Gluten-Free Victoria Sponge

The Victoria Sponge is the quintessential British cake, resplendent in any village tea shop worth their salt. Fluffy vanilla sponge, generously filled with raspberry jam and a light buttercream. The surface is broadly undecorated but sprinkled liberally with a crunch of caster sugar. A Victoria Sponge is effortlessly versatile and can be called upon for any occasion.

A gluten-free Victoria Sponge Cake on a glass cake stand on a wooden board

This recipe is a classic recipe from the blog which previously appeared as a wheat cake. I have updated the recipe to a delicious gluten-free version and given clarity to the method.

What is a Victoria Sponge?

Victoria Sponge is a lovely easy cake to bake, consisting of two circular sponges made with a few simple ingredients. The sponges are sandwiched together with a hearty helping of raspberry jam. The buttercream filling is optional but I feel very necessary and the surface of the cake is sprinkled liberally with caster sugar.

Why is a Victoria Sponge called a Victoria Sponge?

The cake is named after Queen Victoria who wasn’t allowed sweet treats in her youth but certainly made up for it with gusto in her later years.

Previously sponge cakes had been quite leaden affairs until the invention of baking powder in 1843. The baking powder gave this new Victoria Sponge cake unprecedented height and airiness.

A gluten-free Victoria Sponge Cake on a glass cake stand on a wooden board with a spoon of caster sugar in front

Victoria Sponge and The Women’s Institute

The Women’s Institute, which is the largest voluntary women’s organisation in the UK, is famous for raising funds through their cake stalls. And you can guarantee there will be a Victoria Sponge sitting resplendent at one of their events. However if you really want to make a proper WI approved Victoria Sponge then you may want to take a glance at their handbook. They are fastidious about the rules and regulations of a true Victoria Sponge.

The WI have exact specifications on the correct method for baking, the required number of eggs, the unquestionable flavour of jam and which sugar you should choose for dusting. So it’s here that I confess that this Victoria Sponge will be going a little off-piste.

For starters, I’m not sure the WI will forgive me for offering a gluten-free version of their beloved cake in the first place. However, as a lapsed member, and indeed ex-President, of our local WI that doesn’t mean I don’t adhere to a few of the rules, the ones I deem most important.

How to make the Perfect Victoria Sponge

There are few ingredients in a Victoria Sponge so there is no room here for cutting corners.

Butter. Not margarine – ever! The butter should be creamed into your caster sugar until pale, light and fluffy. There is no place here for the all-in-one method and the end results will speak for themselves.

Top Tip: The most nutritious butter for the job is the product of grass-fed cows which are loaded with Vitamin K2 and for that local butter is your best bet. If you can’t buy your butter from local grass-fed cows then Kerrygold butter is the next best thing, found in most supermarkets and is about 90% grass-fed.

Eggs. Find the best eggs you can from a local supplier, if you know the hen’s name, all the better. This recipe uses medium sized eggs.

Burford Brown eggs from Clarence Court are the superior supermarket egg. Their yolks are custard yellow and creamy, creating a rich and very flavourful addition to your sponge.

Gluten-Free Tip: The WI insists that only three eggs should be used but as we are using gluten-free flours we need more rise, more liquid and more binding power so here we use four.

Do I need to weigh my eggs?

The traditional method of measuring out the ingredients for a Victoria Sponge is to weigh the eggs first, in their shells, then use that measurement to know how much butter, sugar and flour to use. However if you use four medium sized eggs (which are between 53g-63g each in their shells) then you can’t go wrong with using 240g butter, 240g sugar and 240g total flours.

Gluten-Free Flour. The Victoria Sponge should be a very accessible cake so let’s not concern ourselves with complicated flour blends. I advocate here for a plain gluten-free flour. Any brand will do.

Almond Flour. Don’t tell the WI. Since we are using a supermarket gluten-free flour then we need a bit more moisture to avoid a dry and crumbly cake. Almond flour gives the cake a beautifully tender crumb which will hold together well. Plus the gentle scent of almonds gives the cake a little more depth.

Can I use ground almonds instead of almond flour?

Why yes, you can. The texture will be a little more nubby if you use ground almonds, a little denser and not quite as fluffy. But still delicious and is a fine substitute.

Vanilla Extract. Always vanilla extract please and never vanilla essence which is a chemically made ingredient with a very saccharine and shallow vanilla taste. The addition of vanilla in a Victoria Sponge is not obligatory but it gives the cake such a beautiful pure flavour.

