A good sponge cake is airy, light, and fluffy, yet offers
a delicate resistance. The trick is beating in enough air to encourage rising
and the formation of bubbles throughout the cake. There are three critical moments
to ensure this: beating the egg yolks and sugar with boiling water until the
mixture is pale and extremely thick; adding the flour in several batches after
sifting it; and folding the stiffly beaten egg whites into the batter without
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 11/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 21/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 5 eggs, separated
- 11/4 cups sugar
- grated zest of 1 lemon (optional)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Make the sponge cake: Preheat the oven to 350°. Generously
butter a 10" springform cake pan. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and
salt into a bowl; set aside.
Beat the egg yolks and sugar in an electric mixer using the
whisk attachment until thick and pale yellow, about 2 minutes on high speed.
Reduce to medium speed; slowly add 5 tablespoons of boiling water, the lemon
zest, and the vanilla. Return to high speed; beat for 5 minutes, or until nearly
as thick as fudge.
Add the flour mixture little by little, still beating with
the whisk attachment. Turn out into a bowl. Wash the mixer bowl and dry it.
Beat the egg whites in the bowl of the electric mixer with
the whisk attachment until stiff peaks form. Fold into the egg yolk mixture
with a rubber spatula, being careful not to deflate it. Spoon the batter into
the prepared cake pan. Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden around the edges
and set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack.
Makes one 10" cake
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