Here's Where Victoria Sponge Gets Its Name

Unless you're an Anglophile or a fan of the "Great British Baking Show," you might feel puzzled if offered a slice of Victoria sponge for dessert. Out of context, "sponge" doesn't sound particularly appetizing. Perhaps, then, a Victoria sandwich? What's Cooking America shares that this is another common name for Victoria sponge. While that at least sounds like something edible, it still doesn't say much about what it is.

According to The Spruce Eats, Victoria sponge is a delicious confection made of berry jam with cream or frosting sandwiched between two layers of cake. The top is dusted with powdered sugar, and fresh berries are sometimes added as well. So where did such a simple and straightforward cake get this odd name? It's part baking lingo and part history.

Sponge actually refers to the type of cake used in this dessert. Food52 shares that sponge cakes have an exceptionally light and airy texture, achieved by whipping eggs before adding other ingredients. The beaten eggs create a delicate and tender structure in the cakes as they bake. Chiffon and angel food cakes are both examples of sponge cakes. Light and dry ladyfingers are also made from a sponge cake batter and then used in layered desserts like tiramisu.

With the "sponge" part of this dessert explained, we get the rest of the mystery solved in a lesson from British royal and culinary history.

A beloved queen who had many things, including this cake, named for her

History Channel shares that Queen Victoria reigned over Great Britain from 1876 to 1901, and was once the longest-serving monarch until her great-great-granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II, took that honor in 2015. According to The Telegraph, countless cities and landmarks bear Queen Victoria's name. This cake does as well, but why? The queen had a raging sweet tooth!

According to The Conversation, a team of pâtissiers and confectioners were always at the ready for Queen Victoria, preparing simple and elaborate cakes, various cookies (or biscuits), and candies. At the same time, one of her ladies-in-waiting kicked off a new trend that would become inextricably linked with British culture: the afternoon tea.

What's Cooking America shares that, like many of us, Anna, Duchess of Bedford noticed a late-afternoon energy dip. She solved this by indulging in tea and snacks and eventually invited her high-society friends to join her. The practice caught on, especially with their queen, who loved to pair midday tea with sweets. According to the blog English Heritage, cake sandwiched with jam and cream was one of Queen Victoria's favorites, and it was named in her honor.

The official website of the monarchy, Royal Household, shares a Victoria sponge recipe from Buckingham Palace's pastry chef: sponge cake, buttercream, jam, and powdered sugar. It remains as simple and delicious as it was in Queen Victoria's time.