Vanilla Layer Cake

Sundays are bittersweet.

There’s the luxuriant lie-in, no shrill alarm to wake you up at an ungodly hour. Then the slow pottering around, or brisk morning run in the bright daylight to buoy the spirits. But as the sun starts to drop, and the evening draws close, there’s the creeping heaviness that comes with the realisation that tomorrow is the first day of the working week. It grows as you prepare, switch your alarm clock back on for 6am, get ready for bed.

Once Monday arrives, bar the painful first awakening, it’s the same as any other day. But as it draws to a close, you look forward now, to the next weekend, only four days away. You’re already one step closer.

Sometimes, life has to be bittersweet. You appreciate the best bits all the more. A weekend wouldn’t be the same without a working week, would it?

The same applies for a successful spell of baking. Lately, everything has been slightly off. No flabbergasting disasters, but a fair few that haven’t worked right.

Of course, trying new recipes is doomed to result in a few fails, but I also had issues with my old faithfuls. A careless hand with the baking powder or the salt…and hey presto, you have a cake that just isn’t as nice as it ought to be.

It’s disappointing. But it means that when a bake works out, I’m even more delighted.

This cake came out of the oven soft, light, moist and full of flavour.


Experimenting aside, I always return to the classic victoria sponge ratios. The main problem with these cakes is they tend to dry out quickly, and so are at their best at the point of baking. The solution to this is to brush the warm cakes with a thin sugar syrup, which ensures they stay fresh for longer. I had never really tried this technique out properly before, so I thought I would finally give this a try.

The baking process was a little laborious as I only had one tiny cake tin. After the batter had been made, it was a fraught process watching each tiny cake bake, washing out the pan quickly and repeating it over again.

It was totally worth it.

The finished cake was a glory of fluffy sponge, sticky jam, and dreamy vanilla mascarpone cream. I much prefer mascarpone to buttercream as it is not only less sickly, but stays creamy at room temperature. I’m also very impressed by the keeping properties of using sugar syrup, and will definitely be using this in future cakes that can’t be gobbled up straight out of the oven.

I had loads of white chocolate cigarillos leftover from the making of this cake, so I thought I’d adorn this little mini version with a few too.

Vanilla Layer Cake

Makes a 3 layer 10cm cake

For the sponge:

  • 110g Stork margarine or very soft butter
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 110g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder

For the sugar syrup:

  • 5 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla bean paste

For the icing:

  • 200g mascarpone
  • 60g icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • good-quality raspberry jam

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Make the sponge by whisking butter and sugar together until fluffy, then adding in the eggs, vanilla and salt, and whisking thoroughly. Then gently fold in the flour and baking powder, and add enough milk to loosen the batter to dropping consistency. Bake for approximately 20 minutes until springy.

While the cakes are baking, make the sugar syrup by bringing all the ingredients to the boil, then taking off the heat and leaving to cool.

Prick the cakes all over with a skewer, and brush with the syrup while the sponge is still warm. Leave to cool completely.

Make the mascarpone cream by beating the mascarpone together with icing sugar and vanilla until creamy. Then spread a layer of mascarpone cream onto each cake layer, followed by a layer of jam, and sandwich them together. Finally cover the exterior of the cake with remaining mascarpone cream.

Keep the cake somewhere cool until ready to be served.

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