Beat the butter with a wooden spoon by hand or a food processor with beating attachment until light and creamy.
Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until fluffy – by hand this takes around 6 minutes. It also gives the sugar time to dissolve.
Add eggs one at a time, beating well. If it looks like themixture will curdle, add a little of the flour and mix.
Add the flour and mix gently until no traces of flour remain. You must exercise restraint, while you want all the flour mixed well, you don’t want to undo the work you’ve done aerating the mixture. The batter will be thick.
If the batter drops from an upturned spoon, it’s the right consistency.
Add the milk (more or less if needed) and mix well.
Grease and flour a baking tin – 26 cm ring (bundt) pan.
Please pear halves, cut side up at the bottom of the pan, close to each other to “cover” most of the surface.
You will need to use a spoon to ladle the batter over the pears. Smooth the top.
Bake the large cake for 30 -35 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. If you make smaller cakes or loaves, you will need to bake for less time.
Allow cake to cool in tin for an hour or so. Remove carefully, invert with pears on top and allow to cool on a wire rack.
You may want to lop a thin slice of what was the top of the cake (now at the bottom) if baked unevenly, but once you invert it isn’t necessary.
When the cake is cool, pour the caramel sauce over and decorate with the salted caramel shards.
Note: The cake has a denser texture than a thinner Victoria Sponge.
The shards will melt into the cake if left for longer than a day or two. No harm done though.
To make the salted caramel:
In a heavy based saucepan (thin pot will cook unevenly and may burn), add the water and the sugar and bring to the boil on medium-high heat. Swirl the pot regularly to help the sugar melt, but never stir with a spoon or other utensil.
The colour will darken to an amber. Once it reaches this colour (be careful, it will be very hot) turn heat to low and add butter- it will froth and bubble. Use a whisk to mix. Do this quickly.
Remove from stove and add cream – it will bubble up. Whisk till smooth.
Add salt and mix. Allow sauce to cool to room temperature. Will thicken on cooling.
To make the caramel shards:
Line a baking tray snugly with foil. In a small heavy-based pan melt the sugar on medium heat.
Swirl pan to assist the process but never add a spoon or other utensil to do this. Be vigilant, so sugar does not burn.
The sugar will start to darken and when it’s melted and a deep amber colour, pour thinly on lined tray. Scatter salt over and allow to cool completely.
When cool, break into shards.
- Victoria sponge uses the formula of equal weight (not volume) of eggs, sugar, butter and flour. Use the eggs as the starting point. If the eggs are large, they should weigh around 63 grams each. That makes them a total of 252 grams. A block of butter is conveniently 250 g. Now weigh the sugar and flour to equal 252 grams. Use a digital scale for best results – this is essential.
- You may make two large standard cake layers and serve individually or fill with fresh cream.
- Using fresh pears can be tricky, you need to use very ripe ones or give them a quick steam if they aren’t very ripe. I’d recommend you use tinned pears if pears aren’t in season where you live.
- For the caramel sauce and shards, use a heavy based pan or pot as thin based pots cook warp and unevenly and may result in burning. Once burnt you can do nothing to save the sauce but have to start over
- Use white granulated sugar for the sauce and shards – brown contains unrefined particles that will not yield a smooth result. Also melting brown sugar will not have the visible colour change process for you to easily identify when the amber stage is achieved and may burn as a result.
- While you are allowed to stir the sugar only until it melts and not after, try to avoid this and swirl the pot instead.
- For the sauce, use a deep pot as the mixture will bubble and froth up when you add the butter and the cream
- If you have lumps in the sauce, never fear- you can strain the sauce. But cleaning the sieve may prove a nightmare once the sugar solidifies.
- Exercise caution – use a long sleeved shirt and you should not leave the pot unattended until the caramel is ready.
Reprinted with permission of The Food and the Fabulous. To
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