Hello again baker bees and welcome to the second edition of Teatime, my weekly column to answer your questions and share tips and stories from my little kitchen. This week, I’ll be answering your questions about baking sponge cakes!
When I first shared the idea for this column with you on Instagram, one of the things I was asked to cover was baking sponge cakes. Often, a sponge cake in some form (be it Victoria Sandwich or Fairy Cakes) is where we start when we begin baking. I know I did, I loved that in 12 little minutes in the oven, you could have freshly baked, light and fluffy treats!
With sponge cakes often being considered a simple cake to bake, the pressure to get them right can be daunting. To get your cakes beautifully light and fluffy, make sure you cream the butter and sugar together thoroughly before you add any more ingredients. If this base isn’t light and fluffy looking, then your cake won’t be either.
It’s also really important to then fold in your flour and baking powder. If you beat it in you run two risks. The first, is knocking out the fluffy air you added at the creaming stage. The second, is over mixing, leading to over development of the gluten in the flour. Both of these will lead to a dense, chewy cake which is the opposite of what you want!
I find it’s particularly important to watch for over mixing when using an electronic mixer as they are far more efficient than mixing by hand, and so take hardly any time.
Another issue is the appearance of sponge cakes, which are often only decorated with icing sugar. When there’s no buttercream to hide behind, they need to be spot on. Greasing your tins with butter can make cakes go brown much more quickly, so consider baking paper as an alternative to keep a paler golden shade if you’re having trouble with this. It’s also important to make sure your cake tins aren’t touching each other, as this can cause differences too!
Sometimes cakes don’t bake to have a perfectly flat top. This can be due to a variety of reasons, such as oven temperature and preparation, but assuming you’re following a reliable recipe, I have two tips to manage this. If the cake comes out domed, but you want it level, you can turn the cakes upside down to cool. I learned this from She Who Bakes and it’s invaluable. Alternatively, you can trim the top of the cakes until level.
Ready to try another sponge cake recipe? Why not give my Orange Meringue Cake or my Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake a go, as they all come from a sponge cake base!
What are your tips for sponge cake success? What other ingredients/recipes/methods would you like a hand with? Do you have a funny baking story to tell? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll feature you in next week’s Teatime!
Until then, happy baking.
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