This was another week of not being in the kitchen as much as I would have liked, because there was too much to do elsewhere. Fortunately most of the other lingering jobs have been finished now, so this coming week I can spend more time doing things I like.
I did manage a decent lunch on Friday, at least. I tried my hand at Margaret’s zucchini and goat cheese tart; it was delicious, but my version wasn’t as pretty as hers, so I neglected to take pictures before cutting into it. I did some roasted asparagus to go with it, but that didn’t turn out particularly picture-worthy either; the asparagus was too young, and some of it was rather woody, so it was a bit of a disappointment.
For dessert I did a Victoria Sandwich, a dessert I’m particularly fond of making because it’s so easy to incorporate fresh fruit in constructing it. (Traditional recipes do not call for actual fruit in the middle, just jam and sometimes cream, but if you can get berries to match your jam of choice in season, why not?)
I used Mary Berry’s recipe (she from the Great British Baking Show / Great British Bake Off, if, like me, you’re addicted to the program). I usually follow her recipes to the letter, at least until I get to the assembly/ decoration stage, but this time the butter didn’t make it to room temperature–I was pressed for time–so I went with softened butter, which is possibly why it was a bit crispier at the edges than it should have been. I didn’t notice any other defects. I chose to do strawberry fruit and jam this time; raspberry filling is the classic choice, and I’ve done blackberry and blueberry versions in the past that have also come out nicely. I’m thinking of doing a raspberry and lemon curd version some time, but haven’t attempted it yet.
The mixing and baking went as expected; because the butter wasn’t as soft as it should be, I whipped it for a couple of minutes first to soften it a bit more. I used a mandoline to slice up the strawberries, and added a tablespoon of powdered sugar to the cream before whipping it. When I add the jam, I stir it up thoroughly before spreading–even at room temperature, trying to smooth out a lump of jam on the cake itself will tear the cake, so unless you have a brand of jam that is already quite soft (like Bonne Maman), give it a stir in the jar or in a bowl before assembling the cake.
Normally I would attempt to arrange the fruit in circles, but my first layer of strawberry slices looked rather patchy and the next refused to make a recognizable pattern, so I just went with haphazard but relatively stable layers, so as to avoid the the top layer of the cake making a dash for freedom when I placed it on top. For Victoria Sandwiches, I always use powdered sugar rather than caster sugar on top, because I think it makes for a prettier finish:
It turned out quite nice. My one reservation was that the sliced strawberries would make it hard to cut and tear the lower layer of cake, but it cut quite cleanly. It also disappeared in record time–I sent some home with my guest and some to a neighbour, and the remaining half was gone by Sunday afternoon. This is the trouble with Victoria Sponges in my household–I would make them more often, but they disappear so quickly that it’s better when half can be sent home with guests, because they can’t be frozen.