image of the sponge cake on biancolieevito

SPONGE CAKE

WHAT IS SPONGE CAKE?

Have you ever made a sponge cake? For you will at least once! You probably don’t know it, but the sponge cake and cupcakes are part of a larger family in pastry called Whipped Cakes.

Sponge Cake is called so because of its foamy structure prepared with eggs, sugar, and flour, to which you can add some fat that helps make the final product finer. Butter is undoubtedly the most common fat used in the preparation of whipped masses such as cupcakes!

Like all the whipped cakes, sponge cake is characterized by a high air content, responsible for its light and fluffy structure. The element that allows the sponge cake to incorporate air is the egg itself, thanks to its proteins (the egg white and the yolk), which can form many air bubbles.

So let’s get to know the sponge cake better and find out:

  • How to balance the Sponge Cake’s Recipe
  • Techniques
  • Additional Ingredients
  • How to Store Sponge Cake

 

LET’S PLAY WITH THE SPONGE CAKE RECIPE

In sponge cake, the egg is our unit of measure for the proportions between ingredients. The recipe is simple because it consists of only three elements: eggs, sugar, and flour.

It is crucial to use a good quality flour with low protein content (W about 130-150 if you live in Europe, or an All-Purpose Flour if you are in the US). However, if you only have strong flour (such as bread flour), you can replace 10% of its weight with potato starch to limit the formation of gluten. We are quite lucky for the sponge cake because most of the flours on sale in supermarkets are low in proteins. Let’s make sure, however, that it is of good quality and contains nothing but flour (e.g., no baking soda)

In the recipes below, the measurement unit is 50gr, the regular egg’s average weight. However, I recommend weighing the eggs because their weight can differ significantly depending on the size you buy.

LIGHT SPONGE CAKE

It has a very honeycombed structure.

  • Eggs 50gr
  • Granulated Sugar 20gr
  • Flour 20gr

MEDIUM SPONGE CAKE

Good quality sponge cake suitable for being soaked

  • Eggs 50gr
  • Granulated Sugar 35gr
  • Flour 35gr

HEAVY SPONGE CAKE

It has a very compact structure and is suitable to be “shaped” like Anglo-Saxon cakes.

  • Eggs 50gr
  • Granulated Sugar 50gr
  • Flour 50gr

ROLLED SPONGE CAKE

It has a flexible structure suitable for being rolled up.

  • Eggs 50gr
  • Sugar 35gr
  • Inverted sugar or honey 10gr
  • Flour 30gr

In this recipe, we can find around 30% more sugar than the average recipe. If you notice, that’s a special sugar, called Inverted Sugar (such as honey), which can retain the humidity of the product and give it more color during baking.

DIFFERENT TECHNIQUES TO MAKE SPONGE CAKE

We can prepare Sponge cake by whipping the whole egg or yolk and egg white separately. The choice of the two methods also depends on the structure you want to obtain. A greater volume of air in the dough translates, in fact, in a more incredible lightness in the baked sponge cake.

There are four different techniques of making sponge cake: 2 WARM and 2 COLD.

1. WARM METHOD: Very light and honeycombed structure, but it will tend to dry out sooner

Bring sugar and eggs to 50°C (122°F), stirring constantly. Then whip at medium speed in a stand mixer with a whisk (or with electric whips) until the mixture is puffy and bubbly. Finally, add the flour sifted twice. Once ready, pour the mixture into a buttered and floured mold and bake in a static oven at 180-190 °C (356°F – 374°F), keeping the oven door slightly ajar during the last 10min of cooking.

This sponge cake develops a high volume while whipped, but it raises too much in the oven. Its honeycombed structure makes it unsuitable if you want to soak it with liquor or syrup.

 

2. “MARGHERITA” METHOD: This is an Italian technique where we add some melted butter to obtain a more crumbly and delicate structure and a smaller alveolation. 

Heat the sugar and the eggs at 50°C (122°F) and whip them in a stand mixer or using electric whips. When the mixture is bubbly, add some of the sifted flour (about 90% of the recipe quantity). To better amalgamate the butter and not get the dough collapsed, I suggest taking a small part of the mixture (about 10%) and separately adding the melted butter and the remaining flour. Once the mixture is homogeneous, you can pour it into the dough, mixing from the bottom up. For baking it, you can proceed as above.

 

3. COLD METHOD: Finer and more compact structure, suitable for being soaked or rolled cakes.

Whip the sugar and eggs in a stand mixer (or with electric whips) until they reach about five times the initial volume. Then add the flour sifted twice and any flavorings (vanilla extract, lemon zest, etc.). Pour the mixture into a buttered and floured mold and bake as above.

