Irish Sponge Cake

Irish sponge cake is a light and delicate egg sponge filled with a layer of jam and lots of luscious cream, with a light dusting of confectioners’ sugar on top.  I loved this cake when I was growing up in Ireland.

This cake recipe requires no butter.  That’s right! A butter free cake! This is my Mom’s go-to recipe whenever she wants to make a quick, inexpensive cake that is relatively good for you.  The recipe calls for four eggs, resulting in a protein-rich treat, disguised as cake.

I confess I was easy to please as a child.  When my mom asked what kind of cake I wanted for my birthday I always requested this sponge cake.  No frosting frenzy required for me.  Just a simple dusting of confectioners’ sugar on this cream-filled delight, and I was as happy as a bee.

 

Ingredients

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cups cake flour (plus two tablespoons)
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup strawberry or raspberry jam
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Optional

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

I loved to bake cakes when I was a teenager in Ireland.  My Mom’s sponge cake recipe was easy to remember – 4 eggs, 4 ounces of sugar and 4 ounces of flour.  4-4-4 made it ever so simple.

Not so simple when I came to America, and tried to replicate my Irish cake baking successes.  My first attempts were a complete failure.  I used 4 eggs and 1/2 cup of both sugar and flour.  It took me a while to realize that 4 ounces of sugar is a half cup, but that flour is significantly lighter than sugar.  I needed 3/4 cups of flour, plus an additional 2 tablespoons to achieve the exact same ratios as in my mother’s recipe.

 

Sponge cake success is dependent upon beating as much air as possible into an egg and sugar mixture to ensure the cake rises when it hits the heat of the oven.  Make sure your eggs are at room temperature before beating them.  Cold eggs do not hold as much air.

Add the eggs and sugar to the bowl of an electric mixer.  Turn onto high and let the mixer perform its magic.

While the mixer is busy beating up those eggs and sugar, prepare two 9-inch round baking pans by spraying them with non-stick spray infused with flour.

I love this stuff!  It is so much easier than the old fashioned way.  We used to grease the pans with an old butter wrapper, then add flour and tap it around the pan to completely coat the buttery surface in a thin white layer of flour.  Now that awkward job has been transformed into a few quick spritzes with this miraculous floury spray.  Hats off to whoever invented this stuff!  You have my eternal gratitude.

Next prepare the flour by sifting it with the baking powder.  My mom does not use any baking powder at all, but I find that just 1/8 of a teaspoon helps when using American flour.

Always sift the flour.  The process adds air to the flour mixture, helping create a lighter sponge cake.

The egg and sugar mixture will increase in volume many times over as it gets whipped up with air.  It takes anywhere from 6 to 8 minutes depending on the power of your mixer to achieve a thickened, glossy consistency.  When the egg mixture is ready the beater will be leaving markings on the mixture as it turns, and the mixture’s color will be a very, very pale yellow.

Spoon half the flour into the egg mixture.  Using a spatula, gently fold in the flour.  Do not use the electric mixer to add the flour, since this would deflate all the lovely air pockets that will help the cake to rise.

Add the vanilla essence at this point if you like the flavor.  I never add vanilla – it is not a sponge cake flavor I grew up with.

Add the second half of the flour and again fold it in gently.  Make sure to lift the mixture from the very bottom of the bowl as you fold in the flour.  This will release air pockets of trapped flour like the one pictured above.

When the flour is fully incorporated pour half the mixture into each of the prepared baking pans.

Spread it out evenly using the spatula.  Place the cake pans in the pre-heated oven and bake for 15 minutes at 375 degrees and then reduce to 350 degrees for a final 10 minutes.

When cooked the cakes will be a light golden color and will be slightly springy to the touch.  When touched with a finger tip, no indentation will remain.

Use a knife to loosen the edges of the sponge layer from the side of the cake pan if necessary.  Turn the cakes onto a wire rack to cool.

Spread a 1/4 cup of jam on the inner aspect of each sponge layer.

Beat the heavy whipping cream in a mixing bowl using an electric mixer, until the cream is thick and easy to spread.  Add 1 tablespoon of confectioners’ sugar to the cream if a sweeter taste is desired.

Place the lower layer of the sponge on a serving plate.  Cover the jam with a thick layer of cream.

Place the top sponge layer on top of the cream, to create a jam and cream sandwich.

Decorate the cake with a light coating of confectioners’ sugar sifted on top.

Slice and enjoy this light, delicate cake with jam and luscious cream.  My little girl announced tonight, that sponge cake is her favorite cake in the whole wide world.  It’s her Mommy’s favorite cake too.

Here is the printable recipe.

Irish Sponge Cake

Serves 8
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 25 minutes
Total time 45 minutes
Meal type Dessert
Region Irish
An Irish Sponge Cake is a light and delicate egg sponge filled with a layer of jam and lots of luscious cream, with a light dusting of confectioners' sugar on top.

Ingredients

  • 4 Large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cups cake flour (plus two tablespoons)
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup strawberry or raspberry jam
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

Optional

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Step 1 Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray two 9-inch round baking pans with non-stick spray infused with flour, or grease with butter and dust with a light coating of flour.
Step 2 Add the eggs and sugar to a large mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar for 6 to 8 minutes until the mixture has increased in volume and thickened to a consistency of whipped heavy cream.
Step 3 In a separate bowl sift the flour and baking powder together. Spoon half the flour into the egg mixture and gently fold it in using a spatula. Repeat with the second half of the flour, folding gently to fully incorporate the flour. Add the vanilla essence with the flour if desired.
Step 4 Pour half of the cake mixture into each of the prepared baking pans. Bake in the preheated oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 10 minutes. The sponges will be golden brown, with a slight spring to the touch when cooked.
Step 5 Remove the sponges from the oven and cool on a wire tray.
Step 6 Whip the heavy cream using an electric beater until thick. Add one tablespoon of confectioners' sugar to sweeten if desired. Spread jam on the inner surface of each sponge. Place one layer on a plate, spreading the cream over the jam. Sandwich the cream with the upper sponge layer.
Step 7 Decorate by sifting a fine layer of confectioners' sugar on top. Slice to serve.

Happy baking!

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom