A few weeks ago in the Epicure there was a rather interesting article that was lamenting the apparent demise of the sponge cake. The sponge cake has always seemed to be the domain and expertise of those formidable ladies of the Country Women's Association (CWA), where a kitchen ignoramus such as myself has no reason to intrude. I remember my first attempt at the sponge was made a good many years ago, when my dad bought mum the latest kitchen gizmo of the time, the Magimix food processor. The contraption came with a recipe booklet, which if I'm not mistaken, had its origins with the CWA, and I had an unwavered belief (some might call it hubris) that I was capable of recreating the masterpiece of cakes, the Sponge. However, I must have forgotten something incredibly pivotal to the recipe as evidenced by the sorry excuse of an unappetising cake that emerged from the oven. After some berating from the folks for wasting eggs and flour and my spirit defeated, I vowed to never attempt this diabolical cake again.
UNTIL NOW... Listing the recipe as the 'Never-fail sponge' in the Epicure article was more than enough encouragement to get me baking it again and I can now confirm that the Never-fail has proven to be the fooling-est foolproof cake of all time, resulting in a light and airy sponge cake that looked and tasted like the real deal. Probably doubt that it would pass muster with the picky (but entirely reasonable) ladies of the CWA (I could ask them myself as their local chapter is a mere block away from my place!). Still, I'm rather chuffed and enormously relieved that for once I didn't bake something that resembled a volcano.
The recipe for the 'Never-Fail Sponge':
4 eggs, separated
pinch of salt
1/4 cup castor sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup corn flour
1 tsp cream of tartar
2 tsp plain flour (recipe calls for 1 tsp custard powder, which I did not have at the time)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1. Preheat oven to 175 C
2. Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks form. Then gradually beat in sugar.
3. Continue beating until stiff peaks form and add the egg yolks and vanilla extract (of which I mixed together separately first).
4. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and sift at least three times to aerate the mixture well.
5. Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture and gently fold through. Pour mixture to a greased round tin and tap several times to eliminate any potential air pockets that might have formed.
6. Bake in the middle of the oven for approximately 20 - 25 minutes. Turn out to cool and then split in the centre and fill with whipped cream and fruit. Lightly dust the top with icing sugar.
Postscript: Workmate revealed to me today that her mum too swears by this recipe, hence there's a very good reason why the CWA call this the 'Never-Fail'.