Early for us, lateish for her, Claire Ptak answers the door of Violet Cakes, the cutest working bakery this side of a 1950s children’s book. There’s nothing in here that isn’t either pretty or cool or funny: antique madeleine moulds, jars of candied citrus peel, elegantly arranged spires of buddleia, the odd postcard of a donkey wearing trousers, piles of fresh cinnamon buns and viennoiseries, and rows of the superlative cupcakes.

As well as running Violet, which started life as a market stall in 2005, Claire is a cookbook author and food stylist for The Guardian. Today, she is showing us how to make a Victoria sponge. ‘My version is different from the traditional recipe, in which you weigh out egg yolks, sugar, flour and butter in equal measures. I add milk to the mix, and my main thing is get a lot of air and sugar into the butter until they’re really fluffy – always take it a little further than you think.’

As almost always with our food experts, Claire advises using the best ingredients you can get your hands on. Most of the raw materials at Violet are organic: Dove’s Farm flour, cream from Ivy House (available at Neal’s Yard) or Yeo Valley Organic; Kent eggs; fruit and veg from Leila’s in Shoreditch, Fern Verrow at Maltby Street and Chegworth. Butter is unsalted, French or Danish, and sugar is Tate & Lyle – not the beet sugar alternative.

Claire’s ultimate Victoria sponge

You’ll need

  • 125g unsalted butter, very soft
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 2 medium eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 300g plain flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 175ml milk (whole or semi-skimmed)

For the filling

  • 300ml double cream
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 125g good quality jam
  • Icing sugar to decorate

A sneaky tip from the expert

Don’t worry about the mix ‘breaking’. If the butter and eggs aren’t totally emulsified, that’s OK

  • 1

    Prepare your ingredients. Butter and eggs should be at room temperature. Heat the oven to 180°C. Grease a 20cm cake tin with butter, and line the bottom with a circle of baking parchment.

  • 2

    Measure out the flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl. Instead of sifting, give the flour and salt a quick whisk together.

  • 3

    Cream the butter and sugar until white and fluffy, then add the eggs and vanilla and mix until fully incorporated. Add half the flour mixture to the creamed butter and eggs and mix until just combined; then mix in the milk before adding the rest of the flour.

  • 4

    Scoop into the prepared tin, smooth the top, and place in your pre-heated oven.

  • 5

    Bake for about 45 minutes, until the cakes springs back to the touch and a skewer inserted comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in the tin.

  • 6

    Remove your cake from the tin and set on a wire rack to cool completely. Then split it in half and place the bottom half on a cake stand or serving plate.

  • 7

    Spread with jam and let it soak in while you whip up your cream.

  • 8

    Put all of the filling ingredients into a bowl and whisk together just until light peaks form – better to underwhip than overwhip.

  • 9

    Spread the cream over the jam and place the top layer of cake on the cream.

  • 10

    Dust with ample icing sugar and serve.

Violet Cakes; 47 Wilton Way, London E8 3ED, 020 7275 8360


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