of each cupcake.

Using a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip, pipe strawberry filling into each cupcake.

Fit a large pastry bag with a Wilton M1 tip and pipe generous swirls of frosting onto the top of each cupcake. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, but bring to room temperature before serving.

Makes 24 cupcakes.

Here’s a photo of the inside!