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Few cakes are as customizable as simple sponge cakes. Baked in sheet, cake, or tube pans, they can be dressed up by adding frostings, icings, and whipped cream, or served simply as a slightly sweet accompaniment to tea. Sponge cakes rely on well-beaten eggs to give them volume, but you can modify the texture of a sponge cake by what fat you use. A simple sponge cake that uses butter can be made in sheet pans or cake pans. It's fluffy, light, and rolls easily. A chiffon cake relies on oil and uses more flour. This creates a sturdier cake that can stand up to heavier frostings or buttercream. Choose a sponge cake, bake it in a pan of your choice, and frost it to make it your own.


For a Simple Sponge Cake
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for pans
1 1/2 cups cake flour, plus more for pans
9 large eggs, room temperature, white and yolks separated
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of kosher salt
powdered/confectioner's sugar, for dusting

For a Chiffon Cake
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
2 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup neutral oil, such as canola, vegetable, or sunflower (do not use olive oil)
7 large egg yolks
9 large egg whites
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Heat the oven and prepare your pans. Set the oven to 180°C, 350°F, or gas mark 4. Butter two 9-inch cake pans or 2 12-by-17 inch rimmed baking sheets. Line the bottom of your pans with parchment paper, butter the paper, and then sprinkle flour all over it. Gently shake the flour around and shake the excess out of the pan.
Don't be tempted to skip the parchment paper. It will ensure that the cake doesn't stick to the pans and will make it easy to remove.

Set up a bain marie. Pour water into a saucepan and get it simmering, or slightly bubbling. Place a bowl over the saucepan taking care that the bowl doesn't touch the water.
You can also buy and use a double boiler, which similarly nests two saucepans.

Add egg yolks and 1 cup of sugar to the bowl. Whisk till the yolks and sugar over the simmering water until the sugar dissolves, about 3 or 4 minutes. When you no longer see sugar granules, remove the bowl from heat.

Beat the yolk/sugar mixture. Use a hand-mixer on medium-high to beat the mixture until it lightens in color and thickens slightly, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in vanilla extract and salt. Pour the mixture into a large bowl.

Beat egg whites. Place the whites in a separate large bowl and beat with a mixer on high speed. Beat till soft peaks form. These should be slightly droopy if you lift the beaters out of the bowl. Once this happens, beat in the rest of your sugar until the peaks become stiff and shiny. This should take a couple of minutes.
Be sure to use spotlessly clean beaters and a bowl. If there's any trace of grease or fat, your egg whites won't form peaks.

Fold the whites into the yolks. Do this gradually, by folding in one third of the whites at a time. Then, gently sift the flour over the top and fold it in as well. Stop folding just before all the flour is incorporated.
To fold in a mixture, simply use a spatula and a light hand to gently combine a lighter mixture into a heavier one. Avoid stirring, or you'll lose the volume of the lighter mixture. Instead, rotate your wrist when combining substances.

Pour in the melted butter. Pour it down the side of the bowl and fold it into the batter until it's smooth, but take care not to overbeat.

Spread the batter in pans and bake. Divide the batter between your two cake pans or sheets. Bake the cake pans for around 25 minutes or 15 minutes for the sheet pans. To ensure even browning, rotate the pans or sheets halfway through the baking time. The cake is done when a tester or toothpick comes out clean after being stuck in the center.

Remove from the sheets or pans. If you used cake pans, hold a plate over the cake, then swiftly turn it upside down so the cake comes out onto the plate. Remove the parchment and then use the same method to flip it onto your serving plate.
If you used sheets, lay out a few kitchen towels and dust them with the powdered/confectioner's sugar. Immediately flip the hot cakes onto the dusted towels. Dust the top of the cakes with more powdered/confectioner's sugar and then roll up the cakes in the towels. Let them cool for at least an hour. Unroll them before filling.

Frost or fill, as desired. Sponge cakes baked in cake pans easily lend themselves to filling between the layers. Sponge cakes baked in sheet pans can be filled and rolled before being frosted on the outside.
Try making a Buche de Noel. Take your prepared sponge cake made in a sheet pan and fill with your choice of chocolate, chestnut, coffee, or cream cheese fillings. Roll it up and cover with a frosting of your choice (typically, a chocolate). Decorate the rolled up cake to look like a Yule log by adding meringue mushrooms, holly, and sugared cranberries. Dust with powdered sugar.[1]
Try making a Victoria Sponge. Place one of your sponge cakes made in the cake pan onto your serving plate. Spread raspberry jam overtop or scatter with fresh berries. Dollop whipped cream or buttercream over the jam or fruit and spread. Stack the other sponge cake on top of the fruit and cream, then dust with powdered/confectioner's sugar and serve.[2]