Sponge cakes were first detailed as a recipe in the 1615 book of The English Huswife, Containing the Inward and Outward Virtues Which Ought to Be in a Complete Woman by English poet and author Gervase Markham. Things have moved on a little since then!
Perhaps its best known incarnation is the Victoria Sponge named after Queen Victoria who was rather partial to a slice.
This recipe comes from a conversation with Rachel Allen
3 eggs weighed in their shells
Equal quantities of caster sugar, butter and self raising flour.
A little whole milk
A big mixing bowl
12 individual fairy cake cases
A 12 hole baking tray to snugly hold the cases
A wooden spoon
A metal spoon
Pre – heat your oven to 180 °C / Fan 160 °C
Have your cases in the tray ready to go.
With the wooden spoon, cream the butter and sugar together in the mixing bowl until pale and fluffy and lots of air has been incorporated. This could take up to 10 minutes depending on how well you beat and how much your arm can take!
Whisk your eggs in a separate bowl and gradually start to add a little at a time to your butter / sugar mix. Beat well between each addition and incorporate all the egg before adding more. If it looks like it has split then you can add a teaspoon of flour to stabilize it.
Once all the egg had been added then sieve your flour into the bowl. Sieving gets rid of lumps and incorporates more air.
Fold in the flour using the large metal spoon. Check for dropping consistency. Add milk a little at a time if the mixture is too thick.
Spoon equal amounts of the mix into each paper case to just under half full. They will rise and you want space at the top to pipe icing and decorate your cakes.
Put them straight into the oven and bake for 15 – 20 minutes depending on your oven or the size of your cases. Don’t open the oven for at least 15 minutes or they may collapse, although this is more important for the larger Victoria sponge.
Remove from the oven and insert a skewer into the cake. If it comes out clean with no mixture sticking to it then it is ready.
Put the cakes onto a cooling rack and leave until completely cool before applying your topping of choice.
For the cakes pictured here I made a simple butter icing using double the quantity of icing sugar to really good softened French unsalted butter.
200 g Icing Sugar
100 g Butter
Simply beat the butter and the sieved icing sugar together until they form a lovely soft icing. Put this into a piping bag and away you go.
I often make fairy cakes with my four year old daughter at the weekends. I believe it’s important that children know where their food comes from and they have the ability to cook for themselves.