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Basic Sponge Cake

From Italian Cooking and Living, December 2001/January 2002

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 deflating them.

  • 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

Copyright © 2006, Italian Cooking and Living. All rights reserved.

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The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana