Thursday, November 8, 2018

How to Make a Victoria Sandwich Cake

Victoria Sponge Cake
There are many favorite foods that British expats miss from home, including sausage rolls, Cadbury’s chocolate, pork pies and crumpets, to name just a few. The thing is, you can buy most British food items in stores or online now. They are much more readily available these days than when I moved here 20 years ago. The other thing is, you can make a lot of them yourself with great results!

Me, baking in the kitchen!

One classic favorite is the Victoria Sponge Cake. The Victoria sponge, also known as the Victoria sandwich or Victorian cake, was named after Queen Victoria who was known to enjoy a slice of the sponge cake with her afternoon tea. The sponge part evolved from the classic pound cake – equal quantities of butter, sugar, eggs and flour. The difference was the Victorian creation of baking powder, which was discovered by English food manufacturer Alfred Bird in 1843, which enabled the sponge to rise higher.

A Large Victoria Sponge made with 7 Eggs!
A typical Victoria sponge consists of raspberry jam and whipped double cream or vanilla buttercream. The jam and cream are sandwiched between two sponge cakes; the top of the cake is not iced or decorated apart from a dusting of icing sugar. 

Whenever we post pictures of a Victoria Sponge people always love it and want the recipe. So I decided it would be a good idea to show how easy it is to make a Victoria Sponge cake. 
In England when baking cakes most recipes call for self-raising flour. As I said, I have lived in the US for 20 years and instead of using self-rising flour available here (I thought it wasn’t the same) I always used all-purpose flour with baking powder with mixed results. (I have also bought British self-raising flour at our local British shop). So, I decided to contact the wonderful people at King Arthur Flour to find out more. They were very responsive and sent me this answer:

“All purpose flour (11.7% protein) is essentially the same as plain flour in terms of protein level; I do not have specific information on the milling properties of it. Other companies may have a lower protein level, but it varies by manufacturer. If a recipe calls for plain flour, that's what we recommend and use with good results. As for self rising flour, we actually make and sell it. It's 1 cup (4 ounces, 120g) of a lower protein flour (8.5% protein), 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Again, this may differ by manufacturer.”

Tea Time!
Laurie, who I communicated with at King Arthur, also wondered why self-rising flour is not used more here in baking also. Anyway, it turns out their self-rising flour works very well. I have made both scones and cakes with it and they have all risen well. Thank you King Arthur Flour!

You only need a few ingredients to make a Victoria Sponge. When I was learning to bake with my mum and gran they would just say, “It’s 6, 6, 6 and 3 eggs!” This means 6 ounces of butter, 6 ounces of sugar and 6 ounces of butter, plus the 3 eggs. Easy, right? These amounts can be adjusted for a bigger cake, but this is the classic recipe. (I recently tried making one using 7 eggs! It came out great). In our family we enjoy the cake sandwiched with raspberry jam and buttercream and topped with a sprinkle of confectioner’s/icing sugar. My mum used to “whip up” a cake almost every week and would make a variation adding an ounce of cocoa in place of an ounce of flour and make chocolate buttercream. Yum! My lovely gran baked until she was 90, but as she aged she would call them her “fetch me” cakes as my grandfather would have to fetch her all the ingredients for her to make the cake as she sat on the kitchen stool. They were still delicious!

Please watch the video below to see just how easy making a Victoria Sponge cake is. There are many recipes online for Victoria Sponge cakes, but here is a link to King Arthur Flour’s recipe as you can select ingredients in volume, ounces or grams – how handy! As you will see in the video, I use a scale to measure by grams/ounces. Enjoy.

Friday, March 3, 2017

We are The Bee's Knees!

We have been running The Bee’s Knees British Imports for a while now and we have lots of new customers and friends on social media, so we thought it would be a good time to reintroduce ourselves.

The Bee’s Knees was born from a mutual appreciation of our shared English heritage. Donna was born in England to a British mother and American father and spent part of her youth in Biggleswade, Bedfordshire. Lucinda was born and raised in Cheshire, England. Now living in Massachusetts, we met fundraising for our children’s elementary school. As a friendship was forged over several years of volunteering and many cups of tea, we realized how well we worked together and decided to begin this journey to bring a small part of Britain “across the pond.”

This journey has led us to discover some wonderful, small, companies, just like ours. We enjoy working with Victoria Eggs and Emma Ball and Emma from Sweet William. We also have the privilege of working with some larger, more well known brands such as Emma Bridgewater, Burleigh and Dunoon. We were thrilled to take our first business trip together last September to visit the Top Drawer trade show at Olympia in London. There we were able to meet in person Emma from Sweet William, Victoria Eggs (yes, Eggs is her real last name) and also Jan Constantine. It was such fun to be in London together and to discover new products for the website. Travel is a passion for both of us Bee’s Knees ladies.

