Classic Victoria Sponge (Serves 6)
"This was the first cake my mum ever taught me to make, and the first bake we did together when she was ill. I remember being amazed at how calm she was, and how instinctively she did the folding and mixing. I bake and cook a lot with my kids now, because I want them to learn from me in the same way as I learnt from her."
200g butter, softened
200g caster sugar
200g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp milk
For the strawberry compote
250g strawberries, washed, hulled and quartered
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 point of a star anise (optional)
Few drops lemon juice
200ml double cream
50g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
4 small strawberries, quartered
Crushed freeze-dried strawberries (optional)
Crystallised flowers, such as violet or rose (optional)
Preheat the oven to 200c/180c fan/gas 6. Grease and line two 16cm cake tins with non-stick baking paper.
Place the strawberries in a bowl with 1 tbsp sugar, stirring to coat, then leave to one side.
Now for the sponge.
Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy in a large bowl. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl then add them in a little at a time. Sieve together the flour and baking powder, then sieve the mixture again as you add it to the mix. Pour in the milk, and beat until all is combined.
Split the mixture between the tins and bake for 40 minutes. Test that it is done by poking a skewer into the middle of the sponge, if it comes out clean the cake is done. Turn out, remove the baking paper and cool on a wire rack. Meanwhile, make the compote by tipping the macerated strawberries into a small pan. Add the water and star anise and simmer for ten minutes. Add a few drops of lemon juice, then leave to cool.
Whip the cream, icing sugar and vanilla together until the mixture forms soft peaks. Now finely slice the top off each cake to make them even, then spoon strawberry compote over one. Top with the whipped cream and place the other cake on top. Dot with cream, add a sprinkling of freeze-dried berries and decorate with fresh strawberry pieces and crystallised flowers.