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

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Comments

  1. Dear Mairead,
    I so much enjoyed the Victoria Sponge Cake while I was in England! Did they really get that from Ireland and just called it that during Queen Victoria’s reign because it was so popular? I’ll just bet they did, since it sounds exactly the same! Thanks for the recipe!!! I LOVED this cake!

    • Kay – This cake is very similar to a Victoria Sponge Cake. It is a little different in that it has no butter. The Victoria Sponge Cake has a butter and sugar base, with a slightly denser texture, but a very similar taste. I love both types of sponge cakes. Best wishes and happy baking.

  2. Hi Mairead,
    Your cake looks scrumptious,
    I think I’d be tempted to spread some of the whipped cream on top too.
    Your husband is a lucky man.
    Cheers.

    • Brian – I have been known to add an extra dollop of cream on top too. You can never have enough cream is my motto. I don’t know if my husband thinks he is lucky when he helps clean up after the mess I make when I’m baking. All the best!

  3. Looks very yummy — and another great way to use jam! :) Going to share this one with my girls!

  4. Hi Mairead –
    This looks quite tasty! Good for you for sticking with the whole measurements conversion thing…you’re persistent! Isn’t it a great feeling when you can recreate something that ties to such good memories?

    • Elizabeth – It took a few cooking failures to finally get the right ingredient balance, but it was well worth all those trials and errors, to bring back memories of home. My little girl loves this cake – it’s not too sweet, and the cream makes it delicious. She is now learning how to make her Irish Grandma’s cake. All the best!

  5. Yummy looking cake. When I first read that the post was about sponge cake, I immediately thought of the movie, “Calendar Girls”. One of the characters brings a sponge cake to the fair to be judged, and after she wins she admits that she bought it at the bakery.

    Thanks for the recipe.

  6. Hi Mairead,
    I’m about to make the sponge cake .I’v read over and over the 4 ozs of cake flour
    I’v looked at the picture which seems to be a lot more than 3/4 of a cup
    It is writen as 3/4 cup”s “…is that 3 – 4 cups or 3/4 of a cup ?
    I am confused… sorry maybe I’m stupit but I don’t want it to be “another ” disaster if you know what I mean..

    On a different subject …I loved your travels through Co., Down.
    Newcastle was my birth place I.Ilived there 21 happy years.
    Thanks for your time.
    Alice.

    • Hi Alice – The flour required is three-quarters of a cup plus 2 tablespoons. It does not sound like a lot, but the volume from this cake comes from air beaten into the eggs. Hope your sponge cake is a big success!

      So glad you enjoyed my trip around your home county of Down. Next up is Dublin – I’m working on it this week. Best wishes and thanks for stopping by.

    • Ann Byrne says:

      What part of co down r u from,I live in hilltown,

  7. I completely forgot about this cake until I found your site while looking for a Christmas pudding recipe like my (Irish) mom used to make. So many memories of being her helper and spreading the whipped cream for her…and then eating it! Thank you for the recipes just like mom made and reminding me of good times with her.

    • Jennifer – I too remember helping my mom spread jam and cream on this sponge cake. This cake was a big part of my Irish childhood. So glad you found my site, and I am delighted my recipes and stories stirred lovely childhood memories.
      Best wishes,
      Mairéad

      • is your oven temp right 375 then 350 seems realy high

        • Davie – I always start my sponge cake at 375 degrees to help heat the air in the egg mixture quickly and promote the rising process. Once the cakes are well risen I turn the temperature down. I find the sponges don’t rise well in an oven that is cooler.
          All the best,
          Mairead

          • my oven only goes to 275 fan assist and it worked a treat
            i made your sponge into a birthday it went down a treat
            thank you
            it was lovley and light

          • Davie – I’m delighted to hear your sponge cake was a great success. Cooking it with the fan assist oven probably created a lovely uniform heat to get it to rise nicely. I like to make sponge cake for my husband’s and my birthdays. Next I have to convince my kids that they don’t need cakes with all that frosting for their birthdays. Sponge is the perfect birthday cake in my book.
            All the best,
            Mairéad

  8. Thank you for this wonderful recipe Mairead! I decided that it would make a fabulous birthday cake this year, and I was right! http://ratliffkitchen.blogspot.com/2012/12/irish-sponge-cake.html The whole family enjoyed it!

