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Perfect sponge cake tips

Article by: Frances Crouter  |  Picture by: Smita
Perfect sponge cake tips
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Wondering how to make a sponge cake? The perfect sponge cake need not be elusive. Hone your sponge cake baking skills with these handy tips.



Sponge basics

Sponge cakes are a fundamental block in your cake-building repertoire. Unlike butter cakes, a true sponge cake includes little or no fat, other than what's in the egg yolks. Traditional recipes produce cakes leavened only by the air beaten into the eggs, not by baking powder or bicarbonate of soda.
  • Sponge cakes are used in sandwich cakes, layer cakes, charlottes, swiss rolls and tiramisu (either as a sheet or piped into fingers)
  • Madeleines are also a version of sponge cake
Did you know?
Since fat acts as a tenderiser, plain sponge cakes can sometimes seem dry. This makes them perfect for soaking with simple syrup, liqueur or flavourings, which add flavour and moisture.
Sponge cakes: Technique

All of the following variables add to the challenge of making a good sponge cake. Experienced bakers challenge themselves by trying to get the most volume from their sponge cakes every time they make the same recipe.
  • Warmed eggs hold more air and create more volume when they're whipped than cold eggs (see tip below)
  • Whipping egg whites separately from egg yolks adds even more volume to a sponge cake mixture
  • Egg yolks should be beaten with sugar until they're thick and lemon-coloured; when you lift up the beaters, a 'ribbon' should form on the surface as the mixture drops back into the bowl
  • Adding melted butter or sifted cocoa powder decreases the cake mixture's volume, so fold these in very carefully
Timing

Sponge cake recipes are best made with an electric mixer, preferably a stand mixer, so your hands are free.
  • Have all of your ingredients measured and sifted and ready to go in separate bowls (you'll need plenty of space and equipment to make a sponge)
  • Use a scale for accuracy
  • Your cake tins should be greased and lined with parchment, and your oven preheated: a sponge cake mixture waits for no one
Warming the eggs

Use a stainless steel bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Sugar has an insulating effect, and helps protect the eggs from coagulating over the heat. Add a few tablespoons of the sugar from the recipe into your egg whites (or yolks), and whisk it in.
  • Keep whisking the egg whites (or yolks) while you heat them, testing now and then with your fingertip until they feel warm to the touch
  • When the egg whites (or yolks – whatever you're heating) are warm, transfer them to your mixing bowl and whip until medium-stiff peaks form
Folding in the ingredients

Stop beating the egg whites just when stiff peaks form: you don't want them to appear dry. Perfectly beaten egg whites will fold into the mixture without breaking apart into white flecks and islands, and the air bubbles will still expand in the oven. Use the 'one-third, two-thirds' method for folding in egg whites:
  • Add one-third of the beaten egg whites into the bowl of cake mixture
  • Use a balloon whisk – one of the big bulbous ones – for best results, stirring gently until the ingredients are incorporated and the mixture is lightened. (A rubber spatula, plastic bowl scraper or even your hands also work well.)
  • Add the remaining egg whites to the mixture, gently folding with smooth strokes through the centre of the bowl, around the sides and lifting through the centre again, repeating until mixture is smooth
  • Immediately divide the mixture into prepared tins, smoothing the surface if necessary, and transfer them to the hot oven
  • Bake as directed
Need sponge cake recipes?

Check out our Sponge cake recipe collection for loads of tried and true sponge recipes.
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