Best ever sponge cake

This recipe is a Test Kitchen classic.
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Of the hundreds of sponge cake recipes created in the Test Kitchen over the years, this heirloom recipe from the family of Cathie Lonnie, one of our past chefs, remains after two decades our best ever version.




Preheat oven to 200°C. Grease two deep 20cm round cake pans. Dust pans with the extra cornflour; turn pans to coat evenly. Shake out excess flour.


Beat eggs and caster sugar with an electric mixer for 7 minutes or until thick and creamy. To test when the mixture is thick and creamy, turn off the mixer then lift the beaters; the mixture should form thick ribbons. (if you are using hand-held electric beaters, use a small bowl for beating the eggs and sugar, then transfer to a large bowl to stir in the dry ingredients).


Sift cornflour, custard powder, cream of tartar and bicarb twice onto a piece of baking paper. Sift flour mixture a third time evenly over egg mixture. Using a balloon whisk or large metal spoon, quickly and lightly fold flour mixture through egg mixture until combined. Pour mixture evenly between pans; tilt pans to spread mixture to the edge.


Bake sponge cakes for 20 minutes or until they spring back when pressed lightly in the centre. Turn immediately onto wire racks covered with baking paper. Cool.


Beat cream and icing sugar with electric mixer to soft peaks.


To assemble, place one cake on a serving plate; spread with 2 tbsp jam top with sliced strawberries then one-third of the whipped-cream. Spread second cake with 2 tbsp jam then place, jam-side down, onto filling. 


Cover top and side of sponge cake with remaining whipped cream. Dot with remaining jam (you may need to warm and cool it first); using a palette knife, smooth the surface, blending jam and cream. Decorate with extra halved strawberries.

This recipe is best made on the day of serving. Unfilled sponges can be frozen for up to one month.

Test Kitchen tip

How to make: sponge cake tips

The Test Kitchen recommends triple sifting flour when making a sponge as this is one of the ways to ensure the cake rises well and has that lovely light and airy texture when eaten.

The flour should be triple sifted and, using a large wire whisk, gently fold it in batches into the mixture, in a circular motion to prevent the air bubbles deflating and the sponge becoming flat and tough.

Aluminium cake pans are the best to use for sponge cakes as they conduct the heat. If using a black coated pan, reduce the oven temperature by 10C as the dark surface absorbs the heat and can cause the crust to burn.

Before baking, tap the sponge on the base of the pan with your fingers to remove large air pockets.

This recipe was refreshed with a new image and different style of icing in 2024

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