In the second of a new series Laura Rowe investigates which are the best books (and cooks) to guide you on making a classic Victoria sponge.
The professional cook: Peggy Porschen Boutique Baking
Baker to the stars and founder of her own cake academy Peggy Porschen knows the difference between a Victoria and a Genoise. But how does she rate as a teacher? Her second book, Boutique Baking published by Quadrille, focuses on her designer-style cakes, cupcakes and sweet treats. At first glance you might think that finish is everything, but the pretty-in-pink book is packed with practical baking tips.
Peggy has her own ‘glorious Victoria cake’ recipe in the book, which carefully details the method and equipment needed in one easy list, and has her own unique tips for baking the cake and the decoration, too. All of this is then supplemented by more pages detailing specific techniques such as lining baking tins, decorating layer cakes, icing, and more.
As with nearly all of her sponge recipes, Peggy starts by recommending baking a day ahead of serving so you can then soak them with a sugar syrup to make them extra moist. The cake itself is made by creaming butter, sugar, salt and vanilla pod seeds “until pale and fluffy”. Eggs are meant to beaten and then added slowly to the sugar and butter while whisking. The tips (for when it goes right and wrong) keep on coming – “if the mixture starts to separate or curdle, stop adding the egg and beat in 2-3 tablespoons of the flour; this will rebind the batter”. When adding the flour, you should sift it in, then stir (not fold or whisk) until “just combined” and she even suggests weighing the cake mix into the tins to ensure even layers in your ‘glorious Victoria cake’. She tells us that if we use deeper tins the cakes will take longer to cook and that the cakes will let us know when they’re ready, because the sides will shrink away from the tin, and the tops will be golden brown and will spring back to the touch. And, of course, there is the trusty skewer tip, too.
The decoration is given thorough detailing thanks to step-by-step, captioned pictures on how to layer the cake, ice and pipe to a professional level. And at every stage all the tools needed are listed, although the suppliers list at the back of the book is a little disappointing, with merely a plug for Peggy’s online shop, cake boutique and academy.
Previous: Mary Berry's 'How to cook'
Next: Leiths Baking Bible by Susan Spaull and Fiona Burrell
Also see The experts' guide to bread making.
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