Sponge cakes are European-style cakes, like the French génoise, and are a fundamental block in your cake-building repertoire. Unlike butter cakes and chiffon cakes, sponge cakes include little or no fat, other than what's in the egg yolks. Traditional recipes produce cakes leavened only by the air beaten into the eggs, not by baking powder or soda.
Sponge cakes are used in layer cakes, charlottes, jelly rolls, and tiramisu (either as a sheet or piped into ladyfingers). Madeleines are also a version of sponge cakes.
Since fat acts as a tenderizer, plain sponge cakes can be dry and seem tough. When soaked with simple syrup and flavorings, sponge cakes are delectable.
This cake supposedly arrived in this country by way of Thomas Jefferson who copied the recipe while abroad and sent it back to his cooks at Monticello. For many years it was also identified with the city of Savannah from where this recipe comes. It was very popular in the 50's and 60's and I still remember the one made by a store called the A&P which was where my mother shopped for groceries. The store and the cake somehow disappeared from the radar and I hadn't thought about it until I saw and made this recipe last night. Well, it won't be forgotten for long, it is a delectable way to serve fruit in the summer as an alternative to the heavier shortcake. The Madeira Sauce which accompanies the cake is something else. That is where the fat is but don't have a hissy fit yet. ...you won't be eating all the sauce, just about 1 tablespoon (or two) and then you might lick the remnants before you put the pan in the sink...that's all!.
1 cup white sugar
1 large lemon
4 ounces cake flour (sifted)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Grate rind of the lemon into small glass bowl. Juice lemon through a strainer into the bowl and let seep while you prepare batter.
Butter and flour 9 inch cake pan.
Separate the eggs. In a large mixing bowl, beat egg yolks until very thick and lemon colored. Beat in sugar gradually. add lemon extract and lemon rind..
In another bowl, beat egg whites with the salt until frothy Beat mixture until whites are stiff, but not until they are dry. Add flour. Fold this whipped mixture and flour into yolk mixture.
Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake at 300 degrees F for 45 minutes or until done.
Dust with powdered sugar. It makes a delicious tea cake or can be used for triffle, charlotte, or tiramisu.
For dessert, serve with strawberries and blueberries and Sweet Madeira Sauce (follows)
Sweet Madeira Sauce
1/2 cup medium dry Madeira wine
3 to 4 TBS sugar
10 Tbs or 1 1/4 stick cold unsalted butter cut into small bits
1/4 to 1.2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg. or lemon or orange zest
Put wine in small saucepan, add sugar and stir until dissolved. Bring to simmer over medium heat. Reduce to low and remove pan from heat.
Whisk is 3 or 4 bits butter until almost melted. Continue with rest of the butter a few bits at a time until it becomes a thick cream. Do not bring to a boil. I added the nutmeg and left it to come to room temperature.
Ladle some in bottom of plate, cut a slice of cake and place over it. Put some strawberries and/or blueberries on the side.
Recipe and photo The Savannah Cookbook by Damon L. Fowler