You’re going to soak up a lot of sweet goodness by indulging in today’s food holiday. August 23 is National Sponge Cake Day!
Sponge cakes are made with flour, sugar, and eggs, and usually leavened with baking powder. They bake up firm with an aerated texture, similar to – you guessed it – a sponge. So there’s truth in advertising. During the Renaissance, Italian cooks earned a reputation as skilled bakers, and were often hired in English and French households. During this time, they introduced a fluffy new treat known as a “biscuit” that was actually a forerunner of sponge cake. The first recorded mention of sponge cake appears in English poet and author Gervase Markham’s elegantly titled The English Huswife, Containing the Inward and Outward Virtues Which Ought to Be in a Complete Woman. There is little doubt Gervase was a real Casanova in his day. It is said that one of Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting was so hungry one day, even though dinner was hours away yet, that she instructed her servants to sneak her in a pot of tea and some baked goods. Soon she started inviting her friends to join her, and the tradition of 5:00 tea was born. One of these baked goods was a sponge cake “sandwich” consisting of layers of jam and whipped cream. The Queen herself got wind of these, and they quickly became a favorite of Her Royal Highness. To this day, sponge cakes in Britain are often called Victoria sponge cakes. In the U.S., they are sometimes referred to as pound cakes. There are two methods for producing sponge cakes: the “batter” method and the “foam” method. The latter utilizes air whipped into the eggs as a leavening agent, while the batter method uses baking powder and often includes butter. Examples of “foam” sponge cakes include angel’s food, chiffon, and meringue.
To celebrate, we bought some short cake (a type of sponge cake), added fresh raspberries (because strawberries are too cliche), and whipped cream (cliche or not, you need whipped cream). Delicious!