Paul Hollywood's Tip For Creating A Light And Fluffy Victoria Sponge Cake

The Victoria sponge is a quintessential British cake, a fact you probably already know if you've seen even one season of "The Great British Baking Show." This cake features two layers of light sponge with a delicate spread of jam and, often, buttercream in the middle. It's been a staple of British afternoon tea ever since Queen Victoria enjoyed it in the 19th century, which — as you might have guessed — is how the Victoria sponge got its name.

Baker and judge of "The Great British Baking Show" Paul Hollywood has an important tip for creating a light and fluffy Victoria sponge cake, and it involves the use of both butter and margarine. In fact, on his recipe website, Hollywood says this British favorite should be a new baker's "very first cake" because it involves multiple techniques and can teach valuable lessons about different ingredients' roles in a recipe. The combination of butter and margarine is perhaps the most noteworthy element of the recipe, and it shows how these two ingredients, which are often substituted for one another, bring significantly different qualities to baked goods.

Butter and margarine create balance in a Victoria sponge

When the time comes to introduce fats to a baked good, butter and margarine are the usual suspects. Butter is the result of separating cream's fats from its liquids. To be considered butter, it must contain no less than 80% milk fat. On the other hand, margarine is made from vegetable oils or animal fats, water, and other additives or emulsifiers. Margarine must also be 80% fat. However, just because these ingredients are roughly equivalent in fat content doesn't mean they accomplish the same function.

Understanding these fat sources' differences can help us understand Hollywood's reason for using both in his Victoria sponge cake. Butter imparts an irreproducible buttery flavor, whereas margarine contributes little to the taste domain. According to Hollywood, the reason you should start using margarine in baking comes down to texture. The oils and water content in margarine yield a softer bake, which is important for a sponge. So, for the perfectly balanced Victoria sponge cake, Hollywood uses "half margarine for a lighter texture and half butter for a rich flavor." This clever baking strategy can also apply to any baked sponge.