Rose Prince's baking club: Victoire sandwich

Date:30-04-2014 07:58:07 read:1

Rose Prince's baking club: Victoire sandwich

Our weekly column will set you on the road to oven nirvana. Today: Victoire sandwich , a French twist on the classic Victoria sponge

Dream sponge: Pâtisserie des Rêves’ version of a Victoria sandwich  

Over tea in Claridge’s, the French pastry chef Philippe Conticini asked for a baking lesson: an unexpected instance of Grandma requesting an egg-sucking tutorial. I mean that the French approach baking like brain surgeons tackle microsurgery – and probably train for longer. But Conticini is a curious chef in both senses of the word. He leaves any microscopic traces of ego he might have in Paris, and comes to London to find out what we like to eat for tea. “What,” he asks, “is a quintessentially British cake, and how do I make it?”

For the great man wants to open a branch of Pâtisserie des Rêves (as in “dreams”) in London’s Marylebone High Street, and he is not going to impose his genius versions of the classic Gâteau St Honoré, Paris Brest or chocolate éclairs upon the Brits until he has made a forensic inquiry into our teatime.

Our Claridge’s assignation was part of Conticini’s tea room tour. He had already visited three that day, was showing signs of cucumber sandwich fatigue and took only nibbles from the delicacies on the cake stand. He looked confused at the suggestion that he should learn to make a Victoria sandwich. “It’s not a cake?” I assured him that it was a sponge, though totally incorrect to call it anything but a sandwich, or perhaps a sponge sandwich. By this time we were getting into a complete muddle, trying to explain in my school French the difference between British “creamed” sponges and the French whisked “génoise” type. Eventually it just seemed easier to suggest he come to my kitchen and make one. The following week he arrived fresh from the Eurostar carrying a box of his own wares from his Paris shop.

Usually when chefs call their wares “creations” it sounds pretentious, but Conticini’s cakes and pastries are more than creations. They are truly spectacular and inventive formulations. The praline-flavoured crème in his version of Paris Brest – the wheel-shaped choux pastry – is lightened to a milk-based mousse but with a greater quantity of pure ground praline. The result is less rich, but more intense. Ditto his reworked, inside-out éclairs, and his palate-splitting, sharp and sweet lemon tart. This is where pastry becomes surreal beauty, and the concept of a Victoria sandwich looks clumsy by comparison.

Yet as the lesson starts, Conticini – a gentle and passionate giant – becomes so animated you would think the simple method of creaming butter with sugar until it is pale and oxygenated is an art form. Fortunately, the cake turns out perfectly, the sponge light, velvety and golden from its high butter content. I was pink with triumph, especially when Conticini took the cake back to Paris, promising to make a version of the “Victoire sonweech” for the London patisserie.

This recipe is akin to the first-ever featured in the Baking Club, which I have altered to include a new folding technique. Very specific ingredients should be used to make a great Victoria sandwich, the type of butter being the most important.


Two 20cm shallow sandwich tins, generously buttered, their base lined with baking parchment, then buttered once more and dusted with flour.


5 eggs in their shells

Weigh all eggs in their shells, and use the same weight in softened “lactic” butter (President or Lurpak – Lurpak now make a softened butter specially for baking, which can be used straight from the fridge – good because it prevents curdling), white caster sugar, and self-raising flour (use a specific cake-making brand, like McDougalls)

1 tsp vanilla essence (not extract)


5 level tbsp raspberry, strawberry or blackberry jam

Caster sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 180-185C/ 360F/Gas 4. Put the butter in a mixing bowl and beat (preferably in an electric tabletop mixer to save elbow grease) until pale. Add the sugar and beat again until the mixture is almost white. This may take several minutes, and the sugar will mostly dissolve in. Add the vanilla essence and mix briefly.

Add the eggs, cracking them into a small dish and adding one by one, beating well between each. Do this very thoroughly, so the mixture is well emulsified – like mayonnaise.

Finally, fold in the flour. Do this very, very slowly so as not to deflate the air in the mixture. I recommend using a balloon whisk, dipping it into the cake mixture in a circular motion, until the flour is incorporated. Spoon the batter evenly into the tins; smooth the surface with a palette knife, then bake for 20-30 minutes until the surface feels springy. Remove from the oven. Run a knife around the edge of the cakes then turn them out on to a rack to cool.

When the cakes are cool, sandwich them together with the jam, and dust the surface of the cake with plenty of caster sugar.

Your letters

Dan Clifford asks: “Can you make vegan pastry?” The answer is yes, using extra virgin olive oil, but it tends to be crumbly and difficult to work. You can make it with marge, but I can’t stand the stuff.

Next week: Spring vegetable tart. You will need butter, plain flour, asparagus, courgettes, basil leaves, olive oil, pecorino or other hard ewes’s milk cheese.

On May 10-11 201 Rose Prince will be taking part in Food For Thought, a weekend of talks by food experts at the School of Artisan Food, Welbeck. For tickets see Course Guide, or call 01909 532171

    Ever For Health Copy Rights 2013