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The Original Victoria Sponge at Kensington Palace

Our chefs at Kensington Palace pride themselves on the amazing afternoon teas that are served in the Orangery, not to mention the mouth-watering cake selection, freshly baked every day.

The chefs have retraced the classic Victoria sponge to its origins in their Signature Cake. It takes its name from Anna Maria Stanhope, The Duchess of Bedford and Lady in Waiting to Queen Victoria, who is credited with creating British Afternoon Tea and introducing it to the Queen.

During the middle of the 18th century, dinner for the upper and middle classes had shifted from noontime to an evening meal, served fashionably late. It seems that this change caused the Duchess to suffer from ‘a sinking feeling’ at about four o’clock in the afternoon, which simply would not do!

Her servants began to sneak her in a pot of tea and a few breadstuffs, and soon the Duchess was inviting friends to join her for an additional afternoon meal at five o’clock in her rooms at Belvoir Castle. The menu offered small cakes, bread and butter sandwiches, assorted sweets and, of course, tea.

Legend has it that Queen Victoria so loved the sponge cake that was served during the teas that it became commonly known as Victoria Sponge. At Kensington Palace, we like to pay tribute to the woman who brought this beloved British treat to the attention of the Queen who made it famous – hence the name "Duchess of Bedford Cake”.

After some cajoling, we were able to persuade Chef Nick Seckington to share the secret of this delightful tea-time treat!

The Perfect Duchess of Bedford Cake


200g butter

200g caster sugar

2 eggs

200g self-raising flour

2 tbls milk

Jelly Filling

500g fresh raspberries,

200g sugar

2g agar-agar

Fresh cream

1 tonka bean


Line two round cake tins and preheat the oven to 170°C

Beat the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy, then fold in the flour and milk. Share the mixture between the two tins and cook for around 20 minutes until the cake is golden and springs back when pressed.

Bring the raspberries and sugar to the boil, whisk in the agar-agar, and boil for one minute more. When cool pass through a strainer.

When cool cut to the same size as the cake and place on one of the sponges. Whisk some cream and grate in 1/4 of the tonka bean and spread on top of the raspberry jelly. Place the other sponge on the top and dust the cake with icing sugar.

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