Back to basics

I’ve been cooking for a good twenty years, now, to one degree or another. Baking for less than that, and never really to the extent that I’m doing it now. But the fact remains that I’ve never made a basic sponge cake. I can make/have made polenta cake, meringues, pineapple upsidedown cake, red velvet cake, and then all the things I’ve blogged about – the creme brulee and the Oreos and so forth. But in the same way that I’ll happily put together Christmas dinner for six people but wouldn’t be that confident about boiling an egg (because ew, why would I want to do that?), I’ve run before I walked in terms of baking.

So, given that I hadn’t selected a recipe to make, and that I’m requiring myself to make at least one new thing a week, it seemed like a good idea to go back to the starting blocks. I used the BBC’s recipe because none of the books I have tell you something as basic as a sponge cake and I didn’t quite trust myself to just work it out.

It was mostly fine, but god damn do I need a hand mixer at bare minimum, if not a proper Magimix-style upright mixer. Creaming butter by hand gets tiring, and I’m going to end up with one enormous gross bicep, like some third-tier Marvel mutant, or Rafael Nadal. Of course, I thought it was a good idea to make a buttercream for the filling, rather than just whipped cream, because, well, I don’t really like cream. I used the same one from the the Oreos because it was simple, and tasty. Obviously I didn’t blend any peanut butter into this one. However, it did involve more creaming of butter and sugar, although that’s hella easier with icing sugar than caster.

Second problem was that the BBC recipe called for 7-inch cake tins and mine are 8-inch. There’s no way I’m traipsing about buying cake tins just for the purpose of one recipe at the best of times, let alone when London has been hit by APOCALYPTIC HORROR SNOW FROM THE DEPTHS OF SIBERIA as we apparently have. Obviously this meant that the cakes were wider and shallower than intended, which isn’t great, but isn’t the end of the world either. It does look a bit sad and flat, but in a way I prefer that to gigantic foot-high cake that you need to unhinge your jaw to eat.

Taste-wise, it’s good. Even though the sponge didn’t rise a lot, it’s still very light, and there’s a crispness at the edges that I really like. I’m not going to immortalise my flat-sponge shame with a photograph. I think next time I’ll do half as much again for everything, to make a deeper cake. Anyway, I’m glad to have the basic recipe under my belt for future reference. Hopefully I’ll eventually be one of those unbearable people who just ‘whips up a cake’ because they feel like it. Dare to dream.


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