Sponge Cake

published Jan 31, 2022
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Sponge Cake Recipe
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Sponge cake
Credit: Photo: Nicole Wolf | Food Stylist: Catrine Kelty

A sponge cake (also called a foam cake) is a light and tender cake that gets its texture from whipped eggs. Cakes like angel food, genoise, chiffon, and Victoria sponge all lie under the umbrella of “sponge.” Here, I’ll let you in on all the details — and share the recipe for my very favorite one.

What’s the Difference Between a Sponge Cake and a Regular Cake?

A sponge cake starts with a higher egg content than, say, a classic yellow birthday cake. To achieve its light and fluffy crumb, eggs are whipped until they’re pale and voluminous, then the dry ingredients are very gently folded in. There’s usually little to no fat in sponge cakes, although there are exceptions, including the chiffon (which this recipe mirrors) and the Victoria sponge.

A classic yellow cake typically has a higher fat content than a sponge cake, giving it a denser crumb. As a rule of thumb, if a recipe starts with whipping eggs, it’s likely a sponge-style cake. If it asks you to cream butter and sugar, it will be closer to your classic yellow cake.

Credit: Photo: Nicole Wolf | Food Stylist: Catrine Kelty

An Easy, Foolproof Sponge Cake

There are many variations of sponge cake, but this recipe is closest in ingredients and technique to a chiffon sponge. The only difference is that in this recipe, instead of whipping the egg whites and yolks separately and then combining, I whip the eggs all together. I found that the structural integrity of the cake was not affected by mixing the yolks and whites. 

For my first attempt at this recipe, I started out using all-purpose flour and no fat, similar to many recipes I found online. I learned pretty quickly that these methods don’t yield the spongy texture I was aiming for; instead, the crumb was dry, bubbly, and wide, like sourdough bread. Even worse was the flavor — it just tasted like eggs.

From there, I increased the flour to give the cake more body and less egg flavor and added fat in the form of vegetable oil to bring moisture to the crumb. I also swapped all-purpose flour for cake flour. Instead of whipping the yolks and whites separately, I whipped them all together, a deviation from a traditional sponge.

What Makes a Sponge Cake So Light and Fluffy?

As I mentioned above, whipping the eggs until light and fluffy introduces air. This, along with the use of baking powder and cake flour (which has a lower protein content than all-purpose, and therefore generates less gluten), creates the cake’s light and spongy texture. Another factor at play is using an ungreased pan for the cake to cling to.

What Mixing Technique Does a Sponge Cake Require?

When incorporating the dry ingredients into the whipped eggs, you must fold the dry into the wet. Do so by very gently folding the contents at the bottom of the bowl over the top until no dry streaks remain. There will likely be hidden dry pockets, even when you think you have combined everything, so you may need to gently tilt the bowl to seek out these hidden pockets. Be as gentle as possible as to not deflate the egg mixture.

Credit: Photo: Nicole Wolf | Food Stylist: Catrine Kelty

How to Serve Sponge Cake

You can customize your cake by adding different flavored extracts, citrus zests, or dry spices to the mix. Once baked, try soaking the cake in a flavored syrup, topping cake layers with whipped cream and fruit, or cutting the cake and layering it in a trifle.

Sponge Cake Recipe

A classic spongecake recipe with a simplified method.

Prep time 15 minutes to 20 minutes

Cook time 25 minutes to 28 minutes

Makes 2 (9-inch) round cakes

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 6

    large eggs

  • 1/2 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 1/2 cup

    vegetable oil

  • 1 tablespoon

    vanilla extract

  • 1 1/2 cups

    cake flour

  • 1 1/2 teaspoon

    baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Crack 6 large eggs into the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if mixing by hand). Let sit until room temperature.

  2. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350ºF. Line the bottom of 2 (9-inch) round cake pans with parchment paper rounds. Do not grease the pans.

  3. Beat the eggs with the whisk attachment on low speed until blended, about 1 minute. With the mixer still on low speed, slowly pour in 1/2 cup granulated sugar and beat until mostly incorporated. Slowly increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture is tripled in size, pale and fluffy, and forms soft, glossy peaks that resemble soft serve, 6 to 7 minutes.

  4. With the mixer still on medium-high speed, slowly add 1/2 cup vegetable oil in a thin stream and mix until combined, about 45 seconds. Add 1 tablespoon vanilla extract and beat until combined. The mixture will have loosened a bit. Stop the mixer.

  5. Place 1 1/2 cups cake flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Sift half the flour mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into the egg mixture. Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold in the flour mixture until no dry streaks remain. Repeat sifting and folding in the remaining flour, making sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl, until no dry pockets of flour remains; it may take a few minutes to fully incorporate everything together.

  6. Divide the batter between the cake pans and gently smooth the tops with an offset spatula. Bake until the cakes are golden-brown, 23 to 25 minutes. Run an offset spatula or butter knife around each cake to loosen. Let the cakes cool partially in the pan, 15 to 20 minutes. Flip the cakes out of the pan onto a wire rack and let cool completely.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Wrap the cooled cakes in plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 3 months.