Today I am sharing a childhood staple of almost everyone I know in Pakistan. Pretty sure it is the first cake we ever tasted. It’s the cake, I believe, we have blown candles out on at our birthday at least once in our childhood. Yuup, I am talking of the ‘fresh cream cake’… Or as I call it: the Mighty Sponge Cake. *drumroll*
Those light airy layers of cake, soaked in a saccharine pineapple syrup, filled with chunks of pineapples, slathered with freshly whipped cream, and topped with candied cherries. Sigh.
This “fresh pineapple cake” and it’s equally delectable chocolate twin (the “Black Forest”) are my favorite. In today’s culture of double chocolate, triple-tiered cakes, the sponge cake presents something simple and lovely. Or maybe it’s just the sentimental value.
So, when my mother requested this cake over and over again, I was a bit hesitant to make it. What if I created a disaster and spoiled all my happy memories?!
But I am not one to skip away from a challenge. I went on a Mighty Sponge research expedition.
I watched lots of YouTube tutorials and found some really interesting facts. (If you are not a baking enthusiast like me, feel free to skip the next bit). The sponge cake is of Japanese descent, and combined with strawberries it’s known as a Strawberry Shortcake. And because summer is here- baskets of fresh strawberries can be seen everywhere- I decided now is the perfect time to battle all sponge cake fears, and make it!
One recipe particularly caught my eye. Jon Jon’s beautiful step by step pictures and beautiful description to match made the recipe really easy to follow.
Here’s what I learnt about:
The Sponge Cake
The two things about sponge cakes that completely threw me off the hook though are:
There is no butter or oil involved in the recipe. None at all.
No fats means no greasing of pans! You bake the batter in an ungreased pan and technically the cake is supposed to pop out like a dream… My experience was slightly different.
No leavening agents. No baking soda. No baking powder whatsoever.
*the original sponge cake recipe does not involve any fat in the form of butter nor oil. But other kinds of sponge, like the British version “Victoria Sponge Cake” calls for butter in the batter. So don’t get confused.
The cake rises without adding in any leavening agents or fat, because of all the air you incorporate into the batter, for which the eggs need to be mixed separately:
Egg yolks together with the sugar; beaten till thick and pale
Egg whites whisked to stiff peaks
The vigorous beating of the two is what incorporates so much air into the batter, making it light and fluffy.
Also, the first time I made this cake, it stuck to the bottom of the pan and was a pain to get out. The second time I made it, I lined the pan with some parchment paper. I did NOT grease it, just lined it with paper. And the cake came out perfectly (phew).
I used the pineapple syrup you get from the can of pineapples to soak my cake in. You can substitute it with a simple homemade sugar syrup (reduced sugar and water). Just remember to brush the cakes liberally with syrup. You may think it’s alot when doing so, but trust me, the cake is dry because it is missing the moisture from the fats. It needs all the juice it can get.
The Whipped Cream
Here’s the thing, cream in Pakistan just won’t whip! You have to wait for the peak winter months to get them stiff peaks. Rest of the year? Just forget about whipped cream desserts.
To get it really whipped, here’s what I’ve learnt about cream:
Olper’s works better than Nestle (I’ve only just discovered this recently)
Make sure your cream is chilled aka VERY cold.
Pop your metal mixing bowl and your beaters into the freezer half an hour before whipping cream. The colder everything is; faster will the cream whip.
I’ve used pineapples in between the layers of the cake, and adorned the entire outside with fresh strawberries. You can skip the pineapples entirely and place strawberries in-between the layers instead. And use plain sugar syrup instead of the pineapple syrup. I just happen to like pineapples. Alot.
All in all, just remember to:
Beat the eggs well
Do not overmix after the flour has been incorporated
Line pan with parchment paper for easy removal
Soak the cakes in syrup well
Strawberries can be replaced with any fresh fruit; mangoes, peaches, cherries, more pineapples…
This is such a teaching post. I feel really proud of myself. So bake the cake! If you have too many strawberries or are simply nostalgic for the cream cake.
Caution: Make it before the strawberries disappear, and before it becomes too hot to whip cream (Ugh. Not looking forward to the drippy cream season.) Happy summer!
Strawberry and Cream Sponge Cake
Yields: 2 9-inch layer cakes
6 eggs, separated *at room temperature
1 cup castor sugar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup cake flour1
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar2
1/4 teaspoon salt
½ kilo fresh strawberries, washed, stemmed and sliced
a tin of pineapple chunks
2 cups very cold whipping cream3
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Sponge Cake:
Preheat oven to 150 degrees C.
In a large bowl, beat together the egg yolks until very thick and lemon colored. Beat in sugar gradually. Add water and vanilla extract. Beat again. Mix in the flour.
In another clean bowl, beat egg whites until frothy. Then add cream of tartar and salt. Beat mixture until glossy and stiff peaks form.
Fold the whipped egg whites mixture into yolk mixture, gradually and very carefully, so as to not deflate the egg whites.
Pour the batter into two ungreased 9 inch pans lined with parchment paper.4
Bake for 60 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Allow the cakes to cool completely before inverting.
For the Whipped Cream:5
In a large metal bowl, pour the cream and mix on low-medium speed for several minutes. Once the cream starts to thicken, add the sugar and vanilla. Continue to whip on medium-high until soft peaks form.
Place one of the layers on a serving plate. Brush on the pineapple syrup, that comes in the can of pineapples, evenly and quite liberally onto the first layer. Spread spoonfuls of the whipped cream and spread evenly over the cake layer. Arrange the pineapple chunks over the cream. Top with another spoonful of cream and spread once again.
Top with the second layer of sponge cake, and brush with more of the pineapple syrup. Now, using an offset spatula or a plain knife, cover the entire cake completely with the remaining whipped cream.
Decorate with sliced strawberries. Slice and serve. Store any leftover cake, covered, in the fridge. This cake is best served chilled.
1. DIY Cake Flour: Measure out 1 cup of all-purpose flour. Remove 2 tablespoons of the flour and place it back in your flour jar. Replace the removed flour with 2 tablespoons of cornflour. Sift 2-3 times.
2. Cream of Tartar substitute: ¼ tsp lemon juice or vinegar. You can also completely omit the cream of tartar, it just helps to stabilize the egg whites.
3. I used and recommend Olpher’s Cream. 2 packs of it; 400ml in total.
4. Spray a bit of oil on the bottom of you pan, so that the parchment paper sticks to it. But DON’T grease the parchment paper.
5. The colder the cream, the faster it will whip. See tips above in the description on how to whip cream the right way.