Whether chocolate, lemon drizzle or the classic Victoria, there's a cake for everyone, and it's usually a variation on the wonderfully versatile sponge. Sponge cakes can be made using the creaming method, the whisking method or by adding the cake ingredients to the batter in stages. Flour, eggs, fat and sugar are combined and baked to form a light, porous cake, often with two layers separated by a sweet filling.
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The trick to getting a sponge cake to rise is to mix the wet ingredients together before gently folding in the dry ingredients to keep air in the mixture. The creaming method, in which butter and sugar are beaten together until pale, light and fluffy, is used to make sponge cakes such as the Victoria sponges and fruit cakes. Whisked sponges contain no butter, and are therefore lower in fat. They are made by whisking the eggs and sugar until thick in a bowl placed over a pan of simmering water. The final method for making sponge requires the yolks and sugar to be beaten together and the egg whites whisked separately. The stiff whites are then folded gradually into the yolk mixture, alternating a little at a time with the sifted flour. Some light fruited cakes such as tea loaf use the melt-and-mix method. The butter and sugar are melted together, then cooled. The remaining ingredients are then added to create a batter.
Vegans and people who are allergic to eggs can make egg-free cakes using substitutes including cocoa butter, xantham gum, agar agar, arrowroot, locust bean gum, carob, vegetarian gelatine, vegan egg replacer, soya flour, banana, potato flour, or even mashed-up banana, silken tofu and chocolate. For vegans, or those who are dairy-intolerant, butter can be replaced with good soya margarine. Adding baking powder will help the cake to rise.
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