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Victoria & Albert Biscuits

When is a cake a biscuit? This question was raised in 1991 regarding the humble Jaffa Cake. The manufacturer McVities argued that Jaffa Cakes, invented in 1927, were most definitely a cake but the tax man begged to differ. Chocolate covered biscuits are taxed, you see, and given that Jaffa Cakes are packaged and marketed like biscuits in the tax man’s eyes they should be classified as such.

Happily for the consumer the tax man lost this battle (you can read more about it here). This is not the first time a biscuit has been described as a cake or vice versa. Charles Elmé Francatelli provided two recipes in The Modern Cook (1846) for ‘biscuits’ named after the reigning monarch and her consort. The Victoria version is recognisably a biscuit – rather like a slightly chewy almond shortbread laced with kirsch and glazed with marmalade and icing. The lightly spiced Albert version is more decidedly cake like with a spongy texture and containing candied peel and chopped almonds.

The first time I made these biscuits I decided it would be fun to use a chocolate glacé on top (Francatelli suggests a plain glacé but the following recipe in his book is for a chocolate glacé). Both biscuits have components of the modern day Jaffa Cake. The Albert biscuits have the sponge and Victoria biscuits the marmalade and chocolate topping (in my adaptation at least). However, I didn’t think the chocolate glacé really worked with the Victoria biscuits. It was difficult to apply and seeped into the biscuit making them look rather untidy (as you can see in the picture). I’ve remedied this by replacing the icing with dark chocolate – which is far better on all fronts (unfortunately I didn’t have a chance to photograph the new chocolate version before they’d all been eaten by my family).

Victoria biscuits topped with chocolate icing

Victoria Biscuits

Ingredients – makes 10 (can easily be doubled though)

110g caster sugar

90g plain flour

90g ground almonds

45g unsalted butter at room temperature

Zest of ½ a lemon

1½ tbsp kirsch or brandy

3-4 tbsp marmalade

100g dark chocolate, broken into chunks

  1. Preheat the oven to 150℃. Butter 10 of the 12 holes in a patty or bun tin.

  2. Place all of the ingredients except the marmalade and dark chocolate into the bowl of a food processor. Blitz until the mixture is just coming together. It won’t form a dough per se but should have a similar texture to uncooked shortbread.

  3. You will need to divide the mixture into 10 equal portions (roughly 30g each). Press each portion into a buttered hole in the bun tin making an ever so slight indentation in the middle with the back of a teaspoon.

  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes until firm but not too coloured. Allow to cool in the tin.

  5. Remove the biscuits to a cooling rack. You will notice the centre of the biscuit has ‘sunk’. Fill the wells up with another roughly 1 tsp marmalade in each.

  6. Melt the chocolate in a heat proof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Drizzle the top of each ‘marmalade well’ with the melted chocolate then swirl the biscuit around so that the chocolate runs almost to the edge the biscuit. Allow to cool and harden before eating.

Albert biscuit fingers

Albert Biscuits

Ingredients – Makes around 12-16 fingers

140g caster sugar

110g chopped almonds

90g plain flour

3 large eggs – 2 separated

25g candied mixed peel

½ tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground allspice

Grated zest of ¼ lemon

Icing sugar for dusting

  1. Preheat the oven to 180℃. Grease and line an 18cm shallow, square tin.

  2. Sieve the flour and spices into a bowl. Mix in the sugar followed by the almonds, mixed peel and lemon zest. Stir in 1 whole egg and the yolks of 2 eggs.

  3. In a separate, clean bowl, whisk the remaining two egg whites to stiff peaks. Fold into the cake mix the pour into the prepared tin.

  4. Bake for 15 minutes or until risen and golden. Allow to cool slightly before transferring to a cooling rack. When completely cool, cut into 12 -16 fingers then dust with icing sugar.

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