The combination of fat, sugar, flour and eggs has served cooks well as the basis of simple cakes, buns and puddings. As you beat to cream the sugar and fat, air is incorporated in the mixture. Chefs sometimes do this initial creaming with a clean hand as hand warmth softens the fat and makes the sugar dissolve easier, but electric beaters or a wooden spoon will do as well. If you are using a wooden spoon, it helps to place the bowl on a folded tea towel or kitchen cloth to stop the bowl sliding on the surface.
After the eggs are beaten in, flour sifted with a raising agent is carefully folded in and the mixture moistened with alittleliquid, usually water or milk. The mixture can then be baked as a single deep cake and sliced in half after baking or baked side by side in two shallow sandwich tins.
A classic Victoria sandwich cake is simply filled with jam and sprinkled with caster sugar but buttercream, whipped cream and soft cream cheese with crushed fruit are all memorable fillings. To make a chocolate sandwich cake, replace 25g (1oz) of the flour with cocoa powder. Makes one 18cm (7in) cake, enough to serve 4–6 people.
Lightly grease two 18cm (7in) sandwich tins. Preheat the oven to 180° C, 350°F, Gas Mark 4. Beat together 125g (4oz) each softened butter and vanilla caster sugar until pale, light and fluffy. Continue beating for about 5 minutes to make sure all the sugar has dissolved. It is easiest if you use an electric mixer.
When all the sugar has dissolved the mixture should no longer feel gritty. Lightly beat 2 eggs, and add half to the creamed butter and sugar. Beat thoroughly until well combined, then beat in the remaining egg, adding 1tablespoon flour if the mixture looks as if it is beginning to curdle or separate.
Sift together 125g (4oz) self-raising flour and ½teaspoon baking powder. Fold this in with a large metal spoon, then fold in 2tablespoons water or flavoured liquid. Spoon into the prepared sandwich tins. Bake on the same shelf for 20-25 minutes, then test for doneness.
Cool for 5 minutes in the tins, then turn out and place base-side down on to a wire rack. When cold, spread 1 cake with 2–3tablespoons jam, then top with the other cake and dust the top with sifted caster or icing sugar. Alternatively, use one of the filling suggestions (above).