I’m back, kids, and I made you a completely delicious, light and fluffy, totally fool proof One Bowl Victoria Sponge. You’re gonna love it.
We’ve had a bit of a tidy up around here, and there are still a few changes to come. But I’m so glad to be back with a renewed focus and an absolute stunner of a recipe to share with you today.
You may not immediately notice a lot of changes on the site because in all honesty, the biggest change is my mindset. In a way, it makes sense because this is my blog, so it’s really just an extension of my mind. I want “How to Be Awesome on $20 a Day” to be successful. I believe it deserves to be successful, and I believe I can make it happen.
It feels strange to say it out loud, as self-doubt has always been my default setting. I still have a million miles to travel on this journey to becoming a successful food blogger and a successful human, but I’m hoping some of you will want to come along with me. Maybe we can make each other’s lives a bit more awesome.
Right, so cake. More precisely, One Bowl Victoria Sponge. That’s what you’re probably here for, and you’re absolutely right to show up for this one. This is a Mary Berry recipe, and when I first made it, my expectations were low. We’re using baking spread instead of butter, which doesn’t even need to be softened. And we’re just chucking everything into the bowl at once before mixing it up. Aren’t from scratch cakes supposed to be complicated to be good? Apparently not.
I couldn’t believe how light and fluffy my layers turned out, even in my unreliable oven that usually burns everything. And it stays moist for days. Not that you’ll be able to keep it around the house for days.
I like to serve the cream on the side with my Victoria Sponge unless I know the cake is going to be completely consumed all in one sitting. I feel the cream gets sort of wilted if you put it inside the cake. The good news is, all you need to make the most beautiful fresh whipped cream is a little bit of muscle and some patience. Oh, and cream and a bit of sugar, of course. Whip up the cream right before serving, and let people go to town.
I hope you’re ready to step into your awesomeness with me, friends. There will be lots of cake along the way, and this One Bowl Victoria Sponge is a terrific place to start.
Today I’m here with the ultimate example of why I could never go on The Great British Bake-Off. Before we get into how bad this cake is, I want to say that if I was actually making a chocolate cake for a celebration, I’d make this Practically Perfect Chocolate Cake, and load it up with sprinkles because I think great cake is all your need to celebrate.
I’d also never bake something for a celebration or a competition that I was baking for the first time, but for this post, I decided to try the Death by Chocolate cake from The Great British Book of Baking, the companion book to the first season of the show. This recipe is flourless, contains no butter or oil, uses dark chocolate, and is leavened only with beaten eggs. I should have known it would be dry and crumbly. But I trusted the book and tried it out. It was also topped with ganache, which is what most people on this episode of the show covered their chocolate cakes with. I would not make this again.
I also wanted to try a chocolate technique because Paul and Mary don’t let you get away with keeping things simple. They want to see your skills, and I don’t have any of those. I tried to make chocolate brush strokes for the first time. This is something I feel like I could probably figure out with a bit more practice, and a bit more patience. I definitely should have chilled them for longer. I made way more chocolate brushstrokes, but I couldn’t get most of them off the chocolate because they just melted in my hands. Why do people try to create art with something that melts at below body temperature? It doesn’t make sense.
Even though this cake was unsuccessful, I learned something and had fun doing it. Part of this challenge I set myself was not just to prove how hard baking can be, but to push myself to try things I would normally avoid because they’re too hard or too fussy. I’ll never be an artistic baker, but I’m excited to experiment with no pressure. Paul and Mary will never love my baking, but that won’t keep me out of the kitchen.
I think the next episode is biscuit week, so get ready to see some uneven, misshapen biscuits. It’s gonna be awesome. Maybe.
Let’s talk again about how I definitely shouldn’t be on The Great British Bake Off. The very first technical challenge of this show’s slightly awkward first season was to make a Victoria Sandwich Cake. This is two layers of sponge with raspberry jam in the middle. This is truly a recipe that any respectable British baker should be able to handle relatively well, so they were looking for utter perfection.
They gave them ingredients but no method. Not sure if they had measurements or not. If they did, this should have been a no brainer. Of course, I’m not an actual Bake Off contestant, so I used the actual Victoria Sandwich recipe from the companion cookbook from this season of Bake Off. It’s about as simple as you’d think. If you’re new to baking, this cake is a great place to start.
Of course, the dramatic debate in the tent is whether to use the creaming method or all-in-one. I’m team creaming all the way, which sounds gross if you’re not a baker. If you want your cake to be lighter than air, air is exactly what you need, so let your butter and sugar mix together for a good five minutes until it’s pale and fluffy.
