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
For the Sponge Cake: