Sunday, September 4, 2011

I suck at sponges

It's a bit of a worry that my first reaction, on receiving a text asking me to a friend's housewarming drinks, was to think "what can I make out of the Edmonds book to take to that?" After some reflection, I decided it was about time I tried my hand at another sponge recipe.

I didn't have a particular recipe in mind; I just picked up the vital ingredients - eggs and cream - and went home to pick one at random. Light-as-air sponge (p68) sounded like a plan.

In order to get the sponge "light as air", the eggs are separated, and you beat the whites until thick, then beat in caster sugar - much like a meringue mixture, except that the next step is to beat in the yolks as well. When you have nice thick, airy mixture, you sift in cornflour, flour, and baking powder, then dissolve a little golden syrup in boiling water and add that too.

This is where I ran into trouble. I wanted to fold the added ingredients through the egg mixture without losing too much volume. There's a fine line between undermixed and overmixed, and this time it seems I landed on the 'undermixed' side of it.

I wasn't aware of that though, thinking I'd done a pretty good job as I divided the mixture into two sponge sandwich tins and got them in the oven a mere 15 minutes after walking in the door. I was feeling quite smug as I sat down to watch Masterchef, dishes done and sponge in the oven.

The sponge was to bake for 20 minutes. After about 15, I went to have a look. The sponges were looking worryingly brown on the top, so I whipped out a piece of baking paper and laid it over the top. The downside to this is that I had to open the oven, letting quite a bit of heat out.

A short time later, I took the sponges out and was faced with an extremely unimpressive result. I already knew they'd be overdone on top, but they'd also shrunk away from the sides and hadn't risen much at all - hardly a result that could be considered "light as air"!

When I turned the sponges out of the tins, it got even worse: there were lumps of unmixed cornflour that had just sunk to the bottom. I could pluck the gooey lumps out of the base of the sponges. But even without this, the sponges were totally unusable. My tendency to make bad sponges had caught up with me again..

What to do? I hadn't promised to bring anything to the housewarming, but I was now determined to come bearing a sponge cake. Turning to the three-minute sponge recipe that I have had more success with, I decided to whip up one of those instead.

It's a simpler recipe, in which you merely bung everything in a mixer and beat it for 3 minutes. The result was, while not perfect, much more successful. When it had cooled, I spread it with the last of my lime butter, and a combination of cream and lemon yoghurt. A dusting of icing sugar on top, and my housewarming offering was complete.

The sponge cake went down pretty well at the housewarming, several people indicating surprise when they found it wasn't a bought one. So that's some further praise for the three-minute sponge, but it doesn't tell you much about my original light-as-air sponge recipe. Suffice it to say that my dreadful result should not be blamed on the recipe, but rather my poor mixing and (probably) opening of the oven during cooking. If I have time, I might have another go at this one.

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