Lucinda loves running The Bee’s Knees Facebook page sharing our products there, but also sharing recipes, memories and pictures from home. Donna is wonderful at styling all the photos of our products that we do share on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. Phew! Social media is hard work, but so much fun. We love the community that we are creating.

We both love to drink lots of tea and eat biscuits sometimes. When we need a Victoria Sandwich cake or scones for a photo shoot it is hard not to eat the props before we even get started!

The Bee’s Knees mission is to provide the finest quality British-made and designed products. Our eclectic range of products has a unique style to appeal to our British abroad and anglophile friends in America and around the world. We aim to attract and maintain our customers by providing first class, reliable customer service.

Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date with all the buzz from The Bee’s Knees!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Valentine's Day Giveaway!

It's been a while since our last blog post, so as we try and get more active on the blogging front with recipes, British fun and more we thought we would start with a really fun giveaway for Valentine's Day.

We have joined with a fabulous local baker in our area, Bisousweet Confections - - to offer a packet of their delicious Linzer hearts and a packet of their chocolate brownie heart cookies together with an Emma Bridgewater Pink Hearts mug from us at The Bee's Knees. What a great way to celebrate Valentine's Day!

To enter, click on the 'comments' link in the blog (not in the Rafflecopter box), post a comment telling us which is your favorite cookie/biscuit ever and then in the large box click on 'I Posted a Comment'. You also have the option to follow us on Twitter for an extra chance to win.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Bee's Knees Top 10 Gifts!

Still looking for that perfect gift? Look no further! At The Bee's Knees you are sure to find just what you need! Here are our top 10 favorite gift ideas for 2015!
There's still time to shop! Visit to get started!

Emma Bridgewater Joy Christmas Pottery
This range from Emma Bridgewater proves popular each year.

Victoria Eggs
Victoria Eggs' whimsical graphic design captures true British spirit.

Kenneth Turner
Kenneth Turner has redesigned their range and
their new Floral Couture products are truly lovely.

Dunoon Mugs
Beautiful mugs handmade in England. There’s one for everyone on your list.

Mugs for Men
Men can be so hard to buy for. How about one of our fun but functional Dunoon mugs?

Milly Green & Tyrrell Katz
Are you a Brit abroad or an Anglophile? We have the goods for you.
Milly Green and Tyrrell Katz have got you covered.

Sweet William
A lovely new addition to our range this year. Lovingly handmade in England.

Fun Tinware
These tins make great teacher gifts filled with something yummy and there are fun ornaments for the kids that you can fill with their favorite treat. (Treats not included!)

Classic Burleigh
Beautiful Burleigh pottery is simply timeless.

Keep Calm & Carry On
These classics are always a favorite.

Have fun shopping!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Tyrrell's Chips Giveaway

Not only are we excited for spring, we are also excited to be partnering with our friends at Tyrrell's Chips, makers of exceedingly English, delicious potato chips for a fun giveaway. Enter your favorite flavor of chips (or crisps, if you prefer) in the comments section below for a chance to win a case 12 large bags of Tyrrell's Chips from The Bee's Knees. If you are the lucky winner you will be able to try flavors Mature Cheddar and Chives (my favorite) and Sea Salt and Cider Vinegar.
Cooked by hand in small batches on their farm in Herefordshire, these chips are high-quality. You won't be able to stop at one handful!

Good luck!
Lucinda & Donna

Friday, February 27, 2015

Making Welsh Cakes for St. David's Day

Warning: Recipe for incredibly moreish treat below!

I had never made Welsh Cakes before, but with St. David’s Day coming up on March 1st, I thought I would give them a try. Oh my, why did I wait so long?

This simple recipe produces a wonderful light and airy sweet that isn’t quite scone, isn’t quite cookie, isn’t quite pancake. Fresh out of the pan, sprinkled with sugar, I had to be quick to take the photos before the family ate the entire batch!

The Welsh name for these little cakes is ‘Pice ar y maen’ with ‘maen’ meaning bakestone (like a griddle), which is how they are cooked.  I do not have a griddle but used a heavy-based frying pan and they came out a treat.

I used Mary Berry’s recipe. Give it a try, but remember, I warned you!

