Sponge cakes are something Britain does so well. For some reason, when you see a good Victoria sponge, regardless of what’s happening at that moment, you just somehow feel everything’s going to be all right. For sure, this cake would originally have been just straight sponge and jam, but then it evolved and promoted itself to another level, so that now it often has sweet cream in between the layers and all sorts of summer berries on top. I’ve added crystallized rose petals to my version, for extra prettiness. For me, this beautiful afternoon tea is really about precision sponge making, wonderful jam and gorgeous Jersey cream. If you can pull that off, you’ll have perfection and smiling faces at the table.
Preheat your oven to 190°C/375°F/gas 5. Grease two 20cm sandwich tins all over with a few knobs of butter, line the bases with greaseproof paper, then dust lightly with flour.
Beat the butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy. Add the eggs one by one, making sure you beat each one in well before you add the next, then fold in the orange zest and the flour. Divide the cake mix between the prepared tins. Spread it out well with a spatula and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown and risen and a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool slightly, then carefully turn out on to a baking rack to cool completely.
Mix a few drops of rosewater into your jam, but don’t go crazy with it – it’s very strong!
For the crystallized petals, turn the oven right down to 110°C/225°F/gas 1⁄4 and whisk the egg white to stiff peaks. Use a pastry brush to coat the rose petals on both sides with a very thin layer of the egg white, then sprinkle over some caster sugar. Shake off the excess sugar and lay the petals on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Bake for 3 to 4 minutes in the oven, until the petals are firm to the touch.
Whip the cream with the vanilla seeds and sugar until you get soft peaks. Spread the jam and then the vanilla cream over one of the cakes and scatter the raspberries on top. Place the second cake on top, dust with icing sugar and decorate with the crystallized rose petals. Serve on a beautiful cake stand to really show off your creation, and enjoy.