The sponge cake is a basic, fluffy recipe of Italian pastry, one of the most versatile and prepared at home. Unlike a regular cake, this moist sponge cake recipe does not call for baking powder or baking soda, but lots of whipped eggs. In fact, the ingredients used are flour, eggs and sugar.
The eggs, strictly at room temperature, must be fresh and whipped for a long time with the electric whisk; in this way you will obtain a high, soft and spongy cake, without the use of baking powder, just as tradition requires. The use of a weak flour such as all purpose flour, mixed with a part of potato starch (or cornstarch), will allow us to obtain a not very elastic dough – also thanks to the absence of baking powder – and an even softer and alveolate final product.
Sponge cake is a real jolly in the kitchen; you can fill it in layers with custard, or a ganache, you can use it to assemble a delicious trifle or to compose more elaborate cakes for parties and special occasions. Like all traditional desserts, there are many different variants, such as the egg-free sponge cake and even the savory one, to be stuffed with meats and cheeses and perfect for appetizers and delicious aperitifs.
At this point you just have to try our classic recipe; we can't assure you that it will be very easy, but we are sure of the final result. Once out of the oven, you can let it cool and stuff it with creams, jams and delicious fillings, but you can also enjoy it as it is, soaked in a cup of hot milk for an unforgettable breakfast.
Despite the apparent simplicity, it can hide several pitfalls. In fact, this recipe, feared by most cooks, appeared as early as 1855 in the strict program of exams for pastry chefs at the Berlin school.
The sponge cake was born in Madrid, but thanks to a Ligurian chef, Giovan Battista Cabona, who, on the occasion of a banquet in the Spanish capital, made a light and fluffy cake with the same ingredients as the Piedmontese Savoyard; this delicacy was so much appreciated by the royal family that at first it was called "pan Genoise" (Genoa bread), in honor of its creator.
If you are not sure about the egg whipping, you can add a teaspoon of baking powder by sifting it together with the flour.
To keep sponge cakes from deflating halfway through baking or falling you need to incorporate the eggs in small doses.
Let the sponge cake cool before covering or wrapping it otherwise the top will become sticky as it traps the moisture inside.
If you like, you can also add other flavors to replace lemon, such as orange peel or vanilla extract. You can also add cocoa powder for a chocolate sponge cake.
For a truly flawless result, read our guide on mistakes to avoid.
The sponge cake can be stored at room temperature for 4-5 days, in a special food bag. You can freeze it, whole or in slices, for 1 month.
Shell the eggs and collect them in a bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer (1).
Add the granulated sugar (2) and then the grated lemon zest.
Start whipping with the electric whips at maximum speed (3). After a minute, add a tablespoon of lemon juice and continue to work for at least 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, sift the flour (4).
When the dough has quadrupled its initial volume, it must be yellow in color and with a creamy and foamy consistency, not liquid (5).
At this point, add the sifted flour (6).
Add one tablespoon at a time and mix from the bottom up to avoid breaking the mixture (7).
Continue until all the flour is finished (8).
Pour the dough into a 22 cm diameter pan, perfectly greased and floured (9).
Distribute the dough gently so as not to break it (10).
Bake the sponge cake at 340° F for about 50 minutes, taking care never to open the oven for 40 minutes (11).
After the baking time, turn off the oven and open it gradually; let the sponge cake cool inside for a few minutes. Turn it out when it is completely cold (12).