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Demera

Sponge Cake - Please Troubleshoot with me

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Demera

Hello baking experts.

I'm a very active cake baker and successfully make lots of butter and oil based cakes, but I still cannot make a successful sponge cake.  It eludes me and I'd dearly love to achieve a CWA worthy sponge.

Mine all seem to turn out tough.  Lots of air, large bubbles, but tough and too much like a dish sponge!  

I have chooks so I have plenty of eggs, and I've tried super fresh laid today, up to weeks old going stale. I've tried eggs at room temp. Eggs warmed in front of the fire. Eggs warmed in warm water. 

I use a Kenwood Chef with metal bowl.  I use a metal spoon to fold in the dry ingredients. 

I use a 42 year old fan forced oven that is notoriously fast.  I have an oven thermometer and the temperature is pretty accurate, but I cook most things at a lower temperature than advised otherwise they will dry out or burn.  I bake most cakes at 160° or 150°.  Should I try dropping it down to 140°?  There's no option to turn off the fan. 

I've tried multiple different recipes, generally all with the same result. The only one that came close to OK was a Ginger Fluff from the Women's Weekly classics.  That time I put a bowl of water in the oven on the bottom tray.  I tried that trick again with no luck. 

Is it my oven?  

Should I slow down the Kenwood so it beats more gently?  What speed should it be at?  I've been doing it at max speed and they beat up by 8 minutes. 

Should I fire up the wood stove and try baking a sponge in there?  😉 

I'm sick of throwing bad cakes in the bin so I would really appreciate some good advice, thank you!  I've made more than 20 bad sponges and I need help.  

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RichardParker

Can’t help but I wish you well on your quest. I’m not a bad cook but never attempted a sponge- my Grandmother’s was legendary and I just felt the expectations were too high. 

Mum’s isn’t bad- she uses a round, shallow aluminium tin. I think there’s something to do with the weather/humidity as well. Maybe that’s meringues.  
 

You’re Welcome. 

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Demera

Ah yes, I haven't really tried different tins and I've been meaning to buy a pair of identical round 20cm, straight sided tins even just for my butter cakes.  I have lots of tins in various sizes but not two identical ones. The two shallow ones I have for sponges have slightly tilted out sides and they aren't exactly the same, but near enough to make a pair of cakes.  I prefer a deep, straight sided tin. I did bake my recent sponge fail in a square tin with straight sides and the result was no different. Still tough! No beautiful tender texture like I get with butter cakes.  

I have made a Victoria Sponge once with reasonable success, but it's more of a cross between a butter cake and a sponge cake.  Not a true sponge.

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can'tstayaway
Posted (edited)

I’m no expert but when teaching my DD, I noticed she was over mixing. She would overwhip the eggs so they were too dry and once she added the flour, she would over mix which causes something about gluten to form and cause a rubbery cake. 
 

I use a silicon spatula to fold but I don’t think it makes a difference because I used to use big metal spoons or wooden spoons too. 
 

You could try low protein cake flour which will form less gluten...

 

Edited to say, I bake in a fan forced oven at 160C too. My sponge cake tins are thin aluminium ones so the cake doesn’t form a thick crust. I line the base with silicon paper but butter and flour the sides. 

Edited by can'tstayaway

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lizzzard

Probably superstition but my mum and nana (both amazing bakers) swore by a gas oven... Maybe you should try someone else’s oven and just see if it makes a difference?

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Cranky Old Woman

Have you tried Fielders Wheaten Cornflour sponge recipe?  It used to be written on the packet years ago - never fail.  

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Not Escapin Xmas

I reckon you are over mixing the eggs. I use a big stand mixer and at full speed it takes maybe a third of the time that the recipe suggests?

also, grease and flour the pan, pulling up the sides with the butter like you would with a soufflé. 

and triple sift the flour. 

or give up on all that carry on and make a gf one. They work much better!!! (No gluten = no probs)

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Silvers

Do you sift the flour 3 times before adding?  I find this is key to getting a light fluffy sponge.

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Dianalynch

Agree it could be over mixing, I had success making a sponge with a hand rather than stand mixer in my teenage years 

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TheGreenSheep

Tough = overmixed in my experiences with baking

Very interested to see how you go with some of the PPs suggestions!

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Demera

Yes, definitely sift the flour three times, and I've tried cornflour only recipes as well as normal flour recipes.  

I've NEVER mixed the eggs as long as the recipe states.  Usually they are fully whipped up in about 5 or 6 minutes.  My recent attempt the recipe (Donna Hay's 6 egg recipe) stated 12-15 minutes.  Mine were definitely done by 8 and I let it go until 10, but yeah, still tough.  

I forgot to mention I've tried whipping the whites separately, then add yolks, as well as just whipping the whole eggs.  

I think my plan will be to try setting the mixer at a lower speed.

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Bethlehem Babe

Are your tins dark or light coloured? Dark ones I drop the oven by another 10C. 

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Not Escapin Xmas

Def sounds like overmixing. Don’t do lower speed, just go for half or less of what time the recipe says. 

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Bird1

I think you should stop following the recipe. Trust your own judgement when mixing and don’t make it to complicated. I was taught to make a proper  sponge cake when I was 7 by my Nan. Simple is best.

