This cake goes by many names. Yellow cake. Basic cake. Butter cake. Sponge cake. Vanilla cake. Victorian sponge. And the list could go on. By whichever name you know it, in this post I share tips that result in a light, delicate flavourful cake.
Typically the first cake most Kenyan girls learn to bake is a vanilla sponge cake. After my mum taught me and I mastered it, I would add to the basic recipe lemon rind and juice for a "lemon cake". Cocoa for "chocolate cake". When the cocoa wasn't enough, a "marble cake".
- Use a scale to measure the ingredients. I have tried to convert the recipe to cups but your best option is to use weight instead of volume to measure your ingredients.
- If for instance the recipe calls for 175 grams self-raising flour, substitute it with 150 grams self-raising and 25 grams cornflour. Same idea when using all-purpose flour. Basically the best flour for the job is cake flour.
- Add an extra teaspoon of baking powder for additional leavening.
- Start off by weighing the eggs in its shell first. The butter, sugar, eggs and flour should all be the same weight.So let's say 3 eggs weighed 160 grams. The recipe would be: 160g butter=160g sugar=160g eggs=160g flour
- It is best if all your ingredients are at room temperature.
- The creaming method. Whether you are using a hand mixer, a food processor, or a stand mixer, creaming the butter and sugar should not be hurried. Give it a good 3-4 minutes, until it is truly light or fluffy. Also it should be pale in colour compared to when you began. The purpose of this process is for the sugar to slightly dissolve in the butter. This step also incorporates air into the cake which helps it to rise.
- The next step after creaming is to add the eggs one at a time. The eggs should be fully emulsified, or completely absorbed in the fat.
- Very lightly mix in the flour. Do not overmix the batter. The reason not to, is mixing too long strengthens the gluten in the flour which may result in a structured but tough cake.
- Totally optional – separate the egg yolks from the whites. Mix the yolks after creaming. Beat the whites to soft peaks and fold in at the absolute last stage (like a chiffon cake).
- Rotate the cake in the oven halfway through when baking.
But what if after adding the eggs the mixture looks curdled?
- You probably used cold eggs from the fridge. See how to bring eggs to room temperature in 5 minutes.
- Or the eggs were added all at once which does not give the creamed butter enough time to absorb the liquid/eggs.
- Or, strange as it may sound you did not scrape down the sides of the bowl.
How to fix it?
- Scrape the sides of the bowl completely to incorporate the ingredients and continue mixing.
- Or, add a Tablespoon of flour before adding in the next egg, to absorb the liquid that is not being absorbed by the butter.
Armed with this information, "Go ye and bake sponge cake".
- 225 grams or 1 cup room temperature butter or margarine
- 225 grams or 1 1/8 cup sugar
- 5 room temperature eggs (weigh your eggs with the shells, it could be more or less)
- 5 Tablespoons milk
- 2 teaspoon vanilla essence
- 200 grams or 1 2/3 cup all purpose flour∗
- 25 grams or 3 Tablespoons corn flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ∗NOTE: If using self-raising flour omit salt but add only 1 teaspoon baking powder
Heat the oven to 160°C or 350°F. Grease and flour cake pan or pans.
Cream the 2 cups butter and 1 1/8 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Scrape the sides of the bowl.
Whisk in the 5 eggs one at a time until it is completely absorbed.
Into the egg mixture, whisk in the 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 5 Tablespoons milk and the 1 2/3 cups self-raising flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder and 3 Tablespoons corn flour.
Pour the batter into the cake pans and bake. Rotate halfway. Bake about 30 minutes. It is ready when toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool.