Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The art of the sponge



Ah, sponge cake! Is there anything more likely to strike fear into the hearts of cooks and joy in the faces of the afternoon tea guests?

Epicure in today's Age features a gorgeous article on sponge cake, which it says has become an endangered species. "The sponge was an early casualty of the post-WWII economic boom. Dramatic social and economic changes led to a decline in home preserving and home baking ... The sponge, being a time-consuming cake, was almost lost in the rush for modernity," Richard Cornish writes. The County Women's Association are the self-appointed guardians of the traditional sponge and they outline in the article their many theories as to why the sponge has declined, chief among them being lack of time. CWA state president Noela MacLeod says that people are too busy to bake sponges and find it easier to buy a cream-filled sponge from the supermarket (personally, I would rather eat cardboard than one of those cakes).

My great-aunt always served a sponge for afternoon tea, usually a traditional sponge with a cream and jam filling, but occasionally chocolate sponge or ginger fluff sponge. Mystique surrounds sponge cakes because they can be temperamental and nothing is more deflating to a cook's ego than a flat sponge. You must use fresh eggs, sift the dry ingredients several times, take care not to overbeat the mixture, grease the tins well and make sure the oven is the correct temperature.

I made sponges often as a little girl but have steered clear of them in recent years because of my temperamental oven. However, mum recently gave me her recipe for ginger fluff sponge. I love the spicy gingeriness of this cake, much more than a traditional sponge and it's great for afternoon tea. It's good timing as I plan to make it this weekend as a tribute to the sponge - long may it live!

GINGER FLUFF SPONGE

4 eggs
3/4 cup white sugar
1 dessertspoon golden syrup
1/2 cup arrowroot or cornflour
2 teaspoons ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon cocoa
2 dessertspoons plain flour
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda

Beat eggs and sugar until thick and creamy. Add golden syrup. Sift together twice arrowroot, ginger, cinnamon, cocoa, flour, bicarb soda and cream of tartar. Fold into egg mixture. Pour into two 20cm well-greased sandwich tins. Bake in a moderate oven (180 degrees) for 15-20 minutes. Fill with whipped cream, ice with chocolate icing and dot with cherries or chopped walnuts. Best eaten on the day it's made.

8 comments:

Miss Eagle said...

I've blogged a sponge recipe over at Oz Tucker - it allows me to keep me head high. The best sponges I have ever known or seen were made in Bowen, North Queensland by Dorothy Townley - with duck eggs from her own ducks. If there was a fete or street stall on, Dorothy would say I'll whip you up a few sponges - and six sky high fluffy sponges like you may never have seen would turn up. They were at least 12-14cm high. Wonderful!

Cherrie Pie said...

I read this article and thought it was a shame that the sponge cake was a dying breed.

The recipe for the ginger fluff cake looks yummy. I will give this a go. Thanks for the recipe.

Melinda said...

Wow, Miss Eagle, those sponges sound fabulous! Dorothy must have had a real knack for it.
I agree, Cherrie Pie. We should not allow gems such as the sponge cake to die. Hopefully blogs such as ours will keep the passions burning!

Truffle said...

I am about to try out the Epicure recipe today so it was wonderful to see this post. Am sure it will be a disaster but fingers crossed. Your ginger fluff one sounds delightful!

Melinda said...

Hi Truffle - hope the sponge was a success! Let me know how you went.

Gobble & Guzzle said...

I am entering cakes in an Agricultural Show and was looking for a recipe for a Ginger Fluff Sponge. I plan on giving this recipe a go and see how well I fare at the Show. Also, my 15 year old daughter came home from school with a sponge cake recipe that beats my mum's and I will be entering that too!! Thanks

Gobble & Guzzle said...

I am entering cakes in an Agricultural Show and was looking for a recipe for a Ginger Fluff Sponge. I plan on giving this recipe a go and see how well I fare at the Show. Also, my 15 year old daughter came home from school with a sponge cake recipe that beats my mum's and I will be entering that too!! Thanks

Anonymous said...

Hi
Very nice and intrestingss story.