Sponge cake

My Dad is a sponge cake expert. An electrical engineer, he takes an analytical approach to the production of baked goods. Sunday morning pancakes, for example, involved the use of a second ‘finishing pan’ set to a lower heat, to allow pancake production to keep pace with my family’s enthusiastic pancake-eating.

He took a similar approach to his sponge cake making, producing cakes which were very light and highly-risen. I have clear memories of long summer evenings when we lived in the McKenzie Basin spent sitting outside in the back garden, eating thick wedges of sponge cake sandwiched together with whipped cream and strawberries. The occasional sand fly in a mouthful of cake was all part of the charm.

Sponge cake

From Alexa Johnston’s Ladies, A Plate, 2013

free range eggs 3

caster sugar 175g

flour 125g

baking powder 1 teaspoon

butter 15g

boiling water 4 tablespoons

cream 200ml, whipped

icing sugar 3 tablespoons, plus extra for sifting on top of the cake

vanilla paste 1/4 teaspoon

strawberries one punnet

Preheat oven to 190˚C and grease and line two 20cm tins. Sift together the flour and baking powder. Measure the boiling water into small dish and add the butter; leave it to melt.

In a large bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar with a set of electric beaters for ten minutes, until the mixture is very thick and pale.

Sift the flour and baking powder (for a second time) on top of the egg mixture and gently fold in using a metal spoon, turning the bowl as you go. Once the flour is incorporated add the melted butter and water mixture, and gently fold through.

Divide mixture evenly between the two tins. Pick each tin up and drop it down onto the bench a couple of times to dispel the air bubbles. Bake the cakes for about 15-20 minutes, keeping a close eye on them from the 15 minute mark.

Pour the cream into a medium-sized bowl and add the sugar and vanilla paste. Whip using a whisk or electric beater until perfectly thick. Cover and keep in the fridge until needed. Hull the strawberries and slice in half. Sprinkle with a tablespoon of icing sugar and leave to macerate while the cakes cool.

Once the cakes are cool, put one half on a plate and spread with the whipped cream. Arrange the strawberries on top of the cream, place the other cake on top and sift over some more icing sugar.


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