Since an act of Parliament in 1901, Queen Victoria’s birthday, or a date close to it, has been a national holiday in Canada.
Known officially as Victoria Day, it is also affectionately called “the May long weekend,” a three-day period in which gardens and flower beds are traditionally planted and families gather for barbecues and days at the lake.
It should be known that Queen Victoria loved her food and had a special fondness for sponge cakes and puddings, hearty soups, fresh fruit and large breakfasts with lunch served only four hours later.
Because she enjoyed bagpipe music, the bagpipes were always played prior to meals served at Balmoral Castle.
This week’s recipes feature two of her favourites, adapted somewhat for modern times. Happy Victoria Day!
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Chocolate Sponge Cake
4 eggs, large, at room temperature
1/8 tsp. salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsps. unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1/4 cup cocoa powder, sifted
1 1/2 tsps. baking powder
Line an 8 inch round baking pan with parchment paper and spray with a non-stick spray. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with rack in centre of the oven.
Sift dry ingredients together and set aside. Beat the eggs and melt the butter. Combine the sugar and eggs mix well until frothy but creamy.
Fold in the flour mixture in halves and carefully fold until no streaks of flour are seen. Use a large spoon or spatula to go up and under the batter. Do not over mix.
Add the melted butter and carefully fold until all butter is incorporated. Again do not over mix.
Pour the batter into the lined and greased pan and quickly swirl the pan back and forth a couple of times to even out the batter.
Bake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Do not open the oven door sooner than the 15 minute mark. Shut the oven door slowly so the rise of the cake won’t be disturbed.
Remove from oven and allow the cake to sit inside the pan for 5 minutes before inverting the cake from the pan to cool on a rack. Peel off the parchment paper.
Allow to cool completely. Split cake horizontally, fill with sweet jam, put layers together and ice with a fluffy frosting or sprinkle with icing sugar.
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Queen Victoria’s Soup
1/4 cup pearl barley
1 cup water
1 1/2 qts. white stock
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 lbs. veal or chicken bones
1 1/8 gallons cold water
1 tbsp. salt
1 small carrot
fresh parsley, thyme and bay leaf bundled in cheesecloth
Rinse barley and put into a deep saucepan with 1 cup water. Boil, drain and set aside.
Make white stock by boiling bones until scum rises to top. Skim and drain. Cover bones with remainder of water and add chopped vegetables and salt. Place herbs in cheesecloth into the pot. Cook slowly for two hours. Strain and cool. Remove fat and bag of herbs. Add white stock to barley and simmer on low for one hour. Add cream gradually, stirring constantly. Serves six.
Joyce Walter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org