Another fatal error I saw some people make on the show was to continually open the oven door to check if their cake was done. Step away from that door handle, friends. Every time you open that door, the oven temperature drops, and you’ll end up with a sad and sunken cake. Trust your nose. When you start to smell the cake, you’ll know it’s nearly there.
They didn’t even have to make their own jam for this first technical. In later seasons, they sometimes have to make four different components from scratch, so I’m not looking forward to that. Use your favorite jam. I went with a raspberry vanilla jam I picked up from a fancy gourmet market in Clitheroe that was made in my husband’s hometown. It was delightful. I like a little more jam than is probably traditional, but this cake doesn’t have much else going on in the flavor department, so I like to pile it on a bit.
Paul and Mary could probably find something bad to say about my cake, most like that its a bit wonky, but I’m perfectly satisfied with the way it turned out. I wish I could say I shared this with friends, but Geoff and I ate this all by ourselves. It was awesome.
Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). Butter two 20.5 cm round cake tins, and line the base with baking parchment.
Add butter and sugar to a large mixing bowl, and beat with an electric mixer one medium high for 3-5 minutes until pale and fluffy.
In a bowl, lightly beat your eggs along with the vanilla. Turn your mixer down to low and gradually beat the egg mixture into the butter and sugar. Scrape down the side of the bowl, and give it one more mix to make sure everything’s evenly combined.
Turn your mixture onto its lowest setting and gradually add in the flour, followed by the milk. Use a rubber spatula to give the batter one last mix to make sure all the ingredients are evenly incorporated.
Divide your mixture between the two cake tins. You can use a kitchen scale to make sure you have divided it evenly. Doesn’t have to be gram for gram, but relatively close.
Bake your cake layers for 20-25 minutes or until the cake springs back when gently pressed. Once removed, allow the cake to cool in the tins for a few minutes, then run a butter knife around the edge of the pan and turn your cake layers out onto a wire rack. Remove the baking parchment and allow the cake to cool completely.
Once cooled, move one layer to its final destination and spread the raspberry jam evenly on top. Place your second layer on top, dust with powdered sugar, slice and serve.
When you bake for people who have never really done much home baking, they’re always so impressed. They can’t believe you can actually make something they’ve only ever bought from a shop. And even if it only tastes pretty good, anything homemade probably tastes better than what people get from a factory. They’re so happy to be eating cake at a meeting on a Wednesday, that they don’t pay much attention to how it looks. They just can’t believe their luck. Then someone always says, “You should go on Bake Off.”
I love to bake, and I hope to keep doing it for a long time, but there is no way in a million years I could ever go on Bake Off. Even my husband, who knows how stressful baking can be, and how many failures I’ve had, will sometimes say this to me. It’s a completely ridiculous idea. A quick skim of my recipe archives should be enough to convince anyone that I don’t bake with the precision required for a baking competition show, but I thought I’d convince everybody once and for all that I would be a total Bake Off flop.
Probably once a month, I’ll bring you a new post featuring a Bake Off challenge, and I’ll let you know exactly what Paul, Mary, and Prue would probably say about my bakes. I’m not just doing this so you’ll get off my back about it already, but also to remind you that your home baking doesn’t have to be Bake Off-worthy to be absolutely awesome. Baking for yourself and your friends and family is always worth the time, no matter what it looks like. Every recipe will be delicious and ugly and something anyone can make at home.
The first ever signature challenge on the premiere episode of The Great British Bake Off was for the contestants to make their signature cakes. The judge’s favorite was a layered lemon drizzle, and I think that would have been the slice I chose as well.
I don’t think I have a signature cake, but I had already decided to share this Chocolate Fudge Cake with you, and I thought a light, moist chocolate cake with creamy chocolate frosting is probably the cake people would most associate with me.
I’m not into fancy flavors. I hate matcha, and I don’t know if I’ve ever tasted yuzu. I like simple, classic, sweet flavors. And if there’s chocolate, so much the better. This is the kind of cake my mom would have baked, and the kind of cake I will always want to eat. If there’s a scoop of vanilla ice cream to go along with it, even better.
This cake came out of the oven a bit uneven because I slightly overfilled my cake pans since they were slightly smaller than instructed. I trimmed off the edges that crept out onto the lip of the pan while baking, but I didn’t bother to level the cake, which I’m sure Mary Berry would have found mortifying. This cake is totally wonky. It’s also ever so slightly underbaked because my oven is the worst. Paul would have been sure to mention this. I also didn’t bother to get out my piping bag because I’m lazy. I covered the ragged edge at the bottom of the cake with Cadbury buttons, but other than that, I just smoothed the frosting on with a small offset spatula. Prue would have given me low points for effort and technique.
