Love in a Cold Climate
My favourite writer, Nancy Mitford, said the “the test of a cook is how she boils an egg”. While I tend to agree with her, I think the test of a baker is how she bakes a Victoria sponge. Over the years I’ve whipped up many a sponge, and have adopted various superstitions along the way. First of all, make sure all the ingredients are at room temperature. Secondly, use a good set of scales. Thirdly, weigh the eggs and use equal quantities of butter, sugar and flour. While I’d never be so bold as to claim that I’ve mastered the art entirely, I now feel relatively confident in my sponge-making skills. To the point that I adapt the recipe according to my mood. It could be plum jam one day and lemon curd the next. So, as it’s Valentine’s day, I thought it appropriate to a add a little love in the form of passion fruit. The winter months yield few fruits, but thankfully passion fruits are shipped in from hotter climes and readily available at this chilly time of year. In this particular recipe I fold passion fruit curd into the batter, which adds a refreshing tartness to the sponge. You could easily use shop-bought passion fruit curd, but I quite enjoy making my own.
For the Passion fruit Curd:
200g passion fruit pulp (roughly 10 passion fruit)
2 egg yolks
150g caster sugar
For the Sponge:
240g butter, at room temperature
240g self-raising flour, sifted
pinch of salt
4 tablespoons passion fruit curd
passion fruit curd
Start by making the passion fruit curd. Reserve about 20g of pulp and place the remaining (including seeds) into a food processor. Blitz until smooth and then strain into a bowl.
Combine the sugar and eggs in a bowl and whisk until pale. In a medium-sized sauce pan, gently melt butter over a low heat. Once it’s melted, slowly add the egg mixture, followed by the pureed passion fruit pulp. Cook gently, stirring continuously, until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining pulp. Leave to cool for at least 30 minutes.
Once the passion fruit curd has cooled, preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line two 20cm cake tins.
Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, each with a tablespoon of flour. Fold in the remaining flour and salt, followed by the milk and passion fruit curd. Take care not to over mix.
Spoon the batter into the prepared tins and bake on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for 20-25 mins, until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
Leave the cakes to cool for a few minutes before removing from the tins. Then, leave to cool completely on a wire rack.
Once the cakes have cooled, place one sponge on a serving plate and spoon over whipped cream, followed by dollops of passion fruit curd. You can be as generous or as abstemious as you wish, but as it’s Valentine’s day I err on the generous side. Place the other sponge on top and dust with icing sugar. It’s best eaten on the same day, but lasts up to three days in an air tight container.
Happy Valentine’s Day!