Cake contains all food groups. I solemnly believe this, and in my search for an excellent gluten-free plain sponge recipe, I came up with this one, and it is pretty fail safe. Luckily Barnaby loves it too- and it was his request for his cake on his birthday. For a child who adores food and is very experimental, his birthday choices surprised me: Victoria Sponge, with jam and cream, and “strawberries, all sitting up straight on the top of the cake on the boundary”. I liked the description- and I could just imagine what he meant. He also chose spaghetti bolognese, one of his best ever meals.
The cake can be whipped up very quickly, with store cupboard staples, and in an airtight container keeps well for up to 4 days. If you fill the middle with cream however, note that it won’t keep as long, unless you store it in the fridge. Please ensure that the butter and eggs are room temperature: if they are cold, it really does affect the consistency and texture; the mixture will almost certainly curdle, and your ingredients will be prevented from emulsifying properly, which will then affect the cake’s raising capabilities. Sounds pedantic, and I suppose it is, but it really does make a difference.
I generally tend to make the cream and jam version of this cake as it is a crowd pleaser, but lemon works well too: I add the zest and juice of one large lemon to the cake mixture, and then I sandwich the layers together with lemon curd and whipped cream, and dust the top with icing sugar.
If you keep the cake, and it’s on its fourth day, warm it up slightly in the oven or microwave: gluten free cakes do well with a blast of warmth.
Makes a double layer 20cm cake
250g butter, at room temperature
250g caster sugar
250g self raising gluten free flour (I use Dove’s)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tbsp vanilla paste (or essence: I do however prefer the paste)
½ cup of milk
Jam and whipped cream to fill, strawberries or other berries to decorate, and icing sugar to dust
Preheat the oven to 180C. Line the bottoms of 2 20cm tins with baking parchment and butter the sides of the tins well.
Sift the flour, baking powder and xanthan gum in a bowl together.
In an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until you achieve airing fat foam: this is when the butter and sugar are so well emulsified, that a pillowy, pale airiness has been achieved. Keep scraping the granular buttery bits on the inside of the mixing bowl back into the mixture, to ensure all the sugar is combined properly. This will probably take a while, and a little longer than you’re used to, but makes all the difference. Then add the eggs, one by one, beating gently after each addition to ensure they are well combined. Then add the flour, a spoonful at a time, beating gently after each addition. Add the vanilla and milk, and beat gently for a few seconds. Divide the mixture evenly between the two tins, smooth the surface with a spatula, and bake for approximately 35-40 minutes, until pale brown on top. Always do the skewer test with gluten free cakes, as the flours can differ, hence the cooking times can differ ever so slightly: just give the cake an extra 5 minutes if it needs it. Leave in the tins for about 20 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack, and peel the parchment off carefully. I then wait until they are completely cool, sandwich together with whipped cream and strawberry jam (I often add raspberries or chopped strawberries to the jam before spreading if I have them), then dust with icing sugar and serve.