How to Make a Sponge Cake
You probably already know the recipe for the traditional sponge cake. Just three ingredients — what could be simpler to make? However, not everyone manages to always succeed in mixing eggs, flour, and sugar in a manner that produces an airy, nearly weightless result. Why?
Today, Cook It will debunk persistent myths about baking and teach you how to make a sponge cake that is perfect any way you cut it.
To begin with, remember the three basic rules that every pastry chef should know by heart. To get a soft and porous sponge cake, always sift the flour and never open the oven while baking! Grease only the bottom of the baking mold so that the sponge cake rises evenly.
The best proportion of eggs, flour, and sugar (%): 50/25/25, i.e., 4 eggs, 3 ½ oz (100 g) of sugar, and 3 ½ oz (100 g of flour. However, eggs may vary in size, producing different results at different times. Hence, it is always best to weigh the ingredients.
Adding many eggs is preferable: the sponge cake will be tender and moist, but not rise too high. To eliminate the smell of eggs, add vanilla or citrus zest to the dough. If you use the ingredients in equal proportions, the cake will turn out dense and dry.
Overbeating the eggs will make air bubbles grow and burst at high temperatures. Such a dough will seem quite fluffy and airy, but there is a high probability that the finished cake will sink. Similarly, beating the eggs just into foam will prevent the dough from rising, or create cracks in the finished product.
Whites or Yolks?
If you use whole eggs in the recipe, you should get the familiar taste. However, you can also try adding whites and yolks separately, measuring the required amount in grams. On average, you need to take three egg whites for every five yolks. It is the yolk that affects the texture of the sponge cake!
Cake with egg whites is elastic but somewhat rubbery, and it contains fewer calories; it is more suitable for making a Swiss roll. Cake with egg yolks turns out yellow and firm, and it rises as well as that with egg whites. It has a light egg flavor.
Whisk Together or Separately
If the eggs are fresh and the room is chilly, beat the yolks first, and then the whites. Conversely, if it is hot in the kitchen, whisk the eggs whole.
You will get a delicate foam if you beat the eggs for 5–7 minutes, a maximum of 15. The sponge cake comes out soft, porous, and yellow. When you separate the whites from the yolks, it may turn out dense and uneven, and it may not rise.
Do not trust the recommendations for baking temperatures indicated in the recipe — experiment to find the best oven temperature.
Starch: Pros and Cons
Starch makes the sponge cake more delicate and less rubbery. You can replace up to 30 % of the flour weight with starch. If you add more, a slightly starchy taste is likely to appear. The cake will shrink a bit after baking and crumble more than the traditional one. Potato starch makes the cake more crumbly; cornstarch — denser.
You can use any flour to bake a sponge cake. The only thing that will change is color: oatmeal flour will produce a golden hue; corn flour — an orangey one; buckwheat flour — a brown one.
Many pastry chefs swear by beating eggs over a pan of simmering water, arguing that sponge cake turns out fluffier this way. It is only partially true. Yes, warm eggs can produce a dough that is more stable, airy and rises better. However, it doesn’t mean that it will turn out worse if you use chilled eggs.
Foaming is independent of the recipe! No need to bother with warming eggs up. Just use ones that are at room temperature.
Theoretically, salt makes the cake rise more evenly and levels out the crust. In the traditional sponge cake, you will barely notice the effect of adding salt. However, you should add a pinch to baked goods with caramel, spicy, or chocolate flavors.
To make your sponge cake drier and crumblier, add cocoa to the dough. Use an amount of up to 50 % of that of the flour. Cake with cocoa has a pronounced chocolatey taste and aroma. If you use bitter chocolate, the finished crust is sweeter, softer, and airier.
Soda and Baking Powder
Should you add baking soda, along with baking powder, to the dough? Definitely yes, especially in recipes featuring an acidic product (yogurt, kefir, lemon juice). If it doesn’t call for such ingredients, use only baking powder.
If you need to bake a thin sponge cake for a Swiss roll or cookies, know that a lot depends on the baking paper. Air pockets can form on the bottom of the cake, ruining the appearance. Parchment paper yields the worst result; Teflon and silicone mats are best.
Knowing these culinary tricks, you will bake the perfect sponge cake. Enjoy!