    • Happy birthday Aimee. So glad this sponge cake worked out well and that all your crew enjoyed it. Love how you adapted the recipe to utilize ingredients you usually use to cook in your house. When I was growing up my Mom always made this recipe for birthdays. Best wishes for the coming year.
      Mairead

  9. Thank you so much for posting this recipe! My husband moved over here two years ago from Ireland and this is his absolute favorite! His Birthday is tomorrow so I am surprising him with this. The only thing left to do is to try it and see if it comes anywhere near to his mam’s. ;) I’m sure I will be referencing your site for future Irish recipes. :)

    • Heather – I hope your sponge cake turned out well and that your husband enjoyed his cake. Belated birthday greetings to him. I have been at our farm in County Cork with no internet access, so please excuse my delay in responding to your comment. I’m delighted you found my website and I hope you enjoy my recipes. I have many more to share over the coming months.
      All the best,
      Mairéad

  10. Hi Mairéad, I was wondering if you have you tried using gluten-free flour in this recipe and if it was successful?
    Thanks in advance
    Naoimh

  11. Susan smith says:

    Thank you mairead your recipes are bringing back lots of child hood memories , I’m also an Irish American mom and I cook for a liven you’d think I would start making my child hood recipes ,,, who knows but I’m going to start now thanks
    I’m also from Dublin the best place on earth

    • Susan – Dublin is a great place alright. Glad my recipes are bringing back fond memories of your childhood. We grew up on simple, but good, tasty food.
      All the best,
      Mairéad

      • Hi Irish American Mom

        Thank you for the simple receipt. I have only one question: should I use granulated sugar or caster sugar?

        Thank you
        Caroline

        • Caroline – If you have caster sugar I recommend using it since it will incorporate and dissolve into the eggs faster, for a lighter sponge. If you only have regular sugar don’t worry. It will work fine – your sponge may not be as light as with caster sugar, but it will taste delicious.
          All the best,
          Mairead

  12. Buichas le Dia – agus leat a Mhamai Mheiriceanach, for this amazing recipe – I thought I’d never be able to replicate the beautiful sponges I grew up with in Ireland. I found pastry making quite a challenge when I came to N. America. Making this for my daughter Sinead’s birthday tomorrow.

    Go raibh mile maith agat!

  13. I just finished baking this and while the cake wasn’t as fluffy as I anticipated, it was still very spongy and yummy! I had to put the rest in the refrigerator since the cream was dairy. My family isn’t going to be happy since they had JUST organized it today! :-P

    I used blackcurrant preserves I got at a place that sells international food. I was very delighted. This is going to be one of my go-to recipes!

    Best wishes!

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed this sponge. It is a firm favorite in my house. I like the fact there is so little butter in the recipe, so I don’t feel so guilty when I make it.
      All the best,
      Mairéad

  14. julia otamendi says:

    Dear Irish mom
    I’ve been looking for this recipe for days and could only found some with butter
    I ‘ve eaten this kind of cake when I was a child and wanted to make one now for my grandchildren
    My question now is: which is the exact amount of flour and sugar needed, since the size of cups may vary
    Can’t you measure them in a measuring glass?
    I dare bother you with my request because my first two attemps were unsuccessful and I don’ know if this was the cause or the fact that I used the eggs from the fridge
    TIA for your kindness,
    Julia, from Buenos Aires, Argentina

    • Julia – the size of the cups will definitely affect the outcome of this recipe. I created this using American measuring cups, so if you can’t get the exact size cups it’s best to weigh the ingredients. You need 4 eggs, 4 ounces of sugar and 4 ounces of flour. This is roughly 4 eggs, 120 grams of sugar, and 120 grams of flour. Another reason your sponge may not be light enough may be that you are not beating the eggs and sugar enough before adding the flour. They will be stiff and a very pale color when ready. Hope this helps.
      Best wishes,
      Mairead

  15. Alli Hogan says:

    Could I make just one cake and slice it in half length-wise? Also, are cake pans a must or can I use smaller dishes such as 16 oz. (473mL) Ramkin dishes?

    • Alli – Sorry I didn’t get to reply to you before you tried the ramekins. One cake pan would work fine. I use this recipe to make a swiss roll, baking it in a cookie tray. I must make one and write a post about how to roll it.
      All the best,
      Mairead

  16. Alli Hogan says:

    Okay. Definitely not going to use ramekins to bake anymore. Even though I sprayed and floured the heck out of the two ramekins, the sponge cake still stuck to the sides and the bottom of them. Both cakes look like a shredded mess. Sad.

    • Thanks for adding your photo to my Facebook page. Even if they didn’t look the best, I’m sure they tasted great.
      Best wishes,
      Mairead

    • Penny Wolf says:

      This recipe made a very good Boston Cream Pie. I found it to get better the following day too! Thank you.

    • Penny Wolf says:

      If you don’t mind an idea to Alli – If you are wanting to remove the cakes from the ramekins why not use
      cupcake liners? You can remove the paper/parchment easily AFTER a proper cooling time.

      • Great suggestion, Penny. I always love readers’ comments and tips on all my recipes. It’s amazing how many wonderful tweaks and improvements are suggested. As my granny used to say – “The world is a wealth of knowledge.”
        All the best, and thanks as always for stopping by.
        Mairéad

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