Sponge cakes have been on the dessert table since at least the Renaissance in Western Europe and traveled to America with settlers of all nationalities. They’re made without yeast and depend largely on beaten egg whites for leavening.
Some recipes call for butter, and some for a dash of baking powder, but most are composed solely of eggs, flour, sugar, boiling water and flavorings. Queen Victoria loved sponge cake. She put jam and whipped cream between two slices.
My grandmother always sifted a light coating of powdered sugar on the cake. It’s ideal as a base for any kind of fruit.
Sponge cake is so popular in New Orleans that we mentioned it in our debut novel in the Love in New Orleans Series. Renee Desselle, heroine of The Willing Widow, finds an impressive array of finger foods at the Collins garden party.
“Wandering alone down the widest shell path to the first tent, Renee found iced tea, claret-cup, lemonade, dainty chicken sandwiches, ham biscuits, sponge cake, ginger cake, orange ices—and William under the whale-bone eaves that supported the canvas.”
The Willing Widow is available as an ebook or paperback on amazon.com.
Makes one 9 x 12 loaf cake
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon lemon juice*
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind*
2 teaspoons baking powder
STEP BY STEP:
- Preheat oven to oven to 325°F. Do not grease pan. Line bottom with parchment paper or waxed paper.
- Separate eggs. Set aside whites. Beat yolks on high speed until they are thick and lemon-colored. Gradually beat in the sugar. Add water alternately with flour. Add lemon juice and rind. Set aside.
- Beat egg whites until foamy. Add baking powder and beat until stiff peaks form.
- Fold egg whites into yolk-flour mixture.
- Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until top is brown and tester comes out clean.
- To cook, invert the pan on a cooling rack.
*If you prefer, substitute 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract for lemon juice and rind.