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BASIC SPONGE CAKE

Sponge cake This light, ethereal cake is made by mixing together the same volume of eggs, sugar and flour, as has been done by generations of Finnish home bakers.

However, do not be fooled by the simplicity of this recipe, as it may take a lot of practice and strict precision to get the best result.

Since eggs are the only leavening agent in this batter, they must be of top quality, absolutely fresh and extremely well beaten with the sugar to produce a soft, successfully risen cake. If you are not an experienced cake baker, it might be best to add a pinch of baking powder to the flour, just to be on the safe side :-)

Slightly altered by adding butter, spices, nuts, etc, this basic sponge cake recipe can be used for making numerous different cakes, pastries and desserts.

3 eggs
sugar
flour
flavouring suggestions:
  1. 1 - 2 tsp vanilla sugar
  2. ½ - 1 tsp (or to taste) cinnamon, finely crushed cardamom, powdered ginger or gingerbread spice
  3. 1 - 2 tsp grated lemon or orange zest
  4. lemon or almond essence (for quantity, follow the instructions on the product's package)
  5. replace 50 ml of the flour with 50 grams of finely ground almonds
  6. replace 50 ml of the flour with 3 tbsp of cocoa powder
  7. replace part of the sugar with soft brown sugar

When making a sponge cake, always measure the sugar and flour in a right proportion to the volume of eggs. To do this, you will need two or three identical, clear, regular glasses. Start by breaking the eggs into one of the glasses. In the second glass, pour sugar until it reaches the same level as the level of eggs in the first glass (see the picture below).

Eggs, sugar and flour
Eggs, sugar and flour

Take the third glass and pour flour in, until it reaches the same level as the sugar and the eggs in the other glasses (see the picture above). It is very important to pour the flour lightly and loosely into the glass and not pack or press it in firmly.

(You can also do this with two glasses only, if you first pour out the measured sugar from the second glass into a mixing bowl, and then use the same glass again to measure the flour, matching it with the level of eggs in the first glass.) Whether you are making a one, two, three or a hundred-egg-cake, always use this same, simple measurement technique to get the best result.

After measuring, mix the sugar and eggs (and vanilla sugar) in the mixing bowl and beat them thoroughly, until they form a very thick and fluffy, white mixture.

Sponge cake batter The ingredients must be extremely well beaten, therefore I would strictly recommend using an electric mixer.

You must be able to "write" on the batter surface with the batter dripping from the lifted whisk and the figure should remain visible for some time, before sinking down into the batter (see the picture on right).

Very gently fold in the sifted flour with a spatula or a wire whisk, to avoid knocking out the air. Never beat the batter or use an electric mixer to incorporate the flour.

Pour the batter into a generously buttered and lightly floured cake pan  —  a ring/tube pan, springform pan, loaf pan, jelly roll pan  —  depending on the kind of cake you are making. Finnish sponge cake is traditionally baked in a ring pan for about 20 - 30 minutes. If the cake is intended to be cut in layers and filled, use an even-bottomed, tubeless cake pan. If baking the batter in a jelly roll pan, you can line the pan with a sheet of parchment paper instead of buttering and flouring it.

Bake the batter at 175 °C on the bottom rack of the oven for 15 - 40 minutes, depending on the amount and/or thickness of the batter and the size and shape of the cake pan used. Further reduce the baking time if using a jelly roll pan, as the batter is spread into a thin layer. Do not open the oven door until towards the end of the baking time, as this will cause the partly-risen cake to collapse.

The cake is done when it feels springy and firm when tapped on top or when a cake tester/toothpick inserted in it comes out clean. Let the cake cool slightly before unmoulding it. Place the cake on a wire rack and let cool completely.

Serve the cake plain, or sifted with icing sugar or frosted with icing. When baked flat in a jelly roll pan, the cake can be used as a base for simple fruit or berry tarts, like wild strawberry and bilberry tart, or cut into thin rounds or squares to make various filled pastries (like fresh strawberry or raspberry pastries with layers of whipped cream or fruit-flavoured butter cream), or, like ladyfingers, to line dessert moulds, to make tiramisu, etc.

Recipe source: family recipe/traditional Finnish recipe.


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