Finding a white egg in Ireland can be a bit of an adventure. If you live here, this is common knowledge. If you don’t, it could come as a {happy} surprise. Brown eggs are part and parcel to Irish life (and, to most other European countries as well). If you really must have white eggs, your best bet is to look for duck eggs at a farmer’s market, gourmet food grocer, or perhaps visit a local farm.

While we prefer brown hen eggs with their vivid yolks, each spring I go round-robin and gather a couple dozen white duck eggs so that we can carry on the American tradition of dyeing hard-boiled eggs for Easter. I also like to use a few of these ivory beauties to bake up a bevy of special sponge sandwich cakes layered with fresh cream and jam to share with family and friends.


Irish duck eggs are extra large with yolks that are deeper in colour and richer in flavour than hen eggs. But more importantly, they make for an extremely thick and scrumptious Victoria sandwich; a sponge cake originally dreamed up for the queen’s tea in the UK and later became a baker’s staple in Ireland as well.

Discovering the Victoria sponge is easily one of my favourite food encounters since moving to Ireland. Yes, quick and easy to make, but the best bit? You are meant to eat it with your fingers!


I’ll never forget meeting with Irish Country Living editor, Mairead Lavery, for the first time. She had invited me to her home for a chat. It was a sunny spring day.  I sat in her kitchen with a cup of tea watching in awe as she talked about farming and food and family while effortlessly whipping up a sponge. She baked it, jammed it, sliced, and then finally served each of us a generous warm wedge waxing on nostalgically about a dinner party she had recently hosted. When I looked for a fork, she informed me in her lovely Irish lilt “not all all, you pick it up with your hands and eat it like a sandwich” From that day forward, I have had a love affair with the Victoria sandwich.


This year, I scored some beautiful rhubarb at the market, {thankfully, as I cannot seem to grow more than a stem or two in our own garden!} and somewhat outrageously decided to make up a batch of gorgeous velvety rhubarb-vanilla jam specifically for slathering in between spongey sandwich cake layers. What can I say? With the unrelenting cool weather, I was craving a ‘consummate spring cake’. And, If it wasn’t for me, everyone at the farm would not have been spoiled silly with messy thick duck egg sponge sandwich slices slathered in fluffy fresh cream and rhubarb jam for days….{right?}


You may have noticed a few small adjustments here on the blog. Keeping in the spirit of spring, I’ve incorporated a new header and layout, along with a few new buttons, bells and whistles. All designed by the marvelous Graham Thew who mostly works on much more important jobs, such as designing an arsenal of cookbooks for Gill and MacMillan. I am thrilled to bits with the new look, it just feels fresh and ready for fun. Let me know what you think!

Duck Egg Sponge with Fresh Cream and Rhubarb-Vanilla Jam

6oz/170g caster (superfine) sugar
6oz/170g soft butter
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 large duck eggs at room temperature
6oz/170g self-raising flour
1-2 tbsp of milk
5-6 tbsp rhubarb-vanilla jam (see below)
¼ pint/140ml double cream, lightly whipped
caster (superfine) sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350F/180C/gas4
Grease and line two 8in/20cm sandwich (or springform cake) tins
Beat the sugar, butter and vanilla essence until very pale, light and fluffy, then beat in the eggs one at a time.
Very gently fold in the flour by hand. Add enough milk to make a dropping consistency.
Divide between the prepared tins, spreading out the mix gently.
Bake for about 25 minutes until well-risen and golden brown.
Cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out on to a rack to cool.
Spread the underside of one cake generously with jam and top with whipped cream. Lay the second sponge on top, topside up. Dust with sugar, slice into wedges or fingers and serve.

Rhubarb-Vanilla Jam
Makes 2 x 340g jars

500g rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 2.5cm chunks
300g jam sugar (sugar with pectin)
1 vanilla pod, split lengthways

Warm the rhubarb, jam sugar and vanilla pod over a medium-low heat and cook, stirring gently and being careful not to break up the rhubarb, until all of the sugar has dissolved. Raise the heat and cook at a rolling boil for five to 8-10 minutes, until the setting point is reached.
Remove from the heat, use a fork to fish out the vanilla pod (you can snip this into four pieces and put one in each jar if you like), and leave to stand for five minutes before potting up in warm, sterilised jars and sealing. The jam will keep in a cool, dark place for up to a year.

Slan Abhaile,

Photos and styling by Imen McDonnell 2013

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25 Responses to “Victoria Sponge with Rhubarb-Vanilla Jam”

  1. […] with pretty lavender flowers around the farm. I’ll make some rhubarb jam and slather it on a duck egg sponge, but first l shall dig into unknown territory with a syllabub featuring two ingredients that I […]

  2. […] Bailey’s Irish cream, white chocolate pavlova & sponge cake filled with cream and raspberry jam, topped with vanilla butter icing & cherriesThe recipe I used is from this beautiful blog: http://farmette.ie/2013/04/07/duck-egg-sponge-with-fresh-cream-rhubarb-vanilla-jam/ […]

  3. Christina says:

    Imen, I so wish I could have a piece of that cake! Rhubarb is one of my favorite things (I used to eat it raw, dipping the stalk in a little bowl of sugar-yes, I double-dipped!) when I was a little girl in Scotland. If you haven’t tried it that way, you really don’t know what you’re missing!

