"Cows are my passion. What I have ever sighed for has been to retreat to a farm and live entirely surrounded by cows–and china." Charles Dickens

January 23, 2011

Three-bowl sponge cake

I renamed this recipe 'three-bowl sponge cake'––the author is not kidding, it takes three bowls!
My husband loves sponge cake and hates angel food cake, even after I told him that sponge cake is essentially angel food cake with the yolks left in––go figure! [Now if it were devil's food vs. angel food cake this reality might make more sense.] I haven't made sponge cake since we lived in New Hampshire. This is because my assortment of handwritten, oft used recipes is in some as yet unopened box. My regular 'go to' sponge cake recipes were written in the hand a New England farmwife, now deceased, that my husband had tapped for her wisdom on the subject (this, I must note, was before I came on the scene, even though I never made sponge cake until we were married). Elizabeth Weston wrote out her several versions of sponge cake, including one made with hot milk. I have made each of them.

This week Temple asked me to make him a sponge cake, oh, pretty please with sugar on top, and I happily obliged––even though I'm trying not to bake as much in the New Year. Besides, a good wallop in the head deserves a good sponge cake (and he is a bit cracked in the head, but just fine now––thank you for your thoughts!).

Pillowy, beaten egg whites are the key to a good sponge cake. Of course I think of William Wordsworth:
'I wandered lonely as a cloud that floats on high o'er vales and hills...'

Still in boxes are my many cookbooks, minus about one hundred that I have on shelves. Normally I would consult several sources for different takes on recipes. Of course, you can do this on-line, too, but then you are really asking for it. Googling on 'sponge cake recipes' is about as ubiquitous a task as Googling on 'John Smith.' Then again, try to explain to my husband, or anyone, why I still have hundreds of cookbooks (and counting), plus, um, boxes of magazine recipe clippings, when the internet guarantees just about any recipe in the world––most in multiple versions. If you are a crazy foodie, like me, you will understand this very modern muddle.

Properly made sponge cake is light, has heft, and looks like a clean yellow sponge with its many pores––perfect for soaking up whatever you put on top. Not too sweet, not dry, but not overly moist, either. 

In my quest for sponge cake, and determined to turn real pages, I consulted a cookbook I don't use enough. It's rather like The Joy of Cooking for the farmwife (and yes, I did first check the tried and true Farm Journal's Country Cooking by Nell Nichols, but no luck). A few years after we were married, I bought The Blue Ribbon Country Cookbook, written by Diane Roupe and published by Clarkson Potter (1998). I was impressed by its offerings and immense size (a whopping four pounds!) and yeah, I was lured by its cover featuring a perfect cherry pie. (I'm a sucker for cherry pie.)
Egg whites and a thick frothy yolk mixture await folding together. It's also great to use your own eggs––and my hens are laying more frequently now with the increasing daylight.

I was not disappointed by Roupe's sponge cake recipe. It follows, below, borrowed directly from the controversial Google Books out of shear and utter laziness (hey, even The Pantry is on Google books now, so I figure they owe me one). [So, yes, it is a scan of the actual page, via a nifty cut and paste thing I learned from my friend Edie––I can include the method in comments if you are interested.] I made no changes to this recipe at all, unless you count that I used regular sugar instead of superfine. Just make sure to use three bowls, beat everything according to the required minutes, fold gently to combine the two egg mixtures, and, above all, use an angel food pan! [Mine was in storage––but I just found it this weekend––and I managed with a bundt pan and a small cake pan: you need a large angel food cake pan as this recipe makes a lot of batter.]

Ribbon the egg yolk mixture over the beaten egg whites into your third bowl. The bright yellow color comes from the quality of the yolks from our free-range chickens.

Fold gently, being careful not to overstir.
Two pans in lieu of one big one!
We like our sponge cake heaped with fresh or thawed berries, that we freeze in summer, and whipped cream (Stonyfield's Oikos 'caramel' yogurt works in a pinch, too!)––the best version of 'shortcake'!

You come back when you're ready!



  1. Yum -- I love, love homemade whipped cream, but what a great idea to put yogurt on a sponge cake. And ... I can never get enough of our homestate's pride --Stonyfield. Destiny

  2. If you won't do them for our Temp, I will. There might be a cat hair or two to provide an extra dollop of protein but what's a cat hair among friends?


  3. P.S. I'm glad to see you finally got the header to go all the way across the page.



Welcome to the farm! I hope you feel free to comment and share here. I will respond as often as I can.