July 21, 2011

Almond sponge cake

Despite the hot weather, I keep having a hankering for cake lately.  I want to bake cakes!  I guess they just make me happy.  Plus, I like sitting down with a small slice on a neat plate and giving myself a treat.  As a compromise to the season though, I decided to try a recipe for a light sponge cake and as a little twist, an almond version.  I love plain sponge cakes.  I don't generally need a thick frosting on my cakes (well, unless it's chocolate ganache) and I really enjoy that lightly sweet egg taste.
This is also similar to the angel food cake except we're using both egg whites and egg yolks here.  This is definitely more up my alley since I missed the fat that was missing in the angel food cake.  I also love that smell and flavor of the eggs in the sponge cake.  But like the angel food cake, this sponge cake relies on the eggs for all it's volume and contains no other fats (i.e., no butter or oil). 

I decided to top the almond sponge cake with some almond-flavored whipped cream and toasted almond slices.  Frankly, I liked eating it plain with nothing at all as well.  It's sturdy enough that you can cut a wedge and grab it to go for breakfast.  And being the serious chocolate lover that I am, I also tried it with some dark chocolate sauce but I found that overwhelmed the sponge cake too much so I'm saving the sauce for ice cream.  I also discovered this cake would be the perfect base for strawberry shortcake.  The texture is moist in the center but also surprisingly firm (in a good way).  It would hold up well sliced across into two layers and filled with lightly-sweetened whipped cream and strawberries.  Whipped cream and strawberries would be a great option to have alongside this cake as well.

The recipe for this almond sponge cake comes from Ready for Dessert; the book has been a great investment for me so far.

The tricky thing about this recipe and making this type of sponge cake in general is you need to whip the egg whites and yolks separately so you need to either have 2 mixing bowls or be prepared to wash your bowl and whisk attachment after doing one (making sure it's thoroughly clean and dry), and move on to the other.  I thought about doing one of the two steps by hand but in the end, I opted for the wash and dry method.  It worked out just fine.

To start, prep a round 9-inch springform pan.  I sprayed the bottom with cooking spray and covered it with a parchment round.  Don't oil the parchment paper or the sides of the pan.  I believe the batter needs something to grab on to in order to rise. 

Sift 1 1/2 cups of cake flour (this is lighter than regular, all-purpose flour) with salt and some baking powder.
Then on to the whisking.  With the whisk attachment on a stand mixer, whip 5 room-temperature egg yolks with 1/4 cup of cold water (love it when there's an odd thing like that in a recipe).  Whip on high for one minute, then reduce speed to medium and add sugar and almond extract, then hike the speed back up to high and whip for about 5 minutes until the egg mixture is thick and forms a ribbon when you lift the whisk.
I gently transferred this egg yolk mixture into a bowl while I cleaned the bowl and whisk of the stand mixer, making sure it was completely clean and dry.  Then, drop the 5 egg whites (also at room temperature - that helps it whip up easier) and whisk on high until stiff peaks.  I think I over-whipped mine a bit!  It went from soft peak to this stage in the half minute that I turned around to read the recipe.  But remember we do not add any sugar to the egg whites here so it won't look glossy and stiff the way we associate stiff egg whites looking.  I'll definitely be more careful next time but all is not lost.  It's not too far gone that we can't use it. 
Now, sift the dry ingredients over the beat egg yolk and sugar mixture, using a whisk to fold it together. 
Then incorporate the egg whites by first adding 1/3 of the whites and folding it into the mix to lighten it up.  After that, add the rest of the egg whites and fold in gently.  Pour batter into your springform pan, smoothing out the top.
The cake bakes for about 40-45 minutes until the top is lightly browned and the top of the cake springs back slightly when you press it gently.  Let it cool in the pan.  To remove, run a knife around the edge to loosen it.  Flip it over and peel off the parchment paper and place cake on a plate or whatever you're using.  This is how it looks once cooled.  You could coat the top with a light dusting of confectioners' sugar just to make it a bit prettier.
The cake is nice and dry on top and around.  Luckily, the center came out moist, with a nice light scent and taste of almond, which I love.  I really enjoyed it.


Almond Sponge Cake
From Ready for Dessert, by David Lebovitz

- Makes one 9-inch round cake -

1 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1/4 cup cold water
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract*

* If you would like to make a plain sponge cake, substitute the almond extract with 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract instead.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Prep a 9-inch springform pan by buttering or spraying the bottom with cooking  spray.  Line the bottom with a piece of parchment round.  (Do not grease the parchment paper or the sides of the pan).

Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt together and set aside.

Fit your stand mixer with the whisk attachment.  Add the egg yolks and water and whip on high for one minute.  Then reduce speed to medium and gradually add sugar and almond extract.  Turn the speed back up to high and whip for about 5 minutes until the mixture is thick and leaves a ribbon when the whisk is lifted. 

In another clean bowl of the stand mixer, add egg whites.  Whip (making sure the whisk is clean and dry if you are using the same equipment you used for the yolks) egg whites until it reaches stiff peaks. 

Sift dry ingredients over the egg yolk mixture and fold in with a whisk.  Switching to a rubber spatula, gently fold in 1/3 of the egg whites to lighten up the batter.  Then, add the remaining whites and fold in (run your rubber spatula down the middle, under and over, while turning the bowl).  Pour batter into prepared cake pan, smoothing out the top.

Put the cake immediately into the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes, until the cake is browned and it springs back a little when you lightly press the top.  The cake will be nice and dry, not sticky.  Let cake cool in the pan.  To remove, run a knife around the sides of the pan and release the cake.  Take a knife or offset spatula and run it under the parchment paper to release the bottom of the cake.  Peel off parchment paper and place cake on to a plate.

I like this cake plain but I also served it with almond-flavored whipped cream and toasted almond slices.  Make a plain version of this cake (omit almond extract and use vanilla) and serve it with lightly-sweetened whipped cream and strawberries.  The cake also holds up well to being sliced into 2 layers as a strawberry shortcake or other cake.

Almond-flavored whipped cream

1/2 cup heavy cream
1-2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Refrigerate a small to medium size glass bowl and whisk until cold.  Start whipping cream by hand until it begins to thicken.  Gradually add the sugar, continuing to whip.  Add almond extract and keep whipping until it reaches a thick but still creamy consistency. 


  1. this is just awesome...yummmy..
    first time here...love ur space..
    very interesting posts..
    Am yur happy subscriber now..:)
    do stop by mine sometime..
    Tasty Appetite

  2. Thanks for visiting and for your comments, Jay. Look forward to stopping by your blog!



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