Over the years I’ve made several thousand different sponge cakes and they’ve not all turned out looking beautiful.
In fact several have been total disasters which have had to be scraped into the bin in a rage and forgotten about over a strong gin and tonic.
However, the trials and tribulations of making so many cakes means I’ve now nailed it down and can (almost always) make a pretty decent sponge cake when needed.
So, here are five top tips to use every time you make a sponge cake. Be it a classic Victoria Sponge or a rich chocolate version, these will help you avoid sunken middles or burnt, cracked tops.
If you’ve got any to add, please let me know in the comments box below.
Make sure your oven is at the right temperature
I know it sounds obvious but the temperature of your oven can make a big difference to your cake.
Ovens vary wildly so get to know yours – including the difference between baking on the top, middle and bottom shelves.
If the oven’s too hot the cake will rise too quickly and might crack on top, or the outsides will become dark (and sometimes burnt) while the inside is still raw.
On this note – don’t put a cake in until the oven has pre-heated fully – as if not the cake won’t rise as quickly as it should and never open the oven until at least three quarters of the cooking time has passed.
Don’t add too much (or too little) baking powder
How much (or how little) your cake rises will mean the difference between a beautiful, upright structure or a flopped disaster.
Always stick to what’s recommended in the recipe and don’t be tempted to add extra.
If you’ve put in too much raising agent the cake will shoot upwards quickly but when you take it out of the oven is likely to fall dramatically leaving a sunken hole in the middle of the cake.
Thoroughly mix the butter and sugar
Whenever I make a sponge cake I spend at least five minutes – with an electric mixer – beating the butter and sugar at the very first stage.
You want a really light, fluffy consistency and for the mixture to have almost doubled in size from when you first started.
If you’re doing it by hand this is going to take longer (you’ll also end up with one beefy baker’s arm), but it is worth it.
Don’t overfill your cake tin
You should always use the correct cake tin as recommended in a recipe however if you don’t have one just stick to the rule of only filling the tin so the mixture fills around three quarters of it.
If you put too much in it’ll spill over the top and onto the bottom of your oven – not a total disaster but a pain to clean up.
If you’ve got any extra mixture after you’ve filled it by three quarters you can always fill a few empty cup cake cases, and save these to eat yourself!
Always line your cake tins with baking paper
After having to take a sharp knife to a beloved baking tin and chisel out a burnt-on cake I never miss out the baking paper stage.
It seems like a faff – but it’s worth it – and there’s also lots of very easy pre-made baking case you can buy if you can’t be bothered with this cutting, measuring and fitting stage.
Make sure liquid ingredients are at room temperature before you add them
Before you add any liquid ingredients, such as eggs, milk or vanilla essence, leave them to reach room temperature.
Then when you add them to the butter and sugar, do it slowly and add in a tablespoon of the dry mixture in between each dollop of liquid (or in between every egg).
This stops the mixture curdling which can leave you with a clumpy, dense texture in the finished cake.