Monday, August 27, 2012

5 Star Makeover: Mini Victoria Sponges

Shoes. Earrings. Designer apparel. Parisian artifacts. Minnie Mouse dolls. Cookbooks. Teas and tea wares. These are a few of my addictions. Things I collect. Things that can make me smile on my darkest days. I currently have 35 different loose teas in my home. Everything from a smooth and herbaceous Long Jing (Dragonwell) to a refreshing white tea with gogi berries and even one of my most prized teas, the Marco Polo tea from Mariage Freres (that my sister gifted to me when I graduated culinary school). I love them. They warm me up. They brighten my soul. They are happiness on a rainy day.

For years I have shared my love of tea on this blog. I have a page devoted to tea sharing highlights of my favorite tea experiences, both in my kitchen and in tea houses and restaurants. As you can imagine, I was incredibly thrilled when Natasha of 5 Star Foodie and Lazaro of Lazaro Cooks announced that the August theme for the 5 Star Makeover would be Tea Party! Hells yeah! This theme was made for me! I've shared several reviews of afternoon tea previously, as well as sharing my own recipes, menu ideas, and tips on brewing the perfect pot of tea.

This time, I decided to own up to my name. Literally. I'm not British but my name sure is. In fact, a British man once told me that I have a "proper British name." That made my tea-loving-self very happy. I can fit in with the best of them (queens, that is).

So how does "Victoria" come into play for a tea party makeover? How about the very traditional cake that has graced many many tea tables? The Victoria Sponge, or Victoria Sandwich, consists of layers of sponge cake filled with jam and whipped cream. A Victoria Sponge is what this Victoria would be making for the party.

"But this is a makeover," you say. Well, duh, I know that. Which is why I decided to make mini versions of the classic! They are adorable and delicious at the same time. And they are perfect for tea. The sponge cake itself is quite simple, a fluffy, buttery base for your tea time needs. In my research, most recipes that I found used an equal weights ratio for making the cake, and so I decided to stick with the tried and true and base my recipe on one with weight measurements as opposed to volume (but I've included volume too, just in case).

Jam-wise you could do raspberry or strawberry just fine. I went with strawberry, as that's what I had in my fridge, but I think raspberry is more typical. The cream component is usually a basic sometimes-unsweetened whipped cream. I've also seen buttercream used as an alternative. I decided to keep it real with a lightly (and I mean lightly) sweetened whipped cream. There's enough sweetness in the jam and in the cake to offset the mild creaminess of the whipped cream. Oh, and don't forget the final sugar rush from the dusting of confectioners' sugar on top. What's not to love?

PS I'm absolutely OBSESSED with these tea cups. They are replicas of the Chelsea Bird pattern found on antique English Staffordshire china from the late 19th century at Kingscote, one of the famous Newport Mansions. Although the design is a replica (and these aren't actual antiques), I assure you, they are real china and they are delicate and beautiful and somehow tea tastes even better when you drink it out of these cups :) I almost feel like a millionaire with a summer home in Newport, RI. LOVE!!!!

Mini Victoria Sponges
Makes 1 dozen

4 oz (3/4 cup plus 2 1/2 T.) all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 oz (1/2 cup) sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 T. milk
1/4 cup plus 2 T. raspberry or strawberry jam, stirred to soften and make spreadable
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. confectioners' sugar, plus more for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a standard muffin pan and set aside.

Mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla extract and continue to beat.

Add the dry mixture and beat until just combined. Add the milk and stir once last time. Scoop the batter evenly into the muffin pan, filling each cup about 2/3 of the way. Bake for 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool completely and them gently remove them from the pan.

Carefully slice each cake in half into two layers using a serrated knife. On the bottom half of each cake, gently spread about 1 1/2 teaspoons of the jam.

Beat the heavy cream to medium-stiff peaks (with a whisk or an electric mixer). Add the confectioners' sugar and finish whisking. Dollop a spoonful of whipped cream on top of the jam-covered cake halves. Top with the other cake halves, forming a little sandwich (hence the alternative name Victoria Sandwich). Dust the tops of the cakes with confectioners' sugar.

Serve the cakes immediately. If not serving right away, store the cakes in the refrigerator (the whipped cream filling requires this). Allow the cakes to come to room temperature before serving (so the cakes themselves can soften back up). These cakes are best the day they are made, but can be eaten the next day with a bit of deflation from the whipped cream.


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