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rosie28

I think you might be over whipping the eggs. That tends to make it dry in my experience. Also try a corn flour sponge, they’re easy and turn out very very light. I use an old crappy tin too, not sure if that helps!

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Lucrezia Bauble

i’ve been told the secret lies in “folding” in the dry ingredients, with the wet. you don’t mix. something about a figure 8 motion. i’ve made a couple of “passable” sponges. wouldn’t win the CWA prize, or even be a place...but maybe be included on the table of “worthy mentions”. 

i have never successfully done an angel food cake. and yes - i have the proper tin for it. 

 

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can'tstayaway
1 hour ago, Demera said:

Yes, definitely sift the flour three times, and I've tried cornflour only recipes as well as normal flour recipes.  

I've NEVER mixed the eggs as long as the recipe states.  Usually they are fully whipped up in about 5 or 6 minutes.  My recent attempt the recipe (Donna Hay's 6 egg recipe) stated 12-15 minutes.  Mine were definitely done by 8 and I let it go until 10, but yeah, still tough.  

I forgot to mention I've tried whipping the whites separately, then add yolks, as well as just whipping the whole eggs.  

I think my plan will be to try setting the mixer at a lower speed.

I use a KitchenAid and I probably only beat the eggs for the cornflour sponge (white and yolk together) for about 3 minutes.  I use speed 6. 
 

 

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Demera

Tins are dark, but I have light coloured ones in odd sizes, bigger/smaller, round/square so I can still try other tins. 

Definitely been folding with the cut and lift motion.  I've also tried using the whisk from the mixer and folding in that way.  There's no difference no matter how I fold in the dry ingredients. I've tried folding in *very* delicately, right through to doing it quickly.  Results have included not having the flour fully mixed so there were lumps.... yuck!!!  I've watched MANY videos on this and people seem to do it much more roughly than I do and they still get a good result. 

Bird1 - I'm a 'recipe is just a guide' person so I usually cook by intuition, but I just can't get this one to work!! There's a knack somewhere I haven't found.  I've tried so many different recipes and they nearly all turn out the same, with the exception of one ginger fluff, so it's something I'm doing. 

We're looking at a new kitchen soon, so I can look forward to trying a different oven one day. 

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Demera
1 minute ago, can'tstayaway said:

I use a KitchenAid and I probably only beat the eggs for the cornflour sponge (white and yolk together) for about 3 minutes.  I use speed 6. 
 

 

What does Speed 6 translate to?   My Kenwood goes to 8+.   6 would be 3/4 speed if the KitchenAid also goes to 8, and assuming max speed is the same for both machines....  😉 

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Not Escapin Xmas

Actually, does your oven close properly? What happens when you cook Choux pastry? I reckon If your oven doesn’t close properly that might explain it. That and overmixing eggs...

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22Fruitmincepies

I love baking, I can bake any cake, just not a sponge (I suck at pavlova too, small meringues are fine but my big pavs suck). I’ve accepted that the way it is, but I’d love to know if you figure it out - maybe I should give it another go too! 

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TheGreenSheep
1 minute ago, 22Fruitmincepies said:

I love baking, I can bake any cake, just not a sponge (I suck at pavlova too, small meringues are fine but my big pavs suck). I’ve accepted that the way it is, but I’d love to know if you figure it out - maybe I should give it another go too! 

I can cook just about anything, lasagne evaded me for years and years, I’m still mastering 🙄

I’ll bake just about anything, me and pastry, ooh I struggle. Pavlova, easy! Have not even attempted a sponge. Isn’t it funny what becomes our Achilles 😖

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can'tstayaway
3 minutes ago, Demera said:

What does Speed 6 translate to?   My Kenwood goes to 8+.   6 would be 3/4 speed if the KitchenAid also goes to 8, and assuming max speed is the same for both machines....  😉 

I just went and had a look 😝 My KA goes up to a 10.

I whip egg whites for meringues on speed 8 and it is ready in no time. When DD first started baking, she would turn it on to 10 and walk away. They would be overwhipped dry whites. 

I have both light and dark tins. I find at 160C, both are fine. If it is a higher temp, I find the light ones better. I’m sure there’s some science to it but I haven’t really thought about it. 
 

My folding technique looks rough but it’s actually quite gentle. I’ve just been doing it for so long that I’m quick. I had a hard time trying to teach DD when she was copying the wrong part of my technique 😆 she was following the speed not the fold. 
 

A trick you could try is to use a small amount of the liquid and mix the flour into it first. Then add some more whipped egg mix, into the wet flour and again. 

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Lucrezia Bauble

i struggle with pastry .....I have a short crust recipe that usually works...but it’s a struggle - i can’t roll it properly, it’s a dogs breakfast getting it into the flan tin....much swearing and flour flying everywhere. it tastes really nice...light and crisp. but yeh...pastry, dough....I’m not a natural. i tried Damian Pignolet’s brioche recipe and yeh..tears, ended up in the bin. i blame sydney humidity ....

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can'tstayaway

Yes, heat and humidity is awful for working with pastry.  Air con is your friend. Or regularly putting it back in the fridge to keep it cool. Before I had a stone bench top, I used an off cut from a relative’s kitchen and would chill it before pulling it out to roll pastry on. 

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