Soggy bottoms, sinking middles and charred tops. Knocking up this British teatime classic is far from a piece of cake
"Creamed" cakes are where most of us start our cakey careers: beating butter and sugar together, adding eggs, folding in the flour and then rounding the whole experience off with the compulsory spoon-licking.
Some Johnny-come-latelys such as cronuts or red velvet anythings might be fancier, but they can never hope to compete with the quiet charms of the simple, buttery, airy light sponge.
As with all true classics there is some rather hefty debate surrounding the good old sponge - specifically the fat used. Queen of cakes Mary Berry insists that margarine makes for a lighter texture than butter – which is true when using the all-in-one method (when all the ingredients and bunged into a food processor and beaten together to a batter). We wouldn't normally dream of defying Bezza but we are going rogue because butter does give a better flavour, don't you think?
The proof is in the eating, so let's get stuck in.
Getting it right
You will need
170g unsalted butter
170g caster sugar
4 medium free-range eggs, lightly beaten
170g self-raising flour, sifted
1 tsp vanilla essence
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line or prepare your cake tin.
2. Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until pale and fluffy.
3. Beat in the eggs (in small additions to stop the mixture from splitting) until it is thick.
4. Gently fold in the flour using a figure of eight motion with a large metal spoon. You want it to drop easily from the spoon when it's given a gentle shake.
5. Put the mix into your tins and bake for 25 minutes until well risen, golden and springy to the touch.
6. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes, then run a knife around the edge and turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Habits that aren’t helping
- A busy oven – make sure you remove any baking trays that normally live in your oven. That way the air can circulate properly
- Feeling the chill – all ingredients should be at room temperature. The butter should be soft but not melting so that it blends well with the sugar
- Getting eggcited – add the egg to the mixture in stages to stop it from splitting
- Go classic and sandwich together with raspberry jam and cream
- Add ground ginger and golden syrup into the mix for a subtly spiced and warming teatime treat
- Add the zest and juice of a lemon to your sponge cake mix and sandwich together with a layer of lemon curd and buttercream. Dust with icing sugar and voilà
- You've mastered the sponge, so how about a surprise cake? You know, the one where you cut into it and sweets topple out? After all, what's a party without a piñata cake?