My family’s great sponge-cake success story was my great grandmother’s. She didn’t check the oven before putting her cake in, only to find it ran out of wood about halfway through. As the story goes, she ran out and split a bit more wood, loaded up the fire, and presented the best sponge cake ever.
Her descendants haven’t had the same success. I don’t remember my grandmother or my mother ever making a sponge cake, although my mother says she has tried and failed (something about rocks instead of sponges). I have a trail of trifles made from failed attempts at making sponge cakes. I’m very good at trifle, though.
That was until this sponge cake. This sponge cake is billed as a basic whisked sponge that’s easy to make, especially with an electric mixer. It’s true. It is easy, and it worked, and my family had no trifle this day.
The successful sponge cake
- 1 teaspoon each of sugar and cornflour to prepare the cake tin
- 3 eggs
- ¾ cup of caster sugar
- 1 teaspoon of vanila
- 1 cup of self-raising flour
- t teaspoon of butter
- 2 tablespoons of hot water
- Before you start: turn the oven to 190ºCelcius (the recipe calls for a moderately hot oven). Grease the inside of a cake tin and dust it with the combined cornflour and icing sugar.
- Beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla together until the mixture is very thick and a pale, lemon-yellow colour. It should pour off the beaters in a ribbon, like this:
- Sift half the flour into the mix and fold it in gently with a metal spoon. Gradually sift in the remaining flour and fold that in too.
- Stir the butter into the hot water until it’s melted, then sprinkle it all over the top of the sponge cake mixture. Fold it in very quickly.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared tin, tilt it to level the top of the mixture, and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the top is beautifully golden.
- Let the cake cool down in the tin for a few minutes, then turn it onto a wire rack to cool down properly.
- To slice the cake, use a good quality knife, or even better, a strong wire such as piano wire, or (unused) dental floss.
- Spread jam across the base (we used rose petal jam), put the top back on, dust with icing sugar, and serve.
The sugar: ¾ cup of caster sugar would be too sweet for us, so we used ½ cup of sugar and ¼ cup of ground almonds. The almonds are the small specks you can see in the cake mixture.
Why a metal spoon? Everyone says a wooden spoon will flatten the mixture.
How many cake tins? This mixture can be poured into a single 8-to-10–inch cake tin, or divided into two 7-inch cake tins.
Source: Adapted from the Australian Family Circle’s Favourite Cake Recipes, Murdoch Books: Sydney, 1991.