Vanilla Chai Sponge with Raspberry Vanilla Jam

Recently, I was lucky enough to be invited to a jam-making course at Vale House Kitchen with preserving queen Vivien Lloyd (click here for my full report) and one of the jams we made was raspberry and vanilla, which inspired me to bake this lovely cake. This is my twist on a light and fluffy spongecake for afternoon tea with a bit of a difference – the cake is scented with vanilla chai tea, which is sweet with a hint of spice, and then filled with buttercream and homemade raspberry and vanilla jam.

Homemade Raspberry & Vanilla jam - yum!
3 eggs
About 180g margarine
About 180g granulated sugar
About 180g self-raising flour
2 vanilla chai teabags
½ tsp baking powder
A splash of milk
For the buttercream:
Icing sugar
For the jam:
1 kg fresh raspberries
1kg granulated sugar
1 fresh vanilla pod

Jam recipe makes 4 large jars

First of all, you need to make the jam. If you don’t fancy going to the effort, you can of course just buy something suitable, but it’s so much easier than you think and really satisfying, so I urge you to give it a go. Preheat the oven to 140°C (130°C fan), weigh the sugar out into an ovenproof dish, and place in the oven to warm.

Put the raspberries in a large deep pan, split the vanilla pod and add the seeds. Gently simmer over a low-medium heat for about five minutes, or until the fruit has almost completely broken down (there should be no whole raspberries left). Remove the sugar from the oven and put the jars in (without the lids), leaving the temperature as above. Add the sugar to the pan and stir to dissolve.

Once the sugar has completely dissolved, turn the hob up and bring the jam to a rolling boil, i.e. a vigorous boil that affects the entire surface and can’t be stirred away (there’s no need to stir while it’s boiling). Set a timer for 4 minutes and then test to see whether the jam has reached setting point – dip a spoon into the jam and then hold the spoon up, with the handle out to the side and one edge pointing down into the pan. When the drips start forming into a semi-solid ‘flake’ before dropping off, the setting point has been reached.

As soon as you get to this point, remove the pan from the heat. Allow it to stand for two minutes, then use a spoon to scoop the foam off the top and discard. Finally, give them jam a gentle stir and then pour into the warm jars straight from the oven, filling them right up to the top. Seal with clean new lids straightaway and leave the jars upright and undisturbed until completely cold.

Preheat the oven to 190°C (180°C fan). To make the sponge, weigh the eggs (shells on) and make a note of the weight. Break the eggs into a bowl, add the same weight of margarine, and beat to combine – using the same weight of other ingredients as eggs means that your cake will always be light and moist, no matter what size the eggs are. Repeat with the sugar, and the self-raising flour. Finally, add the baking powder, cut open the teabags, and add the tea. Beat again to combine and then transfer to greased, lined cake tins. Pop in the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes.

When the time is up, test the cake is cooked with a clean fork or skewer, then allow to cool in the tins for five minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

When the cake is completely cooled, you can make the filling. I don’t have a precise method for making buttercream, because it depends how sweet you like it, so you just have to keep adding icing sugar and tasting until it’s right – it’s a hard job eh! Pop a couple of large spoonfuls of margarine in a bowl and add icing sugar a bit at a time, beating well to make a smooth buttercream. Spread this on one half of the sponge and the jam on the other, and sandwich together.