Sponge cake is a basic pastry tool to add to your repertoire, a light cake to soak up all those delicious juices from our luscious fresh fruit of the spring and summer season. It's also used to create trifles, charlottes, simple jam cakes or tiramisu. So it's a good versatile cake to master. Yet a lot of bakers aren't very comfortable working with genoise or sponge cake recipes because they can sometimes be fussy to produce. However, this recipe is one of the easiest cakes I've ever made. With just a few ingredients and the substitution of olive oil for butter, it assembles in no time and bakes off beautifully with no collapsing or excessive dryness.
The key to success with sponge cakes, or foam cakes as they are also called, is beating the eggs. Because there's no leavening in the cake, a lot of air must be beaten into the eggs and sugar until the mixture reaches a ribbon stage, which is a thickening of the batter and a tripling in volume. You test for the ribbon stage by stopping and lifting the whisk up and if the batter streams down from the whisk and forms a cascading ribbon on the surface that holds for a few seconds, you're there. This method ensures a maximum of air is beaten into the egg and sugar mixture so the structure of the cake will be stable.
This recipe has a bit of a different approach to both ingredients and method. Most sponge cakes call for cake flour for a very delicate crumb. This cake uses all-purpose flour, which I think may help to keep it sturdy. Once the ribbon stage is reached, the olive oil is slowly drizzled into the mixer rather than the classic method of folding in the fat at the very end. The cake bakes in the standard 25 - 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Once it's placed on a cooling rack after 10 minutes, the ring of the springform pan is removed and the cake is cooled completely. If you haven't had success with foam cakes before, I suggest you try this one.
Since we're now luxuriating in apricot season, I thought it would be fun to pair this cake with a simple honey and vanilla apricot compote and cream. Fresh strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, peaches or any fresh fruit would also be perfect. Just macerate the fruit in sugar to produce some delicious juices.
This pastry is called a "sponge" cake because it's usually imbibed with a liquid. For the purpose of my photographs, I left the cake as is so you could see the beautiful crumb, but be sure to serve the cake with plenty of compote syrup and cream.
- For best success with cake, eggs should always be at room temperature.
- When baked, this cake rises to the top of the pan, so be sure you're using a pan that is at least 9" x 2 1/2".
- The original recipe is presented by weight, which I've included here.
- The instructions are for a stand mixer. If you're using a hand mixer, it will take a bit longer to get the eggs and sugar to the ribbon stage. Just keep checking once you think you're there. I lift the beater about 6" and scrawl out my initials. If they hold for a moment by the time I've finished, it's ready.
- I added 1 teaspoon of vanilla and 1/8 teaspoon of salt to the recipe as written, which are necessary to add flavor to the cake. Or you can also add 1 tablespoon of brandy or rum or the zest of one lemon or orange or a dash of good almond extract.
- Folding the batter means running your rubber spatula around the sides and the bottom of the bowl and gently making a cutting motion through the center of the batter, while rotating the bowl with your free hand. The goal is to incorporate dry ingredients without sacrificing the airy loft of the batter.
- Simmer the apricots on very low heat to preserve their flavor and texture. They made need next to no cooking if they are very ripe.
- You can prepare the apricots ahead of time. Store the fruit and the syrup separately in the refrigerator.
- Sponge cakes are often imbibed with simple syrup combined with a flavoring. Bring 3/4 C water and 1/2 C sugar to a boil until sugar is dissolved. Add liquor, liqueur, lemon juice, coffee or other flavoring, to taste. When the cake has cooled, use a pastry brush to apply the syrup to the surface. Repeat until the cake is moist. When you press your finger into the surface of the cake, there should be a little bit of liquid that comes to the surface.
Olive Oil Sponge Cake with Apricots
adapted from delicious. Magazine
Serves 8 - 10
1 C + 1 T (150 grams) all-purpose flour
1/8 t salt [my addition]
5 eggs @ room temperature
3/4 C + 1 T (150 grams) sugar
3 T + 1 t olive oil
1 t vanilla [my addition]
powdered sugar, for dusting
2 C water
1/2 C sugar, to taste
1/4 C honey
1/2 vanilla bean
2 t lemon juice, to taste
1 C heavy cream
1 T sugar
1/2 t vanilla or other flavoring
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9" x 2 1/2" springform pan and line the bottom with parchment.
Whisk the flour and salt together.
Using a stand mixer, whisk the eggs for about 3 minutes until pale and thickened. Add the sugar slowly and continue whisking on medium high speed until the mixture triples in size. This will take 5 - 6 minutes. It should be thick, pale and foamy and leave a ribbon trail that holds for a few seconds when you lift out the beaters.
Continue to whisk while you add the olive oil a few drops at a time. Add the vanilla. Take off the mixer and sift 1/4 of the flour onto the batter and fold in gently with a rubber spatula. Continue sifting with 1/3 of the flour into the batter and folding, then half until it's all been added. Be sure to thoroughly scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl and fold only until you no longer see any streaks of flour.
Pour into the prepared springform pan and bake for 25 - 30 minutes until the cake is golden and springs back when lightly touched with your finger. Remove from the oven. The cake should immediately begin shrinking away from the sides of the pan. Run a thin knife around the edges to free any areas that may be sticking. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack. Carefully remove the parchment and cool completely.
For the compote, cut the apricots into 1/2" slices and discard the apricot pits. Combine water, sugar and honey in a saucepan. Split and seed the vanilla bean and add both. Bring to a slow simmer and add apricots. Cook on low heat for about 5 minutes or until the apricots just begin to become tender. Using a slotted spoon, remove the apricots to a bowl. Turn up the heat and reduce the syrup by half. Stir in lemon juice and cool.
Whip the heavy cream, sugar and vanilla to very soft peak.