Whole Milk. The addition of milk to loosen the batter is not a WI approved ingredient but it certainly makes for a creamier and lighter sponge, especially since gluten-free cakes need more moisture. Only two tablespoons are required to be added at the end of the mixing stage but it really makes all the difference.

A gluten-free Victoria Sponge Cake on a glass cake stand on a wooden board

How can you achieve a level cake?

Digital scales are your best friend here and they allow you to weigh your batter so both cake layers are exactly the same height and weight.

  1. Before filling your greased and lined cake tins with the prepared cake batter, place one of them onto the scales, set to zero then pour in about half of the batter.
  2. Remove from the scales, put the other cake tin on the scales and set to zero again.
  3. Add the other half of the batter, making sure it weighs exactly the same amount as the first tin.
  4. Once you have equal weights of batter in your tins and you have smoothed them out then they are ready for the oven.

How long does it take to bake a Victoria Sponge cake?

Gluten-free cakes should be baked low and slow. Gluten-free flours brown and crisp more readily than wheat flours so you want to make sure the outside and inside cook evenly.

This cake is baked at 160°C for about 30 minutes which helps protect the cake and ensure an even bake.

How do I turn out my cake to avoid rack marks?

Since a Victoria Sponge is only decorated with a sprinkle of caster sugar, every imperfection on the surface of the cake is visible. Plus if you do want to abide by the WI’s rules then the surface of your cake must not be marred by the criss cross pattern of your cooling rack.

Luckily we have an advantage in that the gluten-free flours provide the cake with a more sturdy crust so you should be fine turning it out as usual.

However, if you don’t want to take any chances then follow these instructions:

  1. Leave your cake to cool in the tin for five minutes exactly.
  2. Run a small palette knife around the edges of your cake which should have come away from the edges of the tin anyway.
  3. Get as close as possible to your cooling rack then turn the cake gently out into your hand so you are holding the surface of the cake for just a moment. At exactly the same time use your other hand to thrust the cake tin aside and quickly place your cooling rack to the underside of the cake, flipping over with caution.
  4. Leave the cake to cool on the rack.

Perhaps don’t try this on your first Victoria Sandwich attempt as broken cakes can be very upsetting.

A slice of gluten-free Victoria Sponge cake on a plate on a wooden board

What jam should I use for my Victoria Sponge?

Any jam you have to hand will be delicious, especially if it’s homemade. Buuuttt… Again, my contemporaries at the WI are not so casual about the choice of jam. They insist the only true jam for a Victoria Sponge is raspberry jam. Also it is important to use a nice thickly set jam. You can warm it up in the saucepan slightly to aid in spreadability. However if your jam is too loose there is a high chance it will spill out when you place the second cake layer on top.

If you need any further inspiration for jam ideas then why not try these recipes:
Raspberry Coconut Jam
Strawberry Redcurrant Jam
Wild Blackberry Lime Jam
Pear Cobnut Jam
Gooseberry Thyme Jam

Which cream do you use for a Victoria Sponge?

Gosh, now we are entering some choppy waters. The WI does not like their Victoria Sponge filled with fresh cream or buttercream. Instead they prefer the jam to sit uninterrupted in the middle of the cake. Delicious? Of course. But you know what would be more delicious? That’s right, buttercream.

Close-up of buttercream

Any sort of fancy swiss meringue, boiled icing, French-this, Italian-that or even fresh cream is not the thing for our schoolmarm of a cake. We need straightforward butter plus icing sugar and that-is-that buttercream.

The buttercream adds moisture to this sturdy sponge and also gives the jam a bit of a helping hand in the luxury department. There is nothing better than a squidgy piece of Victoria Sponge oozing with jam and buttercream. Without buttercream is far too austere for this baker.

How do you make buttercream icing?

The rule of thumb for the easiest buttercream is equal amounts icing sugar and unsalted butter. Beat these two lovebirds on high for 5-10 minutes and you will achieve the lightest fluffiest buttercream. It will pipe like a dream and melt in the mouth. For creaminess add a dash of whole milk. Then for flavour add a drop of vanilla extract and a pinch of salt.

Icing or caster sugar for dusting?

Ha! Use icing sugar at your peril. I am in complete agreement with the WI that caster sugar is the only sugar to use here. It glistens on the top and adds crunch, a most welcome texture.

