Mom’s Sponge Cake

sponge cakeWhen we went back to Seattle to visit this past Christmas, I spent some time going through my mom’s recipe box and making some childhood favorites. This sponge cake was first on my list, then and now. It’s soft, light, and fluffy — perfect with a cup of tea or coffee. This cake is perfectly delightful plain, but just to be a little fancy I drizzled on a simple lemon glaze (colored with natural food powder from Go Supernatural).

A few notes:

  • This cake is traditionally baked in an ungreased aluminum 10″ tube pan for the best rise. Don’t use a non-stick pan; the cake has to cling to the sides to rise.
  • The most important keys to success with these type of cakes are properly whipped egg whites and good folding technique. For beating egg whites, I have the best success starting on a low speed and gradually raising it; this helps build a tighter, more stable structure and helps reduce the possibility of overbeating.
  • I find it easiest to fold these types of batters in a large, wide stainless steel mixing bowl with a silicone spatula. For the longest time I was so afraid of over-mixing my sponges that I’d end up undermixing them; it’s important to make sure you don’t have any pockets of flour or unincorporated egg whites or your cake won’t bake up properly. Just be patient and gentle and mix until you have a homogeneous batter.
  • The order of mixing is sort of personal preference. You could beat the egg whites first, transfer them to another bowl, and then beat the yolk mixture with the stand mixer. Or you could beat the yolk mixture with the stand mixer, transfer it to another mixing bowl, clean the mixer bowl and attachment thoroughly, and then beat the whites. I prefer to just start with my yolk mixture in my big mixing bowl and beat that with handheld electric mixer (or a whisk); that way I minimize the number of bowls used and I don’t have to clean stuff during the mixing process.
  • The cake should be cooled completely upside down to minimize shrinking. If your tube pan doesn’t have feet, you can invert it and slide a funnel or a heavy bottle through the center insert.

sponge cake in pan

sponge cake from above

sponge cake slice

Mom’s Sponge Cake

Makes one 10” tube cake


For the sponge cake:

  • 10 large eggs, separated when cold but brought to room temperature before mixing the batter
  • 188g (1.5 c) cake flour
  • 300g (1.5 c) sugar (preferably caster), divided
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2 c neutral oil (I use grapeseed)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the lemon glaze and garnish (optional):

  • 188g (1.5 c) icing sugar, sifted
  • 2-3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Pinch of salt
  • Zest of one lemon, for sprinkling


  1. Preheat oven to 350F with a rack in the lower third.
  2. Sift cake flour into a small bowl and set aside.
  3. In a large, wide mixing bowl, combine half the sugar (150g), egg yolks, oil, salt, and vanilla and beat on medium until creamy and the sugar is dissolved (3-5 minutes). Set aside.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium-low until foamy. Increase the speed to medium. When the whites reach soft peak stage, slowly add the remaining sugar (150g) one tablespoon at a time. Once all the sugar has been added, continue whipping on medium to medium-high until the mixture is glossy and holds medium-stiff peaks.
  5. Sift the flour into the yolk mixture in three batches, using a silicone spatula to mostly fold each portion in before sifting in the next. Once all the flour has been added, continue folding until all the flour is incorporated and the mixture is thick and smooth. Be sure to scoop all the way down to the bottom of the bowl to make sure the flour is evenly incorporated, but take care not to overmix.
  6. Fold in the whipped egg whites in three or four portions, using a silicone spatula to mostly fold in each portion before adding the next. Once all the egg whites have been added, fold until the batter is smooth and uniform in color, again taking care not to overmix.
  7. Pour the batter into an ungreased aluminum 10″ tube pan. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until the cake is well browned and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Do not open the oven for at least 45 minutes or the delicate cake may fall. Invert the pan to cool completely (if your pan doesn’t have feet, you can insert a funnel or heavy bottle through the center). Slide an offset spatula around the edges to loosen, remove the insert, then slide the spatula around the bottom. Flip the cake onto a serving platter.

For the glaze and assembly:

  • Whisk together sifted icing sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in the lemon juice 1 Tbsp at a time until desired consistency. Drizzle onto the cooled cake and sprinkle with lemon zest, if desired.

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