This cake is totally achievable for a beginning home baker, and it tastes absolutely beautiful. You can even freeze the layers and frost them later if life gets away from you. Everybody will want to eat this, and they’ll probably tell you to go on Bake Off. We don’t need that kind of judgment. We just need to eat cake and be happy.
Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). Butter two 20 cm round cake tins and line the bottom with parchment paper.
In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugars, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In another bowl or a measuring jug, whisk together the eggs, sour cream, and vanilla until well combined.
In the bowl of your freestanding mixer or in yet another large mixing bowl, beat together the melted butter and vegetable oil to combine, then beat in the water.
Add the dry ingredients all at once, and beat on low speed to combine.
Add the egg mixture, and beat again until everything is blended. You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl and give it another mix with a rubber spatula to make sure everything is completely mixed.
Divide the batter between your waiting pans and bake for about 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Allow the cakes to cool in the tins for about 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
For the frosting, make sure to melt your chocolate first so that it can sit and cool a few minutes before it gets mixed in. The easiest way is to do this in the microwave in 30 second increments, stirring after each.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter for a couple of minutes to lighten it up, then beat in the powdered sugar until it’s smooth and fluffy.
Finally, add the melted but slightly cooled chocolate and the vanilla, and mix until fully combined and beautifully brown.
Frost and decorate your cake however you like. No matter how it turns out, it will taste amazing.
A new year has started, and I’ve let Instagram talk me into buying a planner. I’m trying to become a person who sets goals and gets things done. Maybe writing things down will make me less lazy. I’m skeptical, but the planner is pretty, so it’s fine.
My number one goal this year is to try to eat more fruits and vegetables. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I basically hate all fruits and veggies, but now that I’m 40, I figure I better get my stuff together. I haven’t necessarily committed to eating less of anything yet, but I figure you’ve got to start somewhere.
Since I’m trying to be healthier, the obvious thing to do was to make you a cake with like a bucket of sugar in it. Guys, this So Much Crumb Coffee Cake is like basically a third sugar crumb layer, and it’s for sure extra in the best possible way. I suggest serving this in smallish pieces (smaller than in the picture) because it’s quite sweet. And of course, make sure you have your favorite tea or coffee alongside.
This recipe looks long, but don’t let that intimidate you. We’re mixing up three different components, and layering them, then baking them in the oven for about an hour. That’s all there is to it. This cake is going to be encased in a thick layer of crumb, so it’s a bit tricky to tell if it’s fully baked. I have no problem with an under baked cake, but if you’re trying to get onto Bake Off, be sure to test it in the center with a toothpick or cake tester.
We can have our So Much Crumb Coffee Cake and eat it, too. Just be sure to eat your veggies first.
Preheat your oven to 350F (175C) and grease and flour a 9×13 inch baking pan. Set aside.
To make the topping, whisk together sugar, salt, flour, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Add the softened butter and mix thoroughly until your mixture resembles wet sand. I find the easiest way to do this is with my clean hands. Set aside.
To make the filling, whisk together the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cocoa powder, and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Set aside.
To make the cake add the butter and both sugars to a large mixing bowl, and cream them together with an electric mixer. This should become pale and fluffy and will need about three to four minutes mixing on medium speed.
Turn your mixer down to low and beat in the vanilla. Then beat in one egg at a time, allowing the mixture to be well combined before adding the next egg. Scrape down your bowl, and mix again to make sure everything is incorporated.
In another mixing bowl or on a sheet of parchment (if like me you’ve already used all your mixing bowls for other components) sift together your flour, baking powder, and salt.
In a measuring jug, measure out your whole milk, and then use displacement to measure out your sour cream. When the sour cream makes the milk rise to the two cup mark, you’re good to go. Gently stir this together, but don’t worry if there are still a few lumps.
With your mixer on it’s lower setting, add in a third of your dry ingredients, followed by half of the milk mixture, then another third of dry, the rest of the wet, and finally the last of your dry ingredients. Allow things to combine before adding more stuff to the batter each time. You should have a thick and smooth batter. Ditch your electric mixer and give everything one more scrape and stir with a rubber spatula to make sure everything is fully mixed.
Pour about half your cake batter into your waiting pan, and use your spatula to spread it evenly, making sure to get right into the corners.
Sprinkle your entire filling mixture evenly over this. I used my fingers and a bit of shaking to get it evened out with complete coverage.
Spread the remaining cake batter over this, then use a butter knife of similar to gently swirl the filling through the batter.
Finally, add your topping and spread it evenly over the top of the cake. It’s gonna be a lot. Just accept it.
Bake for 55-60 minutes or until the cake is golden brown on top, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.