Cake making and baking is an intrinsic part of British and Irish Food, we are avid bakers and fiercely competitive about the lightness of our cakes. Making a feather light sponge cake has always been the sign of being a good baker; this has created many myths around the making of a sponge cake with the dread of it being less than perfect putting many off. Let me dispel those myths, making a feather light sponge is easy with just a few simple and easy tips.
Tip 1 - PreparationBefore you begin any mixing, weigh out all the ingredients for the cake so that when you come to start mixing you will be able to work quickly. Working quickly prevents you from over mixing the cake, or conversely, leaving the cake mixture standing while you weigh something out the cake batter will start to loose air.
Tip 2 - The Cake TinsThe tins need to be greased and the bottom lined with baking parchment. If you do this in advance then once to cake is mixed the tins can be filled. Less lingering in the kitchen for the cake mix means a lighter cake.
Tip 3 - The OvenAlways preheat the oven before you start for the reason outlined above. Also, arrange the shelves in advance, most sponge cakes like to be in the middle of the oven unless you have a super-modern fan oven which claim cakes can be cooked anywhere in the oven.
Tip 4 - TemperatureMake sure your ingredients are at room temperature. Cold eggs do not whip up easily and will not hold the same volume of air as a slightly warm one.
Tip 5 - The Butter or Baking SpreadWhile the cake ingredients should be at room temperature, the butter or baking spread you are using needs to be even warmer but NOT HOT. The butter should be soft but still holding together, if the butter or spread is too soft it becomes oily and the resulting cake heavy and dense. If the butter is too cold it takes a long to incorporate in to the sugar or eggs and can cause over-mixing which in turns means a heavy cake.
Tip 6 - The Flour
- Always sift the flour into the cake mixture, or mix the baking powder with the flour and then sift. Sifting adds air and thus lightness to a cake mixture.
- Use a cake flour if available, cake flour tends to be finer milled resulting in a lighter cake. If you can find cake flour then proceed as above by sifting.