A slice of gluten-free Victoria Sponge cake on a plate with a bite taken out on a wooden board

Can you freeze a Victoria Sponge?

Yes! It freezes very well but I would recommend to freeze the two sponge layers separately before decorating. Wrap them well in cling film then tin foil. To defrost remove from the freezer the night before. Allow to defrost overnight then unwrap and assemble as usual.

I don’t recommend freezing the cake already filled with the jam and buttercream. You will not be able to wrap the cake up tightly enough and it will run the risk of freezer-burn.

Gluten-Free Sponge Tip:

Gluten-free flours can brown and crisp easily in the oven. So you might find your Gluten-Free Victoria Sponge has a bit of an unnecessary crust on the sponge layers. This is slightly at odds with the soft and fluffy personality of a Victoria Sponge. I suggest making the cake a day in advance and storing the cake in tupperware. This means the cake crusts softens and achieves a much better texture.

Making the whole cake in advance also leads to the best bit about a Victoria Sponge. After a day the jam starts to sink into the sponge which gives it the most lovely squidgy texture.

The simplicity and importance of a Victoria Sponge at teatime cannot be stressed enough. It is the cake I cannot possibly refuse and the one which is always the first to fly off of every single WI cake stall I have ever managed. It is a perfect cake.

Like this recipe? Then you may like these other gluten-free cakes:
Cherry Cake
Vinegar Cake
Lemon and Poppy Seed Muffins

If you make this Gluten-Free Victoria Sponge then please leave a comment below and/or give the recipe a rating. If you then go on to use this recipe as a launch pad for your own baking creation then I’d also love it if you’d share it and tag me on Instagram. It is so lovely for me to see your versions and variations of my recipes.

Gluten-Free Victoria Sponge

The Victoria Sponge is the quintessential British cake suitable for any occasion. Fluffy vanilla sponge, generously filled with raspberry jam and buttercream.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time50 mins
Course: Cake
Cuisine: British
Keyword: how to make a gluten-free victoria sponge
Servings: 10 people
Calories: 686kcal
Author: Georgina Hartley

Ingredients

  • 240 g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 240 g caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 120 g gluten-free flour see notes below
  • 120 g almond flour
  • teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 175 g raspberry jam
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar for sprinkling at the end

Buttercream

  • 200 g icing sugar
  • 200 g unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 160°C/140°C fan assisted/gas mark 3 and line and grease 2 x round 8 inch x 4 inch cake tins.
  • Cream the butter and sugar on a high speed in a food mixer for about 5 minutes until very light and fluffy.
  • Add the eggs one at a time and mix until completely incorporated, then add the vanilla extract.
  • Sieve the gluten-free flour with the almond flour, baking powder and salt in separate mixing bowl, then add into the food mixer. Beating until well combined.
  • Stir in the milk to lighten the batter then divide the batter equally between the two cake tins. Bake for 30-35 minutes.
  • Remove the cakes from the oven and leave to settle for 5 minutes in their tins, then turn out onto cooling racks and leave to cool completely before assembly.

Buttercream

  • Beat the icing sugar with the unsalted butter for up to 10 minutes until very light and fluffy.
  • Add the whole milk, vanilla extract and salt and beat until combined.

Assembly

  • Take one of your sponges and slather the raspberry jam very evenly over the surface, spreading to the edge.
  • For an even layer of buttercream, fill a piping bag with the buttercream fitted with a large plain round piping tip. Pipe concentric circles over the top of the jam then use a small palette knife to gently even it out.
  • Place the second sponge carefully on the top of the buttercream and sprinkle the caster sugar evenly over the surface.

Notes

  • I used Doves Farm Gluten-Free Plain White Flour which doesn’t contain any xanthan gum. However if your blend does contain xanthan gum then that will work fine too.
  • Ground almonds are a good substitute if you can’t get hold of almond flour.
  • Use the best quality jam you can find. I recommend Bonne Maman for the best supermarket option.
  • The finished cake keeps well in a cool dark place, out of the refrigerator, for up to four days.

Nutrition

Calories: 686kcal | Carbohydrates: 70g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 43g | Saturated Fat: 23g | Cholesterol: 160mg | Sodium: 126mg | Potassium: 125mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 55g | Vitamin A: 23.9% | Vitamin C: 1.9% | Calcium: 8.2% | Iron: 8.1%

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A gluten-free Victoria Sponge Cake on a glass cake stand on a wooden board