Cakes are so easy to make, and so good from scratch, that I wonder how North America ever came around to being dependent on the boxed stuff at all. My chocolate crazy cake, not only preservative and artificial flavour/colour free, but also vegan of all things, “kicks the **** out of the store-bought sheet cakes” (a friend’s words, not mine). It’s been a hardcore mainstay for the last 18 or so months, and I’ve only recently managed to convince people to let me try making something else for dessert once in a while.
I’m not sure how it happened, but these flabby, heavy, wet-sponge-like pucks someone called cake sort of invaded the white-cake world and took over. You can’t actually find a proper strawberry shortcake anymore (on the to-do list)–they’re built on a sponge cake base. Shortcake is actually more properly a biscuit in texture, and a sponge cake is NOT a shortcake.
Anal retentive of me, perhaps, but if you’ve ever spent an hour trying looking up an authentic shortcake recipe and instead found 3,000 recipes for strawberry shortcake built on a store-bought sponge base, perhaps you can sympathize. Also, the entirety of England and I are the wrong people to argue with about whether hamburger can be used to make SHEPHERD’s pie. Same reason.
Cottage pie, people. Call it cottage pie. Shepherds look after sheep, not animals that go moo.
Anyway, where was I? Oh right, sponge cake, which should resemble a dry sponge, not a wet one. This right proper sponge cake has barely anything to it at all; the whole cake has less than half of the flour of a standard one. Sponge cake is elegant in simplicity; it shouldn’t be weighed down by a laundry list of ingredients.
Light and fluffy and oh-so-perfect for summer treats of all kinds. Just four ingredients: eggs, sugar, cake flour, and vanilla. You can even omit the vanilla if you like, but without it, the cake tastes like a fluffy bit of nothing. Bake it in a sheet pan, cube it and drizzle with liquor for a fast trifle, or amp the vanilla a little and opt for 9″ rounds for a beautiful vanilla layer cake. And, my gluten-free friends, given the nature of the cake itself, it should convert nicely to GF.
You really can’t lose. This is the only white cake recipe you’ll ever need.
- 6 eggs, separated
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup cake flour
- 1/4 - 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- With a hand mixer or a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, whip the egg whites in a bowl with 1/2 cup sugar and the vanilla until stiff peaks form.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the yolks and remaining sugar until the yolks turn a light lemon yellow.
- Using a spatula, carefully fold the yolks into the whipped egg whites. Add the cake flour 1/3 of a cup at a time and fold in. Do not mix more than necessary.
- Line a 9x13 pan or two 9" circular pans with parchment paper and carefully spread the fluffy batter into the bottom of the pans. Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
- Do not overbake, and do not overmix. Ensure that the final mixing is done carefully by hand to keep as much air as possible in the batter.
- All purpose flour may be successfully substituted for cake flour, but the texture will not be as tender. Sift AP flour for better results.