Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Old Fashioned Sponge Cake with Whipped Mascarpone Cream and Fresh Berries

It was my dad's birthday yesterday. Since I started this ever time-consuming and money-draining little hobby of mine called baking, it's become a sort of tradition for me to bake a cake for my parents on their birthdays. For me, it's a great excuse to try new recipes or experiment with flavor combinations and go crazy with cake decorations. (As you can probably tell here by the wobbly and slightly lopsided cake banner I attempted to create.)

Previous birthday cakes I've made for my dad include a cinnamon crumb cake, hummingbird cake and carrot cake.  This year, he wanted something lighter.  Since sponge cake is one of his favorites, I thought that was a pretty good bet.

You start with eggs.  This cake is all about the eggs.

Beaten egg whites + beaten egg yolks & sugar + flour is literally all the ingredients that goes into this cake. This is the science of baking at its best; just three simple ingredients can magically turn into a tall, airy sponge.

I got this recipe from one of my favorite blogs, Poires au Chocolat, from which I've also made this mincemeat recipe that went in these pie pops. What's special about this recipe is that it's measured out by ratio of the weight of your eggs, so it's easily adaptable and easy to remember. I'd made this cake before about a year ago and served it plain; both times it's come out pretty perfect.  I love reliable recipes.

What makes this cake glorious is the cloud of softly whipped cream that is smothered on top, and then finished with a generous handful of fresh berries. This cream is whipped up together with mascarpone, some lemon zest, and a dash of vanilla bean paste. It's seriously good. While this is a cake that actually tastes amazing on its own without any extra fuss, I think the cream balances the sweetness of the cake and the fruitiness of the berries just right without overpowering either and makes the overall look more special.

One of the best things about this cake is that I made it without once reaching for that block of butter in the fridge. That, I think, is pretty impressive.

The best part, though, is that Dad loved it.  And that's all an amateur college baker needs to know, really.

Old Fashioned Sponge Cake 
Barely adapted from Poires au Chocolat

5 eggs (weigh them still in their shells)
[5 eggs] weight of caster sugar
[3 eggs] weight of self-raising flour (divided total weight of eggs by 5 and multiply by 3)

Optional: whipped cream and berries to decorate/serve.

Preheat your oven to 180C/356F and line a 8-inch round baking tin with baking paper.

Separate your eggs. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks together with the sugar until the mixture is pale and creamy.

In a separate bowl, whisk your egg whites until they reach stiff peaks.

Fold a quarter of the flour into the egg yolks mixture, followed by a large spoonful of egg whites.  Repeat until all the flour is folded in, then fold in the rest of the egg whites in one go. Pour the mixture into the baking tin and bake for 40-50 minutes. The outer shell of the cake should be brown and crispy, and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

Set on a wire rack and leave to cool.

Whipped Mascarpone Cream
Adapted from The Wednesday Chef

Note: If you're planning on serving this cake with the cream, I'd wait until the day you're planning to serve it to frost the cake, because once you put the cream on you'll have to keep the cake in the fridge and sponge cakes dry out quickly. You can make the cream a day in advance and keep it in the fridge. The recipe is also halved from the original, which makes enough to frost this cake. I've also changed it slightly by omitting the creme fraiche (simply because I realized I'd forgotten to buy it and couldn't be bothered to go out to the store again) and switched granulated sugar to icing sugar so it's a bit more stabilized even when not refrigerated.

1/2 cup mascarpone
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 tbsp icing sugar (depends on your taste - I didn't want it so sweet, but you can add an extra tablespoon if you like)
1/8 tsp vanilla bean paste (or pure vanilla extract)
Grated zest of half a lemon

Beat all the ingredients together in a large bowl on medium speed until the mixture thickens and the cream is softly whipped, about 2-3 minutes. Spread the mixture on top of the cooled cake and top with an assortment of fresh berries (I used strawberries and blueberries).  If frosted, the cake will keep for up to 3 days in the fridge.

(The sun was setting just as I was taking the above photo, and I caught the shadow of the cake banner stretched across a ray of sunlight.  There's something very vintage about this photo that just really appeals to me.)


  1. What a wonderful cake to bake on your Dad's birthday! It looks beautiful. And without butter! This is a must-try for me:-)

    1. Thank you! Butter-less cakes make for less guilt on birthdays ;)

  2. Nice recipe, I like that you use the weight of the eggs as a measure for the sugar and flour. Makes for a very exact recipe, which I love. Too bad my oven is really awful at baking at a steady temperature, so these spongy cakes are really awful to bake.

    - Johanna

    1. Thanks for dropping by, that's too bad about your oven - maybe baking these as cupcakes would be easier and could be managed even with a wonky oven?

    2. Thanks, that's a great idea. Might give that a try. Great pictures too by the way =)

      - Johanna

  3. I'm so pleased you like the recipe! I used to make it for my grandpa's birthday - he loves fatless sponges (loves angel cake too). The whipped mascarpone cream sounds fascinating - will have to check that out.

    1. Thank you for sharing it! Ooh yes, angel cake would be a good choice too.

  4. How sweet is that birthday banner?! This cake sounds delicious and looks adorable!

  5. Love the design, adding a personal touch - lovely!

  6. Wow! That looks great. Gonna bake a birthday cake for the Hub this week and am clueless on how to go about with the decor part. This looks good to try! ;)

  7. Used your recipe and this is how my cake turned out! :)

    It looked lovely but the cake was a little dry and tough, any suggestions for that? Thanks :)

    1. Your cake looks beautiful! I love the combination of cherries and mango as the topping.

      Often over-baking can cause cakes to become dry. Sponge cakes especially dry out very quickly. When I make this it's usually done at 40 minutes, but every oven differs, so it might be better to check five minutes earlier (just make sure you don't open the oven door too early otherwise you'll risk the cake collapsing, I'd say no earlier than 30 minutes at least). The other reason could be that if your eggs weren't at room temperature, then the cake mixture may curdle and this might cause it to become tough and heavy. Hope that helps!

  8. Hi Li,

    I recently followed this recipie of your for my wife's birthday. Believe me when I say it was my first ever cake that I baked ;).

    She loved it!!! and so did I..

    Thanks to you and wish you all the best in future recipies...

    You can say that you have an ardent follower of your work.

    Keep up the work.

  9. Hi, planning to make this for my best friend but it's hard to find whipped cream where I live. Any other frosting suggestions for the cake? It looks gorgeous, btw.


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