sponge cake; take one.

I really missed the boat on proper cake-making. I am obviously not professionally trained in any way, and when i started trying to learn how to really make food, it really didn’t occur to me to learn about the differences between a genoise and a sponge. I knew the difference between white and yellow. Angel and devil. Normal and flourless. 

But: I wanted to know what the big deal was about, so i made a promise to myself this fall to learn how to bake some “classic” cakes.

So i started with sponge: it seemed less fancy than genoise, which just sounds like it may come out haughty and be difficult. I tried another recipe for sponge about a month ago, and it was good, but that’s all I can really say about it. I wasn’t thrilled with it and frankly, it was a little dry. “Dissapointed” isn’t the right word, really, but my first attempt at sponge made me wonder what the fuss was about. Since it’s not fair to discount an entire cake type because of one failed attempt, I thought it was time to try again. For once, I followed each of the directions exactly as the recipe called for: I altered not one single thing. I didn’t try to find ways to make it easier. Each and every step was performed as it was written.

i sifted the flour.

hand-whipped where it said to hand-whip.

And it was so completely worth it. This sponge came out beautifully. It was delightful. Moist but not too moist, Tender but not fall-apart crumbly, and completely devoid of any fake-tasting sweetness that some vanilla cakes possess. It may be the worlds most perfect white cake. my husband appropriately described this one as a mix between a white cake and a pound cake., and I agree. just look at it.

I know: it’s hard to turn away.

You really could fill this cake with anything. I had a moment where i thought maybe I’d make this every month and fill it with something different. i haven’t completely given the idea up yet.

This is all there is left. Enjoy.

Originally seen as a post on, this recipe is taken from Bake! Essential Techniques for Perfect Baking by Nick Malgieri. otherwise known as “the latest cookbook to hit my ‘must-have’ list.”


Kyra’s Hot Milk Sponge

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup full-fat milk
  • 1 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Two 8-inch round cake tins, buttered and the bases lined with discs of parchment paper

Set a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350˚F.

Combine the butter and milk in a small saucepan and cook over a low heat until the butter is completely melted. Set aside in the pan.

Stir the flour and baking powder together and sift into a piece of baking paper.

In the bowl of an electric mixer whisk the eggs by hand to break them up, then whisk in the salt. Whisk in the sugar in a stream then whisk in the vanilla. Place on the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whisk on medium-high speed until very light, about three minutes.

Gently whisk in the warm milk mixture by hand. Use the whisk to fold the flour mixture into the liquid in four additions, again gently whisking to incorporate between additions. Using the whisk helps to prevent lumps from forming. Handle the whisk exactly as though you were using a rubber spatula for the folding.

Evenly divide the batter between the prepared tins and smooth the tops.

Bake the layers until they are well risen and golden and feel firm when touched in the centre with a fingertip, about 20 minutes.

Use a sharp paring knife to loosen the layers from the sides of the tins, then invert to racks. Immediately re-invert the layers so that they cool with the paper on the bottom. Cool completely.

Stack up with whatever filling moves you at the moment. I used my lemon curd because, quite frankly, it was more civilized to sandwich it in a cake than to eat it directly from the jar.

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  • Reply Natalie October 5, 2013 at 2:36 am

    Help! My batter came out like a liquid rather than a proper firm batter. What did i do wrong? Could the milk be too hot? I put it in the oven and it came out liquid after 20 minutes.

    • Reply shannon October 10, 2013 at 9:14 am

      Hi Natalie, i’m sorry: i just saw this…for some reason it hit my spam folder (overactive spam folder, it seems.) I haven’t made this cake in a long time, but i’ve never had that issue with it. I’m going to put this on the “to remake” list so i can troubleshoot it a bit for you to help out. The milk temperature could be an issue, but it shouldn’t turn out liquid after that long a time. there could be lots of reasons for slight variance: everything from individual oven heating patterns to pan style (dark/light, non-stick/uncoated, etc) but that sounds like it’s beyond that. Let me work on it and i’ll be sure to make some new notes for you for future reference.

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