The perfect sponge is light yet buttery and well, spongey. A plain sponge should be golden yellow, sweet and full of vanilla. For such a simple recipe, there is a lot that can go wrong with a sponge cake. Here are my top tips on how to trouble shoot common problems and bake a perfectly moist sponge:
1. preheat the oven – if the oven is not hot when you put the cake in, it will affect the rise;
2. be accurate with your measurements – baking in a science;
3. use your butter and eggs at room temperature – cold butter is difficult to cream and cold eggs are likely to curdle;
4. if your eggs do curdle, beating in a tbsp of the flour often remedies this;
5. make sure the butter and sugar are creamed together well – you don’t want any tiny lumps of butter as they will make the cake heavier;
6.sift the flour and then fold in gently with a metal spoon – this will avoid knocking out the air and give the cake a light texture;
7. for most sponges, self-raising flour that has a fixed flour-raising agent ratio can be used, however, some sponges require a more specific amount of baking agent – check your recipe if you are using plain flour and adding your own raising agent – too little and the cake won’t rise enough and will be dense, too much and your cake will rise and then fall, again resulting in a heavy texture and dip in the centre;
8.if you are adding any wet ingredients to flavour your sponge, such as coffee or lemon juice, you will need to compensate by adding more flour – likewise, if you are adding any extra dry ingredients, such as cocoa powder, you will need a little more egg yolk or reduce the flour a little;
9. tap the baking tin before putting in the oven to knock out any hidden air bubbles that would expand in the oven and cause to sponge to rise unevenly;
10.do not open the oven door while the cake is baking – cold air will cause the sponge to collapse;
11. insert a skewer or sharp knife into the centre of the sponge to check if it is cooked through – it should come out clean (if not, bake for 1-2 more minutes – take care not to bake for too long and dry out your sponge);
12.you will not need to bake your sponge for as long if you are making cupcakes;
13.when out of the oven, allow the cake to stand in the tin for 2-3 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool (after you have turned out your sponge, flip it over to avoid unsightly lines on the top of your cake).
What is your favourite sponge cake? Ever tried/invented any weird but wonderful flavour combinations? Do you like a sponge cake with lashings of butter cream, jam and decorations or do you prefer to keep it simple with a dusting of icing sugar?