My maternal grandmother was one of the best sponge bakers in the Waikato. At every family get-together, young and old would be rushing to get the savoury food out of the way. Glorious and light, filled with cream and fruit, Grandma's sponges were legendary.
The funny thing is that I never liked sponge cake as a child - I loved the smell of them cooking but never enjoyed the texture - those unique qualities were exactly what I didn't enjoy.
All that changed when I started cooking and worked at a restaurant where a sponge roulade was one of the most popular desserts on the menu. I soon began to appreciate the skill needed to create a perfect sponge. You need time to whisk the eggs and sugar, ideally until what is termed as the "ribbon" stage when the mixture becomes pale and thick so that when the beaters are raised, the batter trails like a ribbon and holds its weight for 10 seconds before sinking. A light and gentle hand when mixing and folding is imperative so you don't lose the valuable air bubbles, then the mixture has to be poured into the prepared tin and baked in a preheated oven as soon as possible.
I've given recipes for a chocolate sponge cake, a roulade and sponge drops, which are a lovely old fashioned small biscuit sandwiched together with whipped cream, crystallised ginger and crushed fresh raspberries. They all look beautiful and have delicious fillings, so while the preparations may take patience and skill, the outcomes are delightful.
Sponge baking is a time-honoured skill with impressive results. So bring out the silverware and vintage crockery and serve one for a charming morning tea or dessert.
Leave sponges to stand in the tin so the mixture settles and becomes firm. Sponge can also be frozen successfully; just wrap in plastic wrap then freeze.
For more of Amanda Laird's fabulous recipes, visit foodhub.co.nz