An exceptional, yet simple Vanilla Sponge Cake. Adapted from a master Cook’s Illustrated recipe, this is made with pantry staples, has a velvety, tender crumb and keeps well for 3 days. An essential addition to every recipe collection!
I call this a plain-jane Vanilla Sponge Cake, but it’s really anything but that. Everyone should have a classic vanilla sponge cake in their repertoire, and it took me many years to find the “perfect” one.
This is a classic, simple Vanilla Sponge Cake that is made with basic ingredients – eggs, milk, butter, flour, sugar, vanilla, baking powder and salt. That’s it. No sour cream, no buttermilk – these are not pantry staples in my world – or any other schmancy ingredients. Yes adding sour cream and/or buttermilk makes an even more tender, more moist cake. But I wanted to share a truly great Vanilla Sponge Cake that is made with just pantry staples.
I have a soft spot for old fashioned Vanilla sponge cakes. I am pretty sure the Women’s Weekly Best Ever Sponge was the first cake I ever (attempted?) to make. Freshly made, they are lovely, albeit a wee bit dry for my taste. But the biggest issue I’ve always had is that after 12 hours, the sponge is incredibly dry. Even slathered with copious amounts of cream and frosting can’t hide it.
This recipe I’m sharing today is made with the same ingredients as old fashioned Vanilla Sponge Cakes, but there’s one very important step that you won’t see in any Women’s Weekly recipe books from the 1980’s: beating softened butter into the dry ingredients. THIS is the secret to a moist, tender sponge cake made without sour cream or buttermilk.
How do I know this?
Because this is a Cook’s Illustrated recipe. They’ve gone and done all the hard work with the recipe testing for us.
Regular readers know I’m never going to win any awards in the cake decorating category. I’m much more focussed on the body of the cake – getting that sponge right. So I kept this simple and just slathered on lots of cream and and sandwiched it with strawberries. In addition to adding some lovely fresh juicy flavours into the cake, the strawberries also stop the cream from oozing out of the cake when you cut into it.
You’ll see in the video.
Happy weekend everyone! Hope you have a lovely one. I’m off to a festival of some sort – for a friends’ birthday. I’m not really a festival-type gal, so it will be an experience. I don’t even know what the festival is for – music, I’m guessing. Guess I should probably leave my stilettos behind. – Nagi x
Vanilla Sponge Cake
An exceptional, classic Vanilla Sponge Cake made with basic pantry staples. Tender crumb, moist, keeps well for 3 days. Slightly adapted from a Cook’s Illustrated master recipe – refer to notes. Recipe VIDEO below. I prefer making this recipe using a handheld beater rather than a stand mixer.
- 225 g / 2 sticks unsalted butter (, cut into 8 pieces and softened)
- 4 large eggs ((55 – 65g / 2 – 2.5 oz each), at room temperature)
- 1⁄2 cup / 125 ml milk ((whole or low fat, not no fat), room temperature)
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 3/4 cups / 265g plain flour ((all purpose flour, 7 oz) (Note 1))
- 1/4 cup cornflour / cornstarch ((Note 1))
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 cups / 330g caster sugar / superfine sugar ((normal white sugar also ok))
- 3/4 tsp salt
Strawberries & Cream:
- 2 1/2 cups / 625 ml whipping cream
- 2 tbsp white sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 400 g/ 14 oz strawberries (, halved (1 1/2 punnets))
- Preheat oven to 180C/350F (standard) or 160C/320F (fan / convection). Put the rack in the middle of the oven.
- Butter 2 x 20cm / 8″ cake pans (Note 2). Line the base with baking paper.
- Place Wet ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine.
- Place Dry ingredients in a bowl and use a handheld beater on speed 1 (slowest) to quickly whisk.
Add 1/3 of the butter, then put the beater whisk in the butter, and mix using speed 1. Once the butter is incorporated a bit, speed up to 5 and whisk for 10 seconds.
- Add another 1/3 of the butter then repeat, then add remaining butter and repeat again. It should look like wet sand (see video / photos in post).
- Add half the Wet mixture, beat until incorporated. Add remaining Wet mixture, then beat on speed 5 (medium) until almost completely smooth.
- Divide between cake pans, smooth surface (it levels out in the oven), then bake for 25 minutes.
- A skewer inserted into the middle should come out clean but moist.
- Cool on cooling rack for at least 15 minutes then remove cake from pan.
Frosting / Decorating with Strawberries & Cream:
- Optional: Use a serrated knife (I use a bread knife) to cut the top off each cake to make it completely flat. This makes neat layers when you cut into the cake.
- Place cream, vanilla and sugar in a bowl. Beat on high with a handheld beater or stand mixer until firm peaks form.
- If piping little swirls around the edge like in the photos, transfer 1 cup of cream into a piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle.
- Place a cake on a serving platter. Spread a thin layer of cream over the top.
- Cover with strawberries, cut side down.
- Top with 1/3 of the cream.
- Place 2nd cake on top. Cover top and sides with remaining cream. Pipe cream around the edge.
- Decorate with remaining strawberries, as desired.
1. The original recipe calls for 2 cups cake flour. I use a combination of plain flour and cornflour which is a substitute for cake flour because this recipe is my basic vanilla sponge cake recipe and I want to make it using pantry staples. Cake flour is not a staple in my pantry. Cake flour or cornflour + plain flour makes the crumb of cakes more tender and almost “velvety” than just using plain flour.
2. CAKE PAN SIZE: The original Cook’s Illustrated recipe says to make this in 3 x 20cm/8″ pans or 2 x 23cm/9″ pans. If you level off the cake surface, as I do in the video, so each layer is neat and flat, then I think 2 x 20cm/8″ pans is better, otherwise the layers get too thin. However, if you do not plan to cut the top of the cake to make the surface flat, then you can use 3 x 20cm/8″ pans or 2 x 23cm/9″ pans.
3. Recipe SOURCE: This is adapted from a Cook’s Illustrated recipe. The original recipe is made with just cake flour (see note 1). The butter is chopped into 16 pieces and added in 1 piece at a time. I find it easier to do it in 3 batches and didn’t notice a difference in outcome. Also see Note 2 regarding cake pan size.
4. Cream: I know it sounds like alot, but if you want to have cream in the middle, top and sides as well as some to pipe for decoration, you really need this much! If you don’t do the piped decorations on top, you can reduce the cream by 1/2 cup / 125ml.
5. STANDMIXER: Even on the lowest speed, there will be some “flour dust” so you will either need to use a guard to stop the flour flying up everywhere or do as per the original recipe and chop the butter into 16 small pieces and add them one at a time, beating for around 1 minute on low speed, increasing to high until it looks like what you see in the video.
6. Different COUNTRIES: Measuring cups and spoons varies slightly between America and most of the rest of the world (e.g. Aus/ NZ/Europe). For most recipes, the difference is not enough to affect the recipe, but for baking recipes, it can be the difference between success and fail. This recipe has been tested using both US and “rest of world” measures so just follow the ingredient weights. Only exception is Japan – please use weights, not cups.
7. STORING: This cake keeps well in an airtight container for 3 days without the sponge going dry. If decorated with cream, store in the fridge if the temperature is > 20C / 70F. bring to room temperature before serving.
8. Nutrition is for the cake only, excluding cream for 12 servings. Including the cream, it is 403 calories per serving with 33g fat.
Vanilla Sponge Cake recipe video!
LIFE OF DOZER
You do not want to know how big the puddle on the floor was….EEEEWWWW!!!! (watch me teasing him with this in the video!!)