Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Let Them Eat Cake...Or Not

On Sunday I got an urge for Victoria Sponge, one of my favorite British cakes.  I made this recipe so many times during my years in Edinburgh, I could've done it in my sleep.  It's a light, moist cake, layered with jam and whipped cream, a dusting of sugar on top; no frosting like an American cake.


Photo Credit: Celtnet

I love this cake, though haven't made it since I've been back in the States.  It's easy, delicious and on Sunday I want a piece really bad but I don't have all the ingredients, like self-rising flour, so I go online, find the recipe for changing regular flour into s/r and make the cake.  While it's baking, I'm imagining how great that slice will taste with a nice cup of tea...yum, can't wait.

Except, when I open the oven to check on it, I find this (and yes, that's smoke):

It rose like a souffle, then began to ooze down both racks, onto the element and then made lovely cake circles on the foil drip catcher.  A second after I took this picture, the entire bottom of the stove caught fire.  Flames, peeps.  I had enough to toast marshmallows, which in retrospect, would have been a better choice of dessert.

I got the fire out, the cakes were ruined--even before the soot and ash factor--and the oven was such a mess I had to clean it, a task I was not in the mood for on a warm, sunny afternoon.  And no cake at the end of it all.  Yes, cursing ensued.

Apparently homemade self-rising is a potent flour that turns a mild-mannered Victoria Sponge into some kind of explosive concoction.

I tried again, only with actual s/r flour that I bought this morning. And damn if the exact same thing didn't happen again!  Giant puff of smoke, towering inferno, oozing batter, another oven scrubbing. Way more cursing.

The only thing I can figure is the eggs, flours and butter are different enough between countries that this recipe just won't work here.  I even used my British measuring cups, used my British cake pans...everything identical to how I've always made this cake, other than American ingredients. Sadly, it appears I will never again have my favorite cake, at least not this side of the pond.

But hey, at least my oven is sparkling clean...woo hoo...


  1. If I lived closer I'd bake you a cake, pal. :) I never use self-rising flour because I don't trust it; it's resulted in more than one messing accident here.

    If you ever want to try again I recommend cake flour (Swan's Down, which will be in a red box in the baking aisle if your market carries it) plus adding your own baking powder and salt. For vanilla cakes I use 3-1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1 teaspoon of salt for every two cups of flour.

    1. I need to do some research on why this went so horribly wrong (was it the flour, the potency of the baking powder, the butter??) And then I have to find a good replacement recipe, Damn, I love that cake...

  2. messing = messy. I am back to ruling Planet Typo this morning.

    1. I think a "messing accident" works just right actually... ;D

  3. Replies
    1. I spent a bit of time yesterday afternoon looking for another version of Victoria Sponge, one that might work in the US. I'll give it a try one of these days. Right now I just don't want to clean that oven again... ;D