Who can resist a fluffy tender crumb good old fashioned sponge cake, complete with softly whipped cream, lashings of berries jam and fresh berries. This fabulous cake is said to have been named for Queen Victoria in the mid 1860’s – when it was very so fashionable to be invited for ‘tea’ at around 4pm.
Many good old fashioned cooks today ‘cut their teeth’ learning the tricks of a great sponge. There are a couple of versions and many swear by their own technique. Some beat the egg whites with sugar and fold in the egg yolks and flour, others beat the whole egg with sugar and fold in the flour – which can be plain, self raising or cornflour.
Some fold in hot water, while others fold through melted better. There are also versions with no yolk (Angel cake) and French versions that beat the eggs and sugar over simmering water.
The Angel cake is also a fabulous cake, but with American origins. It has become very popular in recent times as it contains no fat. You need a large pan with a removable centre & base for this cake and preferably a proper ‘Angel’ cake pan. These are sold at good cookware stores.
My fail proof recipe for a classic Victorian sponge uses whole eggs and plain flour and begins and ends completely in the marvellous KitchenAid standmixer – even when adding the flour. For my recipe above you can use plain flour or gluten free plain flour. I also always like to add my own baking powder and prefer to not use commercial self raising flour. Specialty ‘cake’ flours also provide a wonderful soft texture, as they contain less protein. They are opposite to pasta flour which contains more protein making it harder flour. Specialty flours are now available from good supermarkets and are labelled cake or bread / pasta flour.
Here are my tips for success:
- Weigh & measure all ingredients and preheat that oven.
- I like to bake without a fan, so if possible turn the fan off!
- Butter and line the pans with baking paper.
- I whisk the flour (gluten free for me), baking paper and salt in the standmixer ( but some prefer to sift by hand!)
- Make sure the bowl and whisk attachment is sparkling clean & dry.
- Whisk the (room temperature NOT cold) whole eggs & sugar until very thick and fluffy. Working quickly adds the flour and remaining ingredients and mix on speed 1 only – JUST until mixed. Remember the KitchenAid planetary action is amazing and mixes incredibly fast.
- Divide the mixture between the pans (you can weigh each pan to make sure even) and quickly spread the mixture smooth.
- Bake in the centre shelf for about 20 minutes. Do not over cook.
- Invert onto a cake rack and cool.Spread with your favourite berry jam and whipped cream and sandwich the two together. Sift over a little extra icing sugar and maybe some fresh berries.
It just doesn’t get any better in my book oh except to serve with a fabulous cup of Earl Grey tea!