    I just made my first successful Victoria Sponge in the US, but used British flour to get the result! ;( Have you ever made the cake in the US? I need to experiment with a combination of cake flour and self-raising, I think. Have passed on your link to a friend in Australia who often gets duck eggs from a friend. 🙂

    Lovely photos as usual! CC

  4. […] on to use a lovely slick of her rhubarb jam between layers of duck egg Victoria sponge (see her terrific recipe), but in my cake I’ve actually used jam in the batter and on top for a glaze. It’s […]

  5. […] on to use a lovely slick of her rhubarb jam between layers of duck egg Victoria sponge (see her terrific recipe), but in my cake I’ve actually used jam in the batter and on top for a glaze. It’s […]

  6. taylor says:

    rhubarb and vanilla are so good together! we made jam like this last week for the bakery and cafe in cork. great idea to use it in a sponge.

  7. […] rhubarb season and this sponge would be divine under a rhubarb […]

  8. Kristine says:

    Dear Imen, Thank you for posting! Actually, what I want to know is where you found your Irish farmer to marry! haha! I recently went to Ireland for the first time to follow my family tree and I truly felt the healthiest I have ever felt. I have a gluten issue and have been suffering here in the US all my life and after two weeks in Ireland countryside I felt the best I had ever felt in my life. I am seriously considering moving to Ireland and am searching for connections and resources. My email is included and would love to correspond. Thank you for your blog!

  9. Carole says:

    Hi there. The current Food on Friday on Carole’s Chatter is collecting links to dishes using duck or other game birds. I do hope you link this in. This is the link . It would be great if you checked out some of the other links – there are some good ones already. Cheers

  10. Elizabeth says:

    Hi Imen – the new design is just lovely! I’ve never ventured towards baking with duck eggs, so this is a novel idea for me. The cake looks scrumptious. 🙂

  11. An Cailín says:

    Thank you Imen, how wonderful this looks! I hope there is a farmer’s market or something around here where I can find some duck eggs.
    I like the new look. The font was hard to read at first, but it seems to be fixed now.
    Also, I just love the photograph of the sheep.
    Slán leat.

  12. Hi Imen. That jam sounds absolutely delicious. I got some rhubarb from my local farmer’s market on Saturday and now I think I’ll make jam with it. I also managed to find some white hen’s eggs in my local farm shop. I was so excited – I haven’t seen them in years! I fried some for lunch yesterday and they were just so fresh – they sat up nicely on the pan rather than running all over the place like a supermarket egg. Everyone should buy their eggs this way! Supports the farmers, too!

  13. A well made Victoria sponge is one of the greatest delights there is! I love the idea of using duck eggs in this and the rhubarb filling sounds gorgeous.

    My Mum looked everywhere for white eggs so she could dye some for Easter and ended up with duck eggs too. Apparently the reason we have brown eggs in the UK is that at some point someone decided brown eggs look healthier! Who knows if that’s true, if it is, it’s very bizarre…

  14. Alicia says:

    Yum! I love this combination and I can’t believe that its practically the same recipe that I used to make my birthday cake a few years ago. I even used rhubarb and vanilla jam!

  15. Oooo.. I made Victoria sponge over the weekend too.. but with homemade strawberry jam!! eat it with the hands you say.. even better!!

  16. Lovely photos as always Imen. I love the new design, really beautiful. I didn’t know you can eat Victoria Sponge with your fingers, good to know 🙂
    But I most disagree, dyeing eggs isn’t American tradition. Apparently it comes from Mesopotamia, was popular in Roman Empire. The oldest Polish pisanki comes from 10th century.
    A bit from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pisanka_(Polish)
    You will find more photos in Google. They are beautiful https://www.google.ie/search?q=pisanki&hl=pl&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=UCNjUcWvBMmIhQeOvgE&ved=0CCoQsAQ&biw=1222&bih=647

    • imen says:

      Thanks Magda. I only meant that egg dyeing is our family tradition in the USA and now in Ireland as well 🙂 happy spring to you! Xx

  17. Parisbug says:

    Imen, you know how I feel about this cake and where I want to eat it. And as my rhubarb pushes it’s first nubs up here at the Manoir MJ I’m already contemplating scouring our local marchés for duck eggs. I’m sure they have them, just never looked! But, I imagine I have time based on the sad state of weather affairs in our chilly neck of the woods. Merci as always for sharing such delectable goodies….promise to share my pics when it does come to fruition. xx L

  18. Regula says:

    I’ve never baked or cooked with duck eggs before, you just can’t find them here and farms are forbidden to sell eggs to the public due to silly health reasons. I love Victoria sponge cakes, they are so good looking. Congrats on the new blog design! x

    • imen says:

      Really? But, don’t they still just sell them? THat is a pity. When you come visit, we will bake glorious sponges with duck eggs together! Thanks for your nice comment. Still working on some bugs with the new design…but happy! x

      • Regula says:

        No sadly they don’t, there aren’t a lot of ducks around here either as there isn’t much rural land left in this small country. You see signs for chicken eggs but if the police are in a bad mood they can fine you. Also, the farmshops here also can’t sell them. Only eggs from registered egg farms can be sold, mostly caged hens. This is due to the fact that tests showed that chickens from small farms or garden chickens’eggs contain more dioxine than eggs from caged hens, this because in cages the chicken poo is removed directly and on farms and gardens they roam freely in it, contaminating the eggs… sad. Would love to bake a Victoria sponge with you and of course eat it with our hands, drinking tea while discussing life 😉

  19. Kathryn says:

    I love using duck eggs in baking, the taste is so wonderful and rich. This sounds like an especially good combination with the rhubarb.

  20. Thanks Imen. A lovely piece. I have always been nervous about using duck eggs as most recipes call for hens eggs so I am glad to have this recipe now.

    • imen says:

      Thanks Mairead…I must still try your pastry! Must have a look at your stockists. Thanks for your lovely note x

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