Lucas arrived to prune our olive trees and gave me a springtime present: six brown-shelled eggs from his hens. In his other hand, he held a large white egg, the first of the year from his only goose. ‘Ideal for a cake,’ he said and disappeared into the garden.
I weighed the large white egg and it was 162 grammes or more than 5 ounces – so almost 3 times the size of a hen’s egg – and at its heaviest at that moment since eggs lose weight with time due to evaporation through the porous shell.
It is helpful but not always essential to know the weight of an ingredient when baking. But there is one famous cake where the weight of one ingredient is all that’s called for.
The French quatre-quarts, the American pound cake and the English Victoria sponge cake all share the same recipe where the four ingredients of butter, sugar, eggs – in the shell – and flour, each have the same weight.
So as an experiment I decided to make a vanilla flavoured Victoria sponge cake with a single goose egg. But since I’m in France it would be a Quatre-quarts à la vanille. In a slightly warm bowl, I beat 162 grammes of unsalted butter and a few drops of home-made or commercial vanilla extract with a wooden spoon – or use an electric hand-held beater – until soft and creamy. Then beat in 162 grammes of extra-fine caster sugar – now available in French supermarkets. I cracked the goose egg into a small measuring jug just to check it was sound and hadn’t been lurking under a hedge for some weeks. Then I beat the egg lightly, to mix the yolk and the white together and gradually added it to the butter/sugar mixture beating it in each time to incorporate it properly.
Finally I tipped 162 grammes of French cake flour into a sieve and gradually folded in the sifted flour. French cake flour includes baking powder though in a smaller proportion than in British self-raising flour so I added a scant ½ teaspoon baking powder. By now the cake mixture is quite stiff so if you wish gently stir in a tablespoon of milk. Spoon the mixture into lined cake tin – I used a 20 cm/ 8 inch diameter shallow cake tin.
Bake the cake in an oven preheated to 180’C or fan 160’ C/ 350’F/ gas mark 4 for 30-35 minutes or until the cake is starting to shrink from the pan and a slim wooden skewer comes out clean from the centre of the cake.
Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool in its tin for 3 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.
I like to serve the cake straight away when the buttery flavour of its finely-textured golden-yellow crumb is at its best. Slim portions of the cake served with espresso coffee is always popular in my house.
If, though, you prefer to serve portions of a traditional Victoria Sponge Cake, use a long sharp knife to cut the cake into two equal halves. Spread a thick layer of raspberry or strawberry jam over one half and place the other half on top, pressing it down gently. Dust caster sugar over the top of the cake and set aside until ready to serve.