A sponge is one of the most basic cakes you can make, with few ingredients and yet it’s something which can be incredibly difficult to get right! I’ve tried and tested many recipes and tips and here are my favourite tips for a perfect bake…
- Make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature, preferably slightly warm.
- Weigh your ingredients accurately, baking is a science and slight changes can affect the result.
- Heat your oven in advance and check that the temperature is correct with an oven thermometer. Many ovens are not accurate and too hot or too cool an oven can affect the end result dramatically. Sponges are usually baked at 160c.
- Use the freshest, free range eggs for a light sponge and good quality butter will give a great flavour.
- Line the tin/s with non-stick baking paper.
When following a recipe use the ingredients weight as a guide. Start by weighing the eggs in the recipe (weigh in their shells) and match the other ingredients to this. The eggs, sugar, butter and flour should all weigh equivalent amounts.
For a 20cm (8”) sponge you will need 5 eggs (weighing 50g each) , 250g Butter, 250g Caster Sugar, 250g Self-Raising Flour. Therefore, when you weigh the eggs, you will match the amounts to this. The amount of 250g has been given as a guide for the amount of mixture you will need. If the eggs weigh 265g the flour, butter and sugar should be 265g too and the cake will be very slightly larger. If the eggs weigh slightly less, for example 235g, you could add milk if you want to make up the amount to 250g.
Beat the sugar and butter together well until they are pale and creamy;
Beat the eggs in a separate bowl;
Whisk the flour with a hand whisk to loosen and add air. I never sieve my flour as I feel it compacts when it falls;
I never add baking powder as I’ve found it can make the cake dry;
There are two methods for mixing all the ingredients together and I’ve found that both work well –
- Add the beaten eggs very slowly to the beaten sugar and butter mix. Mix well, a little at a time. If the eggs are slightly warm they won’t curdle and a tip to help this is to put the eggs, in their shells in a bowl of warm water before starting the recipe. Then carefully fold in the flour.
- Add the beaten eggs and the flour to the beaten sugar and butter and beat everything together well for only one minute.
- Be careful not to overbeat with either method.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin/s. The sponge can be baked in one tin or divided between two tins. One 20cm (8”) sponge should take approximately 50 minutes to bake, if the mixture is divided the cakes will take about twenty minutes.
- Never open the oven until at least ¾ of the way through baking a sponge. Opening the door too early can cause the cake to collapse. The sponge will be baked when it is golden brown and starting to shrink away from the sides of the tin. A clean skewer stuck into the cake will come out clean – no sticky mixture attached. Keep an eye on the cake near to the end of the baking time and take it out of the oven immediately it is ready.
Leave the cake for two to three minutes in the tin, then turn out onto a cooling rack to finish cooling. If you want to slice the cake in half horizontally to fill, you will need to leave it for at least two hours for the crumb to set otherwise it will just crumble.