Makes 12

8 oz (2 cups) self-raising flour (or 8 oz all-purpose flour with 2 tsp baking powder)
1 tsp baking powder
4 oz (1/2 cup) butter, diced
3 oz caster (1/2 cup) (superfine) sugar
3 oz (1/2 cup) currants
½ tsp mixed spice (optional)
1 egg, beaten
about 2 tbsp milk
 A little butter for the pan
3 inch pastry cutter

1.     Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Add the butter and rub in with your fingertips of a pastry blender until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

2.     Add the sugar, currants, and mixed spice (if using), and stir to mix. Add the egg and enough milk to form a soft but not sticky dough. I needed a little more than 2 tablespoons.

3.     On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to a ¼ inch thickness. Cut into rounds with the pastry cutter.

4. Heat a griddle or heavy frying pan and melt a little butter in it. I found that because of the butter in the cakes, they didn’t need much extra in the pan and didn’t stick. Cook the Welsh cakes on the hot griddle or pan over low heat for about 3 minutes on each side until cooked through and golden brown. Be careful on the first flip, as they are still a little fragile at this point. Use a large spatula to do this.

5.     Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Best served on the day you make them, sprinkled with some sugar and a little butter, if you like, and with a lovely cuppa, of course!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas Cracker Centerpiece

Christmas Cracker Centerpiece
Many years ago, after watching an episode of the children’s show Blue Peter, I decided to try and make my own Christmas cracker centerpiece. Christmas crackers are a mainstay of a traditional English Christmas dinner; a tradition dating back to Victorian times.

Apparently, a London sweetmaker, named Tom Smith, first made crackers in about 1850. He had seen the French ‘bon bon’ sweets (almonds wrapped in pretty paper), and one night, while he was sitting in front of his log fire, he became very interested by the sparks and cracks coming from the fire. Suddenly, he thought what a fun idea it would be, if his sweets and toys could be opened with a crack when their fancy wrappers were pulled in half. And so crackers were born.
A cracker is placed at every setting on the Christmas dinner table. Available in many colors and sizes, the paper tubes are always filled with a joke, a little gift and a paper party hat! As family & friends sit down for the wonderful feast, the first order of business is to pull these crackers.
Each person grabs one end of the cracker with a neighbor at the table grabbing another and then pull! The popper inside “cracks” as the paper rips apart and the contents of the cracker spill out. We then read the corny jokes and put the paper crowns on our heads – no excuses. We all look silly together, but that’s part of the tradition.
So back to the centerpiece: All those years ago I said to my mum, “I want to make the big Christmas cracker!” I found the cardboard, probably bought some crepe paper at W.H. Smith, and got to work. Unfortunately my mum didn’t have the backstage elves like on Blue Peter where the presenters would miraculously pull a finished “make” from under the table and say, “here’s one I made earlier.”
But we muddled through and produced the centerpiece – and I loved it! The small crackers were still at each place setting and my homemade centerpiece adorned the center of the table filled with little treats for everyone.
As projects go this one isn’t too difficult. As my original creation no longer existed, a few years ago I decided to recreate the cracker for my family.
Here’s one I made earlier :)
The cracker is made up of 2 tubes that fit together. Get some sturdy cardboard – a couple of empty cereal boxes work. It’s up to you how big you make it, so cut 2 larger rectangular pieces of card for the middle pieces and 2 smaller rectangular pieces of card for the ends. They should be the same width but different depths. You should have 2 set ups like this picture below.
Make 2 like this.
Find some strong wrapping paper or foil paper and cut 2 large pieces big enough to lay a large and a small piece of card on each one. Lay the pieces of card on as shown in the picture. Glue the card onto the paper and fold the excess pieces from the side over onto the card like wrapping a gift. Do this with the other 2 pieces of card.
Fold excess paper over
Now make tubes out of the two pieces you have created. I use a stapler for this. Make sure one tube is narrower than the other, so that it will fit into the larger one.
Staple the tubes
Remember it will be filled with sweets or little gifts and you will want to pull it open and have the contents be a surprise for your guests.
You will have 2 tubes like this
Cinch the paper

One half of the cracke
Where there is just paper in the two tubes between the two pieces of card use string or gift ribbon to cinch them to create the cracker look. 

Finished cracker

You can now decorate it as you like, as shown in the picture at the the top of the post. Your centerpiece is ready! Fill it with sweets or little gifts and your guests are sure to be impressed.
Fill the cracker with yummy treats

Have fun going crackers! Please let me know if you have any success making one! I would love to see your results. If you send me a photo I will post it in a blog in the New Year.

Email with your photo.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays & Best Wishes!