The Perfect Sponge Cake


It was 1965. My Finnish Cookbook had recently come out to the delight of our Finnish friends. We had recently moved to Duluth and to celebrate July 4th we drove with the family to Oulu, Wisconsin to pick strawberries. The little Finnish lady who owned the strawberry field was so excited to meet us that she invited us into her kitchen to enjoy coffee and pulla. When we said, “Oh, but you are so busy – “ her excited Finnish accent answer was “ Ya but the Fort- July comes just once a year!” 

We have reminded ourselves of that quote every year since then. The strawberries are delicious in a strawberry cake based on Katja’s s Birthday Sponge Cake, which I offer in my memoir “Homemade”. Katja, by the way, was a Finnish exchange student we hosted for a year. This is her recipe and I have made it every year since. It’s an easy cake to make because you can do it without a recipe and it can be easily adjusted to serve any number of people because it is based on a simple formula: equal measure of eggs, sugar and flour with a pinch of salt and a splash of vanilla.  I have made this cake using just two eggs for a sponge cake for two or three or as many as two dozen eggs for a birthday cake to serve a crowd. Of course, I use baking pans to fit the size of the recipe. Here I will offer the cake recipe that serves up to a dozen based on a six-egg formula or two 8 or 9-inch round standard cake pans. Because my single layer cake pans are playing hide-and-seek with me since we moved into our limited-space apartment, I am using four scalloped-edge shallow pans which I found at Nordic Ware. If you’re interested in them, check my website www.beatrice-ojakangas.com for the source. Also, I gave the cake a red, white, and blue theme with strawberries, whipped cream and blueberries. You can, of course, fill these layers any way you’d like with sliced bananas, fresh peaches, or other fruits or preserves you have on hand. 

Perfect Sponge Cake

Recipe by Beatrice Ojakangas

When you need a cake, this is the perfect go-to recipe. It is made by proportion — equal amounts of eggs, sugar, and flour plus a little vanilla and salt. So you can actually make it any size…a cake for two or a cake for a crowd… and throw it together without a recipe, which makes you feel like a professional baker! Then you can top it with anything… whipped cream, fruit, jam, frosting, or maybe chocolate ganache.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups (about 6 or 7) large eggs, at room temperature

  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar

  • Pinch of salt

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

  • Filling and topping:
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons light rum or cloudberry liqueur (optional)

  • 2 cups whipped cream, slightly sweetened

  • 1 to 2 cups strawberries and blueberries, cleaned and ready

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottoms of two 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper.
  • In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs until fluffy. Turn speed to high and gradually add the sugar, the pinch of salt, and the vanilla. Continue beating at high speed at least 5 minutes until the mixture is very light and lemon colored. Turn speed down to low and add the flour gradually, mixing just until the flour is incorporated.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the centers bounce back when touched and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and dry. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.
  • Loosen edges of the cake layers with a knife and ease the first layer onto a cake plate. Have whipped cream and jam or berries ready. Remove parchment paper from the cakes. With a long serrated knife, split each layer into two parts.
  • Drizzle with the rum or liqueur. Spread layers with whipped cream. Layer with berries. Top with whipped cream. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
    Makes about 12 servings

Notes

  • The cake in the picture was made with scalloped cake pans, which make four thinner layers (instead of two that you have to slice in half). I have a link to the cake pans in SHOP > TOOLS.

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Beatrice Ojakangas

Food writer Beatrice Ojakangas grew up as the oldest of ten on a farm in Floodwood, Minnesota and learned to cook and bake on a woodstove. Author of 31 cookbooks, Beatrice has a degree in home economics, has been inducted into the James Beard Cookbook Hall of Fame, was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Minnesota, has written for magazines such as Bon Appetit, Gourmet, and Woman's Day, and appeared on the television shows of both Julia Child and Martha Stewart. Her specialties include baking, Finnish and Scandinavian cooking, and writing well-tested, simple recipes that use wholesome ingredients. She lives in Duluth, Minnesota.

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