For a long, long time I have wanted to try cooking a sponge. I gather they can be pretty hard to make, some people can never pull it off, and others just have the knack. I have long remembered a comment my father made when I was a child about his aunties making sponges from heaps of eggs, which I thought just sounded fun, and decadent. So when the Cook's Sponge began, baking a sponge was at the top of my list. I've never really believed that baking is about magic, or having the knack, it's just about having the knowledge. Following the recipe.
|Check out the HEIGHT on that baby!|
So I tried. And I tried and I tried. And I don't really want to talk about it. I rang my own aunt who is a bit of pro, and read all sorts of things and got all sorts of advice, on how to beat the eggs and how many times to sift the flour and which brand of cornflour to use and whether to grease the sides of the tin. My favourite tip was the one where you drop the tins on a hard floor as soon as they come out of the oven to knock the air bubbles out of the cake and stop it from sinking. I definitely tried that one, whipping out the back door and dropping them with great delight straight down on to my patio. But really I should have just thrown them across the patio.
They were all sort of edible, but that's not really the ultimate aim of cooking is it? The problem that kept repeating itself was how flat they were. Hopelessly flat. I even started getting suspicious of my oven and started blaming my tools...
So we've been away for a few days in Greytown this week, staying on a farm. As always, the Saturday DomPost featured a recipe from Alison and Simon Holst. I have never been particularly inspired to try their Saturday night contributions, but I certainly raised an eyebrow when I saw their Cornflour Sponge. And I couldn't believe how high it had risen! I was also curious about a recipe that had only cornflour, and no standard flour. Perhaps this was the key.
And that was that, I had to try. With two children rising at a revoltingly early hour because they were sleeping in strange beds, I had plenty of time to fill. It's just a pity I had to turn the oven on in the 34 degree heat.
The result was fantastic! They were higher than I could ever have believed! What do you reckon? I think I have cracked it, and won't look at another sponge recipe ever again. Thanks Alison and Simon.
There's actually not a lot to do. Just keep your wits about you and follow the instructions closely.
I know the traditionalists only do strawberry jam and cream in the middle with icing sugar on top, but I wanted cream on top, so I added mock cream to the centre (beat equal quantities butter, sugar, boiling water).
Does this excite you? Do you want to make a sponge? Do you want to eat a sponge? You don't find them in cafes these days, and even if you did, would you choose it over a brownie or a lemon syrup cake? I really enjoyed it very much, but feel as though it's a rare occasion that calls for a sponge. Perhaps just an ordinary Sunday summer afternoon is all you need. I could definitely eat this often. It's a sugar hit though, so don't do it every Sunday. Glucose/dextrose doesn't work so don't attempt it (believe me), you'll have to go for the full-fat version this time.
Aside from a few wording changes from me, all credit to Team Holst for the recipe below.
4 large (size 7) eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (170g) sugar (caster if you have it)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup (150g) maize cornflour
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons boiling water
Separate eggs, placing whites in a large bowl and keep yolks to one side. Add the salt to the whites and beat until they form soft peaks. Gradually add the sugar, beating the mixture until it becomes glossy and shiny and forms stiff peaks. Gently fold in the yolks and vanilla.
Sift the cornflour and baking powder into another bowl, then sift again in to the egg whites. Add the boiling water and fold the mixture together.
Line two 20cm cake tins with baking paper, and grease both the paper and the sides (with butter or non-stick spray). Smooth and level the tops as much as possible.
Bake at 180 degrees for 20 minutes.
Let cool a little in the pan, then tip on to a cooling rack covered with a tea towel.