I could not let the grand occasion of the Royal Wedding pass without remark. I have always been enamored of all things royal. I get that from my Grandmother, who was an avid follower. She knew her royal history and loved to read the latest updates on the British royal family’s lives. I used to bring her copies of Majesty magazine from my trips to England, and she loved to leaf through the pages and comment on each picture.
I remember the excitement over Prince Charles’ wedding when I was a girl. My mom and I woke up to watch it, and oohed and ahead when the voluminous dress appeared from the carriage. And I might as well mention that when I was a student at Oxford I quite by accident shook hands with Princess Diana. She was doing a “walkabout” in town, why I never found out, and the barricades where set up directly across from my college. I couldn’t get into the college to study, so I set up at the barrier and was right in front when she came by, so I got to shake hands and have a few words with her. I don’t know why that memory pleases me. Then, a few years ago, I arrived in London on an early flight and couldn’t get into my flat, so I took a little bus ride and got stopped in traffic at St. Paul’s, which was cordoned off, with crowds gathered. I got off the bus and walked around the side of the cathedral and asked a policeman what the hubbub was all about. He pointed to the steps right in front of me and said “Her Majesty.” Out walked the Queen, Prince Phillip and all the dignitaries of London in full gowns and regalia. They walked down the steps got in the Rolls Royce and drove right past me. I managed to snap a few blurry pictures on my phone. I called an English friend and marveled that in 20 years of visiting England, I’d never seen the Queen, and she immediately remarked “I’ve lived here my whole life and I’ve never seen the Queen!” It was a great surprise moment for me.
So to celebrate, I present this classic British dessert, the Victoria Sponge. It’s a favorite tea time treat and makes a lovely dessert. It’s simple to make but spectacular to present. I’ve dressed it up here for the wedding with rose petal jam and rosewater, but don’t be too rigid with this cake. Strawberry or raspberry jam work wonderfully, and are a bit more traditional. You can leave out the rosewater if you prefer.
Victoria Sponge with Rose Petal Jam
You’ll find rose petal jam at Middle Eastern markets or online. Rosewater is available in most good groceries.
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, very soft
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon rosewater
1 ½ cups self-rising flour
4 – 5 Tablespoons milk
1 cup cup rose petal jam or strawberry jam
3/4 cup whipped cream
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons rosewater
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 8 inch round cake pans.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy and pale in color, almost white. Beat in the vanilla and rosewater. Add the eggs, one at a time, alternately with the flour. Add the milk a Tablespoon at a time until the batter is smooth and spreadable.
Spoon the batter evenly between the two pans and spread the tops to smooth. An offset spatula is a great tool for this. Place the cakes side by side on the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, rotating the cakes halfway through the cooking time, until the cakes are springy in the middle and beginning to pull away from the sides of the pans. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife gently around the edges of the pans and gently remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
To assemble the cake, choose the cake with the prettiest top and save it as the top layer. Place the bottom layer on a cake stand or large plate.
Whip the cream with the sugar and rosewater until stiff peaks form. Spread the jam evenly over the bottom layer of cake, making sure you get all the way to the edges of the cake ( a little overflow is fine). Spread the whipped cream over the jam, to the edges again, and top with the second layer of cake.
Dust the cake with confectioner’s sugar and decorate with rose petals.
Serves about 12