Happy 87th birthday for today Grandad! I adore you.
He’s not really a fan of sweets, so when I called my gorgeous Grandad this week to ask – if he had to have cake on his birthday, what sort of cake would it be?
He said: “Just a sponge would be lovely”.
Hmmm. Not “just a sponge” Grandad. Sponge is my Achilles heel! What might seem like the most basic of cakes, is actually not.
I don’t have a good basic sponge recipe and turned to Google to find so many different variations – all claiming to be the best.
The Larder is now the test kitchen…
I was really disappointed with the first recipe I trialed – especially because it came from one of my favourite magazines, Gourmet Traveler. The mixture was really heavy (used 8 eggs) and turned out dense and pancakey and smelling like scrambled eggs. It ended up in the bin – although it was later suggested to me that I should have just put it in the freezer and made trifle. Good idea.
The recipe below is my own that I’ve adapted from a few different sources and one I am pleased to say turned out really well.
If the key to a good sponge is that it’s light and airy – this was, Grandad said: “Light as a feather”.
Don’t be fooled by the simplicity for this recipe – I’ve learnt it takes a lot of practice and precision to make a perfect light and fluffy cake.
As eggs are the only leavening agent in the batter, they must be good quality and absolutely fresh (my chefy friend told me) and extremely well beaten with the sugar to ensure a soft, successfully risen cake. Perhaps the inexperienced cake baker in me decided to add pinch of baking powder to the flour – just to be safe!
Keep this basic sponge cake recipe on file and alter it with chocolate, nuts and spices to make a raft of different cakes, desserts and pastries.
Today I layered Grandad’s with fresh whipped cream (I left the discarded vanilla bean pod from the cake recipe in the cream to infuse), strawberry jam and fresh strawberries.
I did have grand plans of making my own strawberry jam, but those went in the bin with the first unsuccessful sponge cake.
If I was feeling really fancy I could have covered it in meringue and blow torched it! Maybe next year if he asks for a Bombe Alaska…
Basic sponge cake
Serves: 8; Prep time: 15 minutes; Cook time: 25 minutes
200g plain flour
170g caster sugar
100g melted butter, at room temperature
1tsp baking powder
1 vanilla bean, deseed (or 1tsp vanilla essence)
– Preheat oven to 180’C. Grease two x 20cm -round baking tins, line the base with baking paper and lightly flour the sides
– Sift the flour three times and set aside. In a separate bowl, beat eggs, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer until thick and pale and tripled in volume (7-10 minutes)
– Sift the flour and baking powder over the egg mixture and gently fold through using a metal spoon and a gentle cutting-lifting-folding action (so as not too loose all the lovely air that will make the sponge light), add butter
– Pour half the mixture in to each tin and bake for 25 minutes until lightly golden or cake springs back to touch and comes away from the sides
– Cool on wire racks and fill with fresh whipped cream and jam or any fruit of your choice