I find cake baking a bit intimidating because it involves a lot of things that could go wrong and result in a sad block of inedible brick. The cake could fall in the middle, it could crack on top, it could turn out dry and chalky and if you leave your oven unattended for too long, the cake could be reduced to a bit of char though you set the baking time and temperature right. Exact measurements need to be used, ingredients must be mixed just the right way, the temperature has to be just right and so on and so forth. And a sponge cake is particularly tough to bake. OK, I think I have scared you enough. But fear not, because I have for you a step by step tutorial on how to bake a perfectly light and spongy, well, sponge cake!
110 grams of plain flour (For chocolate sponge, refer notes below)
110 grams of granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1½ teaspoon of vanilla essence
3 tablespoons of oil (I use sunflower oil)
Line the bottom of an 8" cake tin (preferably aluminium tin) with butter paper. There is no need to grease the tin.
Sift the flour thrice and keep aside. This adds air to the flour and removes any impurities present.
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
Crack the eggs into a large, clean and dry bowl and add granulated sugar to it.
Beat the eggs and sugar with an electric whisk at high speed till the till creamy and white. This step incorporates air into the cake batter, and will determine how light and spongy your cake is.
Lift the beater and allow some mixture to fall into the bowl. If a ribbon formed on the surface retains it's form for atleast 10 seconds, then you have beaten enough. With my hand held electric whisk (which feels quite heavy after a few minutes), it took me (or rather my dad who was assisting me) around 12-15 minutes to reach here.
Add the essence and continue whisking at high speed for a couple of minutes more till the essence is distributed evenly throughout the batter.
Add half the flour to the batter along the edges, as shown in the above picture.
Fold in the flour by moving your spatula along the edges of the bowl. This needs to be done quickly and carefully so as to retain the air bubbles you have painstakingly beaten into the eggs.
When the flour appears to be incorporated, cut your spatula through the middle of the batter, and sweep it up the side of the bowl. This brings up any flour that hasn't been mixed into the batter as yet. Continue folding in the batter, till cutting through it doesn't turn up any more unincorporated flour.
Add oil and the remaining flour to the batter, and again cut and fold it in as before.
Pour the batter into the cake tin. Knock down the cake tin a couple of times onto your kitchen counter to remove any large air bubbles present and to break the small air bubbles on top of the batter.
Pop the tin into the preheated oven and bake for about 25 minutes or till the cake is done. You know it is nearing doneness when you get the wonderful aroma of freshly baked cake. To make sure, stick a toothpick into the middle of the cake, if it comes out clean without any wetness or crumbs sticking to it, the cake is done. Or else touch the surface of the cake lightly. You know the cake is done if it springs back immediately.
Invert the cake tin onto a metal rack (do not try removing the cake from the tin now) and leave it to cool completely, preferably overnight.
Once the cake has cooled down completely, run a knife along the edges of the tin and ease it out.
Keep the cake wrapped in cling film so that it doesn't dry out.
Of course, you don't have to stop here. Let your imagination run wild, and convert the sponge into different kinds of cream cakes, tortes and desserts.
But for this, you need to first neaten up the cake a bit. With a bread knife, remove the crust from the top and sides of the cake. If the cake has risen in the middle resembling a dome, then slice off the dome with sawing motions of the bread knife so that you have an even top.
To layer the cake, place it on an inverted plate. Find the centre on the side of the cake, hold the bread knife flat against this point(even a slightly titled knife will cause the layers to be uneven) and divide the cake into two layers with sawing motions of the bread knife.
This cake can also be easily divided into three layers.
Proceed with icing, filling or whatever it is you have in mind. I made a butterscotch cream cake, will post it soon.
1) For chocolate sponge, substitute 110 grams of plain flour with 90 grams of plain flour and 20 grams of unsweetened cocoa powder and sift together.
2) If you plan to eat the cake as such, it would a good idea to add half teaspoon of orange rind and couple of pinches of lime rind for added flavour.
3) No, this cake does not need baking powder or soda. It is leavened soley by the air beaten into the eggs.
4) All ingredients, including the eggs must be at room temperature.
5) Do not use powdered sugar in place of granulated sugar.
6) You can use other essence in place or in addition to vanilla essence, but the quantity to be used must be decided depending on the flavour you choose. For eg: 1½ teaspoons of butterscotch essence would make the cake inedible.
7) All ovens behave differently, and you may have to adjust the baking time on your oven accordingly.
8) Be patient and do not open the oven every now and then to check on the cake. :) It would cause temperature in the oven to fall, and the cake would fall in the middle.
Will be back soon with my butterscotch cake recipe. Till then, take care!