I decided to make a sponge sandwich (p69), which is a variation on the sponge roll recipe. You use the same recipe, but bake it in sponge sandwich tins instead of a single sponge roll tray.
As with most sponges, the main ingredient is eggs: you begin by beating eggs with salt, then beating in sugar and vanilla (The sugar here was supposed to be caster sugar, but found I'd run out, so I had to substitute plain white sugar, which may or may not have had a bearing on the final result).
The next step is to sift flour and baking soda together and fold them into the egg mixture. I seem to have trouble with this bit; the flour just clumps together and sinks to the bottom. I did my best to combine the mixtures without stirring all the air out of the eggs, before folding through the final ingredient - melted butter - and pouting the mixture into sponge sandwich tins.
Normally, I grease and line sponge sandwich tins, but I noticed the recipe said 'grease and flour', so I had a go at that. Probably I ought to have greased it with butter, old-school style, but spraying them with oil is just so much quicker. Anyway, when I sprinkled flour over the oil, it looked like it was turning to a kind of paste. Whoops - never mind, pour the mix on top of it and pretend it didn't happen!
When I got the sponges out of the oven, they looked surprisingly good - cooked through, spongy and without any obvious floury lumps. The only negative was that they had only risen to about half the height of a decent sponge cake. When sandwiched together, I was going to have a cake 20cm round and about 2.5cm high: not good enough.
It really hadn't taken long to make the sponge sandwich, so I decided to make another one, thus doubling the height of my cake. I went through all the above steps again, this time deciding to line the sandwich tins instead of flouring them. A slight hiccup occurred when I was pouring the sponge mixture into the tins and realised I hadn't added the butter. I poured all the mix back into the bowl, folded through the butter and returned the mixture to the tins. I lost a bit of air out of the mixture by doing this, but didn't think I could get away with leaving out the butter.
The second batch of sponges came out even more dismally flat than the first. Oh well. I let them cool down and packed my stack of flat sponges in a container overnight.
In the morning, I whipped up some cream and got out my homemade apricot jam, believing that if I added enough cream and jam, it would take attention away from the crappy sponges. It was at least a good excuse to dig out my cake pedestal, a frivolous post-Christmas purchase I hadn't yet had the opportunity to use.
I stacked up my sponges, spreading a generous amount of jam and cream between each layer, and sprinkling the top with icing sugar. At a glance, it looked quite good - to anyone who didn't know it was a disaster in disguise!
It didn't taste too bad either: As I'd hoped, the apricot jam saved the day and made a dodgy cake quite palatable. That's not to say that the cake itself actually tasted bad. It's more that it didn't exactly meet the standards of a sponge cake, i.e. it didn't rate very highly on the "light and airy" scale. In fact, the entire concoction looked and tasted more like a stack of pancakes than anything else. Good thing everyone loves pancakes, then, isn't it?