July 27, 2009

Throw-Together Sponge

I feel like some good old fashioned home made sponge cake. No fan fare, no fanciness. Simple and fresh with good quality ingredients. The eggs are crucial here. Free range are essential. Sorry, but they make all the difference.

After my hectic week-end, I was working away, when I had this urge. I went into the kitchen and made a sponge. I made it with no cookbook, no accurate measurements and no intention of blogging the recipe. I hadn't made one for yonks, and I felt a lot more attention to detail was required for cyberspace showcasing purposes. Then I thought, what a load of rot! This is me and this is how I feel like cooking today. I'm not the AWW or an expert chef or a cookbook stylist. There seems to be a national obsession all of a sudden with food looking perfect or artistic on a plate. Blame Masterchef especially Poh (don't get me wrong as I really liked Poh). Whatever it is, I say "barr" all that and let's get back to cooking and eating soley based on taste. And while we're at it, let's make it purposefully rustic and thrown together. With love of course.

This is my throw-together sponge and you can easily make one too. I am here to show you how to replicate my recipes if you like them and I want to be "unthreatening" about it. There is a lot of fear associated with the humble sponge. I'm here to release you from that fear. If it sinks or shrinks or isn't baked enough or is overbaked, what's the worst that can happen. You can still eat it and you will have learnt from the experience and any mistakes. Jot down any mishaps and try to avoid them next time. It's called 'practise". And by golly have I had some practise.

I've made heaps and heaps of sponges and they are far from perfect; but they are very tasty. My favourite is probably filled with lemon butter. But one must use what one has on hand and I was far from disappointed with the strawberry filled results. Hubby and Nikka loved it and I heard lots of "ooooooooohs and aaaaaaaaaaahs" as they polished off their plates. I listened for any complaints about the lack of artistry on their plates. None came. The cake was totally consumed today and that's okay.

Sponge Cake

4 free-range eggs, room temperature please!
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 cup of self raising flour, sifted about 6 times
about 20gm melted butter
1 or 2 tablespoons very hot water

200 ml beaten cream
1/3 or 1/2 cup strawberry jam (I used my strawberry and apple)
1 punnet fresh strawberries, sliced
1 heaped teaspoon icing sugar
1 or 2 teaspoons cointreau or fresh orange juice
extra icing sugar

It's important to have prepared all your ingredients so they are ready to go. Also to have your oven pre-heated and your baking tin greased and lined.

Using a stand electric mixer, beat the eggs on a medium high speed for about 2 or 3 minutes. Put in the vanilla extract. Increase the speed to maximum. Add a couple of tablespoons of sugar one at a time and allow to mix for a couple of minutes until it has all been added. Your mixing time may take up to 12 minutes.

Remove the bowl from the stand and take out the whisk used to beat the eggs and sugar. Add half the flour and gently incorporate into the egg mixture using the same whisk. You need to find which action best suits you in order to do this. It's quite an important step. I slowly turn the whisk then raise it into the air allowing the mixture to fall. I do this the whole time. Add the remaining flour. Add the hot water and melted butter together; pour down the side of the bowl and continue with the gentle whisk till you see no more traces of flour. You should make no more than half a dozen turns with the whisk.

Pour into the baking tin; bake in a moderate oven for about 30 mins or till done. Please refrain from opening the oven door until almost done. Sponges are notorious for sinking if the door is opened too early.

Take out and place onto a rack; only for a minute or two. Using a knife, you may need to go around the edges to help release any cake that is not easily coming away from the sides. Turn onto another rack immediately; peel away baking paper; cover with a teatowel. Allow to cool.

Unfortunately I didn't take any photos of the steps because I really hadn't planned on posting this recipe. Posting came to mind after I removed the cake from the tin.

I was really happy with it.

This is where the free range eggs pay off. Apart from the superior taste, just look at that magnificent yellow colour. Glorious.

I chose to cut the cake so that I had three layers. You may prefer to cut it in half.
(In that case, spread the jam first, followed by the cream and then finish with the strawberries.)

Place the bottom layer onto a plate. I spread this layer with my Strawberry And Apple Jam

Place the next layer over the jam layer; spread this with fresh cream and top with the strawberries. I should mention that while the cake was baking I sliced and macerated the strawberries in icing sugar and cointreau. This helps to draw the juices out and really makes the strawberries luscious. Try it.

Plonk the top layer over the strawberries and cream.

Shake icing sugar over this top layer.

Take a knife; sharp or blunt and hook in. For today at least; presentation is out and taste is in!


  1. Oh yum, that looks wicked. Not to sure about the lift and turn with the whisk. I'm a seeing is understanding kinda girl. Could you do it very gently with a fork?

  2. This looks so delicious, Mariana. I found myself nodding 'Yes!' all the way through your post - and not for the first time. This is what I love about blogs - they're not about perfection, they're about passion and what people really make for themselves and their families at home. I sometimes think that cookbooks can intimidate people with their perfection - they think 'I couldn't possibly make that' and give up without even trying. The truth is, real cooking is a process of trial and error, and sometimes the 'errors' can be absolutely delicious. I'd rather have an 'imperfect' homemade cake than a 'perfect' shop-bought one anyday, and yours looks absolutely wonderful. Yumolicious! Dx

  3. Sorry Linda; no I didnt explain that very well did I. Its a method that I find that works for me. I shall try again. When I have put in the flour, I rotate the whisk a couple of times to trap some flour in the whisk. Then I raise it above the mixture and I literally shake it back into the bowl. This allows the flour and egg to incorporate better without having the heck beaten out of it. It also allows more air to trap inside the mixture. I keep doing this until I see no trace of flour. To answer you question about the fork - no way. You would have to beat the mixture way too often to get the flour mixed through. Its just too small an implement and cannot do the job effectively.

    It would seem I am on the same wavelength with you Debora. You explain it beautifully - couldn't agree more. And I wasn't kidding about the country being crazy about food art on a plate. It has intimidated people right out of the kitchen. Utterly ridiculous.

  4. I agree so much with what was said about eating a not so perfect home made cake or dish than eating the rubbish they sell in these supermarket bakeries. I am a firm believer than is one of the reason people are so fat these days as all of that food is just pure rubbish. Give us the home made rustic choice any day!

  5. I know. My sponge wouldn't win any awards in the looks department; but the taste is a different story. I think it was you that told me, the "eyes" firstly are attracted to what we buy, but it's the "taste" that will determine whether or not we go back for more.