Women and Their Work

Light as a Feather

Correct mixing methods and careful baking are the secrets to sponge cake success

KATHERINE M. CALDWELL May 15 1929
Women and Their Work

Light as a Feather

Correct mixing methods and careful baking are the secrets to sponge cake success

KATHERINE M. CALDWELL May 15 1929

Light as a Feather

Women and Their Work

Correct mixing methods and careful baking are the secrets to sponge cake success

KATHERINE M. CALDWELL

THE feathery sponge cake, served for itself alone or used as the basis for an ultra-delicate dessert, should have a greater place in the baking habits of the average home than it has managed to secure. Some people shy away from it because of the persistent legend that it is most difficult to make. Others fear its effect on the budget.

I should like to come to the defense of the sponge cake on both of these scores. It is a fact, that the true sponge cake makes very generous use of eggs; but we must remember that butter, which is another expensive item, does not enter into the making of this type of cake, nor does it require an icing—although I consider that the sponge cake is at its delectable best when it is split and the layers put together with a delicate lemon filling.

As to the other basis for its avoidance, I have known many amateurs who have had their first real cakemaking success with members of the Sponge Cake family; as a matter of fact, if you begin with detailed and correct instructions and follow them precisely, I do not see how you can very well help having a success with your sponge cake.

Correct mixing by its own peculiar method and careful baking in a well-regulated oven, are the secrets to sponge cake success.

The Best of Ingredients

rPHE importance of eggs in the sponge cake being admitted, it is wise to lay also some stress on their being fresh. The egg that is two days old, spells perfection when it comes to beating well—though the fortunate ones who must put their eggs away for a day before using them on that account, are few in number. The sugar for a sponge cake should be fine, so that it will dissolve readily. The flour should be sifted once before measuring and then sifted a number of times afterward to make it as light and airy as possible. Pastry flour is preferred. The grated yellow rind of lemon and a little lemon juice supply a favorite flavoring and the lemon juice serves another purpose as well—its acid has the effect of helping to stiffen the egg white, when it is beaten to make a mass of air-filled cells. Orange rind offers another desirable flavor. If you want to use vanilla or another extract, you can provide a little acid by adding a little cream of tartar to the flour.

It is a fortunate fact that the use of the standard measuring cup and measuring spoons is steadily on the increase. For years there has been a strong movement on foot to standardize recipes, for if the homemaker is to get the benefit of the co-operation that exists between schools and publishers and government departments, she must follow suit in using the standards of measurements which they have adopted. A measuring cup and a set of measuring spoons cost but a few cents each, but their worth is incalculable.

A word about the pans before discussing the actual cake making. A special pan should be reserved for making sponge cakes only, the reason being that it should never be greased. If you make one good sponge cake, it is easy to predict that you will make many more, so you will not mind reserving one pan for this special purpose.

The True Sponge Cake

6 average sized eggs (or 4 very large eggs, or 4 eggs and 2 yolks or extra whites) 1 tablespoonful lemon juice

1 cupful sugar 1 cupful pastry flour M teaspoonful salt Grated rind of y2 lemon

Breakthe eggs, separating yolks and whites.

Beat yolks until they are thick and lemoncolored and add to them half of the sugar, beginning with just a spoonful at a time and beating well after each small addition. Continue beating until the sugar is dissolved. It is at this point that you will appreciate a fine sugar—its use will also show in the final texture of your cake.

Add the grated lemon rind and the lemon juice to the egg yolk mixture.

Beat the egg whites until they are frothy, add the salt and beat the yolks until stiff. Begin to add the second half of your sugar, sprinkling a little at a time on the surface of the egg whites and beating it in. Continue beating until all sugar has been added and the mixture is thick and smooth.

You are now ready to combine your mixtures. The best utensil to use is the old-fashioned, spoon-shaped, wire egg-whisk. Fold a little of the egg white mixture into the egg yolk mixture, using the fewest possible number of strokes, because in all the rest of your mixing, you must work lightly and blend the ingredients without sacrificing any of the lightness you have whipped into them.

When part of the egg white mixture has been combined with the yolks, you are ready to begin adding flour. As I mentioned earlier, the flour is sifted once before it is measured, after which it should be sifted four times. Fold it in, a little at a time, with a light upwardand-over movement, manipulating the mixture only enough to blend the ingredients thoroughly. Continue to add alter nately the beaten whites and the flour, until all have been combined and nicely blended without being over-worked.

Turn your mixture into an ungreased pan—either one with a tube in the centre or a shallow square pan which is the ideal utensil for a filled sponge cake. When the pan is deep, it should be of the tube type; so that the heat may reach the mixture from two sides instead of having to penetrate too far.

The reason for using an ungreased pan is twofold; a greased pan furthers a tendency toward toughening the crust of the cake; in the second place, as your sponge batter expands under the influence of heat it creeps up the sides of the pan, and if these are not greased it can stick to them better, making the cake higher and lighter.

Baking the Sponge Cake

AS I warned in the beginning, the method of baking the cake is just as important as the method of mixing it. Both are characteristic of this special type of cake.

The oven must be slow. If you are accustomed to making layer cakes and the various butter mixtures, many of which are best baked in a moderate oven, you will have to remember that the sponge cake will not fare well under the same conditions. All egg mixtures require slow cooking, so have your oven temperature, then, at from 300 deg. Fahr, to 325 deg. Fahr. If your oven is automatically controlled, set it for 320 deg. Fahr., and leave it at that, for the cake will make perfect progress and will not require examination until you think the baking is about complete. In fact, when you have once settled on the length of time that your mixture requires in a certain pan, you will be able to gauge it exactly.

At 320 deg. Fahr., an angel or sponge cake requires as a rule from forty to sixty minutes, depending upon its size, the type of container used and the exact composition of the batter.

In the first quarter of the cooking period, the cake will begin to rise but it should not show any tendency to color. In the second quarter, it will begin to color, while continuing to rise. In the third quarter, it will finish rising and begin to show a nice brown, and in the final quarter, it will finish setting—all the little delicate cells which are filled with the expanded air, will become firm, so that they will not break down when taken from the heat—the effect we describe as “falling.”

When the cake is cooked, it will be firm to the touch, a nice light brown in color and shrunken a little from the sides of the pan. It is always a good test to thrust a clean straw into the centre of the cake— which will be the last to cook—if the cake is done it will come out clean and dry. Another test is to press the surface lightly with your finger—the depression will fill right out again when pressure is removed, if the cake is baked.

A sponge cake is not removed from its pan when it is taken from the oven; invert the pan over your wire cooling rack, supporting it on two objects and let the cake hang suspended in it; it will shrink slightly as it cools and will probably pull gently away from the pan and settle down upon the cooler. If the cake still clings to the pan when it has cooled completely, you may loosen it with a knife and tilt the pan gently to free the cake. The object of letting the cake hang suspended in the pan is to cause a continued stretching of the little cell walls instead of encouraging them to settle a little when removed from the heat.

There is another method of mixing a sponge cake which is well-sponsored. It calls for th# making of a syrup to begin with—one and a quarter cupfuls of sugar and one cupful of water being used. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and then let the syrup cook until a little dropped in cold water will form a soft ball (238 deg. Fahr.). Beat the six egg whites of the standard recipe very stiff and when the syrup is ready, pour it very gradually over the egg whites, beating it continually until the mixture is cooled. Beat the egg yolks until thick and lemon colored, add the flavoring to them and fold them into the egg whites, then fold in very gently the flour and salt and, if you have not used lemon as your flavoring, one teaspoonful cream of tartar. These dry ingredients should be sifted together several times beforehand. Bake and cool by the method already given.