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Australian Sponge Cake in the US - HELP!

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 



I am an Aussie, living in the US.  When we first moved here 8 years ago I tried many times to make an Australian recipe sponge cake, but to no avail.  I tried again today with tips from a chef in Australia recommeding to sift the flour 5 times, gradually add the sugar, scour the bowl with hot water before beating the egg whites, and more.  Nope, no better result. 


The Australian sponge cake is a very light and airy cake.  It comprises only eggs, sugar, flour, and water.  When I describe it to Americans most say "oh, you mean and angel food cake", but it quite different to angel food cake.  Angel food cake is very dense and (at least the ones I have had) has large bubbles throughout the cake.  Sponge cake is airy light and almost melt-in-your-mouth consistency. 


Has anyone had any success baking an Australian sponge cake in the US?  Does anyone have a recipe that works?  I've tried about 3 variations of recipe but none have been successful.  At one point I also bought some self raising flour in Canada and tried that, but it was no better.  The cakes look fabulous in the oven - they are skyscraper tall - but the minute they come out they fall flat.  By the time the cake is cool enough to eat it's the consistency of angel food cake, or some are dense and rubbery.


Thanks in advance for any advice or recipes that work.

Edited by bergamus - 12/23/12 at 9:28pm
post #2 of 8

How about you post your recipe and we'll help you make it work?

A description of what you are looking for rather than what has failed will also help immensely.


From your non-description/recipe it...

...sounds like a technique issue (from what little you have described).


FWIW - i've never heard of / read of / seen of  a recipe for Australian Sponge Cake... I also bet most people here haven't either - now if you want light and fluffy... well then we can talk! (and so can many others here on CT that know much much more about baking than myself)


What is Australian Sponge Cake?



"Plus, this method makes you look like a complete lunatic. If you care about that sort of thing".  - Dave Arnold





"Plus, this method makes you look like a complete lunatic. If you care about that sort of thing".  - Dave Arnold


post #3 of 8
Thread Starter 

Hi Michael,


Thank you for your offer to help.


Here's a link to a photo and recipe.  (BTW - you can put anything in the middle but typically it's cream.  People often put a light icing on top.)


I have used various recipes, the most recent being this one .  It's a staple from the PWMU Cookbook (Aussie classic)


Sponge Cake


1 cup sugar

4 eggs

1 cup SR flour

1 tablespoon boiling water


Separate whites and beat until thick and creamy.  Add sugar and beat until dissolved.  Beat in egg yolks.  Fold in sifted flour, lastly boiling water.  Put into sponge tins and bake in moderate oven for 30 mins.


I acknowledge your point that it must be a technique issue, but I have baked this (and many other recipe) sponges for many years successfully in Australia and am applying the same technique here.  I suspect there is something different - either the eggs, flour, or sugar.  Maybe the altitude.


If you haven't had this cake before it may be difficult to know if it turns out right.  I am sorry, I can't think of any other way to describe it that I haven't already given.


Thanks again for any tips.  Good luck!

post #4 of 8

Here is my best guess:


You say the problem is that the cake falls when out of the oven, so that would be a structural problem and most likely to do with different flour you are using now.  I don't know a whole lot about flour, but I know that when I think I am getting the same thing from one country to another it is often very different.  Find out the exact specifications of the flour you used in Australia then find the flour with the closest specs where you are at now.  The companies you buy from will most likely provide you with spec sheets (or something), then you can start to compare flours.  I have a hunch a big factor is the chemical levener;  too much will make things rise too fast with too much air and not enough structure and then they collapse.  You might try non-SR flour and sift in your own baking powder, about 1 tea spoon per cup flour.



post #5 of 8
Thread Starter 



Thank you so much!  Anyone I have talked to about this in the past has also suggested it's the flour.  I appreciate the idea of using baking powder with plain flour.  I will give that a go.

post #6 of 8

You're describing a typical European sponge cake.  They're just not common in the U.S.   Lots of recipes.  Here's a basic one online:,2372,152177-237204,00.html    In recent years I've been using Carol Field's "Pan di Spagna" recipe from _The Italian Baker_.  I think there was a sponge cake thread on this forum not too long ago.


They all depend on egg foams.  Often the eggs are separated and the whites beaten separately for extra lightness.  The technique described in the link looks wrong.  So just to be clear, in the recipe you describe, one would typically (1) separate the eggs, (2) beat yolks with sugar until pale yellow and fluffy, then beat in liquid, (3) beat the egg whiles separately, maybe with a little sugar, *until soft-peak stage*, (4) gently fold the whites and the sifted dry ingredients into the egg mixture, maybe one third at a time. 


Re flour, what's sold in the U.S. as "cake flour" should work fine.  As you note, these cakes don't need chemical leavening, but a lot of recipes include a little baking powder sifted in with the flour.  


Pan dimensions matter: flatter gets you a lighter result.


I'm assuming you're using the toothpick test or something similar to assure done-ness before removing from the oven.  


If you're at a high altitude, you might look at



Quick edit: in you can see Siduri's excellent recipe for a simple sponge cake which beats the eggs whole.

I have a link at the end of that thread which will take you all the way back to Mrs. Beeton.  

Edited by Colin - 12/24/12 at 1:49pm
post #7 of 8

We don't typically have self-raising flour available the way you do in Australia and Europe; you have to make your own substitution, combining cake or all-purpose flour with baking powder, and maybe even cornstarch to further lighten and change the protein content of the flour to what you are used to using in Australia.  Shirley Corriher in her book Bakewise will have an explanation about how to make self-raising flour, as would Rose Levy Beranbaum in The Cake Bible.  Both books would be available in the library if you don't have a copy ....

post #8 of 8
Thread Starter 
Thank you Colin and JCakes. Definitely sounding like the flour is the culprit. Colin, I'm also in Seattle. I've seen the cake prepared either with the egg whites beaten first and then add the yolks, and vice versa. Thanks JCakes, I will contact some local cake stores to see if they have cake flour.
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