Conspicuous by its absence in French supermarkets is self-raising flour. As a consequence, the Victoria Sponge Cake is also almost unknown here.
Self-raising flour is ordinary flour with two added components: an acid and an alkali that when mixed together in the presence of water react to create bubbles of carbon dioxide. It is these bubbles that cause a sponge cake to rise and give it its light, spongy texture. If you want to make a sponge cake with plain flour you have to beat in the bubbles using a whisk, which is time-consuming and much less reliable.
Baking powder, which is a mixture of the acid and alkali ingredients, can be found hidden away in the "foreign" section of supermarket shelves. Otherwise you have to source your own baking soda and cream of tartar and mix them yourself.
The other day, Jean-Claude, the new chef down in the restaurant Le Canyon, was asking about English Christmas traditions, and we got on to the subject of English cake (cake Anglaise). It turned out that he was talking about sponge cake, and he asked how it was made, and for a recipe. What better way to deal with this than to conspire with the wife to create one, and go down with it one morning, hand over the recipe, and enjoy a social coffee and cake for elevenses?