Monthly Archives: June 2015

Victoria Sandwich

Victoria Sponge

My dad’s birthday is June 18 and Father’s Day usually falls close by, if not on his actual birthday.  He loves cakes and sweets and misses Irish cakes.  This year, for his birthday/Father’s Day I decided to make him a Victoria Sandwich —  an old fashioned cake that I don’t think I’ve made since I was 13 or 14. It’s a very light sponge with a filling of fresh cream and jam (my school recipe calls for a chocolate buttercream filling which I remember being good.)  It used to be the classic afternoon tea cake.  Since I made it as a young teen, you know it’s not a complicated recipe.

Although I wrote down the ingredients,  I did not write down the steps involved in actually making the cake and for some mind-boggling reason we were instructed to use margarine —  this was in Ireland, a country awash in possibly the best butter in the world. I definitely wanted a recipe that used butter and needed to confirm that I remembered how to make the cake. And, since June is strawberry season, I also wanted to include fresh berries with the jam.

I found this recipe for Victoria Sponge using butter and fresh strawberries on Irish chef Kevin Dundon’s website.  He included it in his “Back to Basics” cooking series that airs on PBS.  As I’ve noted before, organic cream makes a big difference in the flavor of cream cakes. It’s even a different color than standard whipping cream — more yellow.  Yes, it is more expensive, but how often do you eat cream cakes?   They are meant to be a treat. This is how it turned out.  As my neighbor commented “not shabby” for a cake I haven’t made since I was a young teenager.  I won’t wait that long to make it again, maybe with raspberries next month.  Happy birthday dad!

This is the recipe for Victoria Sandwich I wrote in the back of my secondary school cookery book when I was 13.

This is the recipe for Victoria Sandwich I wrote in the back of my secondary school cookery book when I was 13.

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Hidden Treasures at Printer’s Row Lit Fest


Used cookbooks I found at the Printer's Row Litfest.

Used cookbooks I found at the Printer’s Row Litfest.

If you go to the annual Printer’s Row Lit Fest  in Chicago this weekend I recommend spending some time at the many used book stalls.   They’re a treasure trove for lovers of vintage cookbooks.  Several years ago I found “A Taste of Ireland in Food and in Pictures” by the esteemed  Irish food writer Theodora FitzGibbon, ( Food writing was the least of her accomplishments. Read her biography “A Taste for Love.”) published by Pan in 1970.   Three years ago — on my birthday — I did one last search through a stack of used books before leaving the festival.  I nearly fell over when among the dog-eared and stained volumes I discovered  the 1959 paperback edition of the James Beard Cookbook and saw that it had been autographed by the great man himself.

James Beard autograph

James Beard autograph

I felt like the universe had given me a birthday gift.  Both of these vintage cookbooks have become indispensable in my  growing collection.  I can’t wait to see what I find this year.