 

4. DOUBLE METHOD: Very honeycombed and light structure like charlotte or Italian Savoiardi.

Whip the egg yolks with 2/3 of the sugar and separately, the egg whites with the remaining sugar. When the two compounds are ready, incorporate the meringue (whites egg) into the yolks, alternating with flour and mixing from the bottom up. For simplicity’s sake, you can start by adding a portion of the flour (about 1/4) into the yolks, mix it all and then add a portion of meringue, stirring from the bottom up. When the mixture is well blended, repeat the operation until you finish the flour and meringue (I recommend doing this four times). 

 

ADDITIONAL INGREDIENTS

Starches: The use of starches hinders the formation of gluten and allows you to get a more crumbly texture. For reference, you can substitute up to 50% flour with starches (potato starch or rice starch).

Dried Fruit in Flour: In addition to characterizing the sponge cake’s taste, excessive use of dried fruit may dry the cake. To limit this inconvenience, you can replace 50gr of flour with 150gr of dried fruit in flour.

Butter: As seen before, the butter enhances a crumbly and dense structure. However, butter must not exceed 50% of sugar’s weight to avoid the mass losing its structure. 

Yolks: For a more refined structure, you can add yolks to the recipe’s eggs, up to add 1/3 of the weight of whole eggs (if the recipe requires 300gr of whole eggs, you can add up to 100gr of yolks). You can let the whole eggs whip in the stand mixer and add the yolks after about 10 minutes.

Cocoa & Chocolate: To prepare an excellent chocolate sponge cake, add

Cocoa: Replace 100gr of flour with 10gr of cocoa carefully sifted

Melted chocolate: Replace 100gr of flour with 200gr of melted chocolate. First, create a mixture with whipped eggs (eggs + sugar), warm chocolate, and flour. When all the ingredients are well blended, add them to the sponge cake dough. In this case, I also recommend you add a small amount of honey to the recipes, which will prevent the chocolate or cocoa from drying out the sponge cake too much.

STORAGE

Once baked, you can freeze the sponge cake. Wrap it into plastic sheets, place it into food-grade plastic bags, or store it at +4°C (39°F) for ten days well covered.

I REPLAY YOUR QUESTIONS ABOUT SPONGE CAKE

Do I need to add baking powder to the sponge cake?

No. If you whip the eggs correctly, you do not need to add baking powder to the sponge cake. The air incorporated in the eggs will be enough to make the sponge cake rise during baking.

Can I use potato starch in the sponge cake?

Yes, you can replace up to 10% of the weight of flour with potato starch or another starch (rice starch or Maizena) to have a "finer" sponge cake.

The addition of potato starches can also be useful if you have a flour that is too rich in proteins; thus, you will limit gluten formation.

Is it better to bake the sponge cake in static or fan oven?

The best way to bake the sponge cake is to use a static oven and slightly open the oven door during the last 10 minutes of baking to evacuate the steam.

Why did the sponge cake deflate when out of the oven?

Most likely, the sponge cake was not perfectly cooked. I suggest you make a test using a toothpick and verify if it comes out dry and without any crumbs attached!

Can I use semi-wholemeal instead of finely-ground flour?

Yes, you can prepare an excellent sponge cake using semi-wholemeal flour. In this case, you will have to revise the liquid content of the recipe, increasing the weight of the eggs by about 10% (accordingly to how rich in proteins the flour is).

Can I freeze the sponge cake?

Yes, simply wrap it in a food wrap and then in the aluminum foil. Finally, place it in a freezer bag. You can store frozen sponge cake at -18°C (0°F) for up to 60 days.

How do I make chocolate sponge cake?

For a CHOCOLATE sponge cake, you have to replace 100gr of the flour with 200gr of warm melted chocolate. I suggest you mix the chocolate with the flour and then add about 1/3 of the whipped egg mass. When the mixture is well blended (it will slightly follow, but that's completely normal), add it to the rest of the egg mass.

Pls, note that the Chocolate Sponge Cake tends to dry out faster!

How much cocoa should I add for making the Cocoa Sponge Cake?

To prepare a Cocoa Sponge Cake, you can replace 100gr of the flour with 10gr of cocoa, sifting it together with the (remaining) flour in the recipe.

Why did the sponge cake grow sideways in the oven?

The sponge cake has developed too much gluten. You probably overworked it once you added the flour or used a flour too rich in proteins.

Another cause could be the inadequate heat distribution inside the oven.

Does the sponge cake taste egg? What can I do?

If the recipe is well balanced and the sponge cake is correctly baked, it should not have any egg taste. However, if you prefer,  you can add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to the egg mixture.

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