Idiot's guide to cooking Victoria Sponge

Victoria Sponge is a generic cake base. To start, gather the following ingredients:

You can use regular flour if you can't rind any of the self raising variety, as long as you sift it with an appropriate amount of baking soda beforehand.

You will also need two 20cm cake tins, a wooden spoon, two metal spoons, a sieve, a large bowl, something to whisk the mixture with and an oven.

Before following these instructions, turn your oven on to 190°C/Gas Mark 5, or 325°F if you're American. Hopefully by the time you're done, the oven will be hot enough to bake your cake mixture. Grease the two cake tins and line them with baking paper so that the cake doesn't stick to the surface and ruin them.

Find a nice large bowl and pour the sugar and butter in. Begin to cream them together with the wooden spoon. To do this, squash large chunks of the butter into the sugar and then whirl the spoon around very quickly, pushing the butter/sugar against the sides of the bowl. It helps to have the butter at room temperature - otherwise you will end up with a very stiff arm.

You should end up with a really light mixture that doesn't stick to the spoon when it is lifted out of the bowl. It is important that the mixture is smooth - if there are any lumps left then you need to cream it some more.

Break one of the eggs and pour the resultant goo into the bowl. Add a spoon of flour, and then quickly get out your whisking implement (I prefer the electric kind) and whisk/beat away until the egg has been thoroughly mixed in. You may wish to add the egg goo a bit at a time - otherwise the mixture may "curdle". You can tell if this has happened, because the mixture will go thin and lumpy, and start to look a bit like vomit. If this happens then you must immediately start whisking/beating like there is no tomorrow, until the mixture regains its cohesiveness.

Repeat with the other egg and another spoon of flour, again adding a bit at a time if you want.

When you run out of egg and the mixture is nice and consistent (though runny) it is time to add the flour. Hold the sieve over the bowl and dump in some of the flour (not all of it!). Take one of the metal spoons and use it to work the flour through the sieve and onto the mixture. When you have sieved all of the current load of flour, remove the sieve and take the other metal spoon - you will now fold the flour into the mixture.

Folding can be a bit tricky to get right. You have to scoop up a heap of the flour and some of the mixture underneath it so it is quite high, then rapidly turn the spoon over and drop/push the whole lot back onto the top of the remaining mixture. You will know if you're doing it right because every time the contents of the spoon hits the mixture it will make a "fop" noise.

When all the flour has been folded in, sieve more into the bowl and repeat. When you have used all the flour up, the mixture should drop off the spoon when tapped - if it is too thick then you should add a small amount of hot water.

Remove your tins from the oven (using oven gloves!) and pour half the mixture into each one. Put them back in the middle shelf of the oven and wait for about 25 minutes. After this, take one of the cakes out and examine it. The top of the cake should be brown and springy, and the middle should be dry (check this by stabbing the centre of the cake with a thin knife or a skewer). If they are not done then put them in the oven for a few more minutes, otherwise remove them from the cake tins and leave them to cool for a minute.

You have a number of choices for decorating the cakes. You could just coat them in icing, or if you are feeling adventurous, slice them in two and coat the insides with jam. Either way you will have two delicious sponge cakes.

Variation: Instead of using 4 ounces of flour, use 3.5 ounces sieved together with half an ounce of cocoa powder. The result will be a pleasant chocolate sponge. Combine with chocolate icing and filling, and push Chocolate Buttons in a pattern on the top! And Chocolate Flakes! And chocolate chips and candles and chocolate! CHOCOLATE! CHOCOLATE! CHOCOLATE! Chocolate makes you strong! Strength kills enemies! CHOCOLATE!

Or, you could be creative and devise your own coatings. Remember to use something sweet though.

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