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The Earliest Recorded Sponge Cake Recipe Was In 1615

sponge cake day

The quintessential classic of the cake world, this airy queen of teas is the guest of honor on National Sponge Cake Day on August 23rd.

One of the trickiest cakes for bakers to master, a perfect sponge stands tall with a fine crumb while remaining moist.  Often served with fresh whipped cream and berries, sponge cake layers nicely as well.

The sponge cake is believed to be one of the first non-yeasted cakes. 

Believed to have originated in the Caribbean, the earliest English printed recipe for sponge cake is in the 1615 book of English poet and author Gervase Markham entitled The English Huswife, Containing the Inward and Outward Virtues Which Ought to Be in a Complete Woman.

While it’s soft and delicate texture has often been attributed to the Victorians, in fact, the sponge cake finds its roots in Italy. Sometime in the early 18th century, a respected and wealthy member of the Pallavicini family in Genoa commissioned a cake that was as light and delicate as sea foam. The result was an airy and delectable confection that was known as the Pâte Génoise. This creation would soon come to be known as a ‘sponge cake’.

What set it apart was that it was created without any yeast or leavening agent, instead, taking advantage of the properties of whipped egg whites to add air to the texture of the cake. Its popularity exploded throughout the world, and endless varieties came to pass that were used for every purpose. It would accompany soups and savory dishes, filled with every kind of sweet imaginable.

Today the sponge cake has found itself a staple of English tea, and a welcome addition to any event. You can find sponge cake topped with rich chocolate icing, stuffed with fruit jam, and covered with light lemon icing dusted with confectioners sugar. Sponge Cake Day celebrates its endless variety and the delicious flavors the creative can impart to it.

Fun Facts:

  1. During the renaissance, Italian cooks became famous for their baking skills and were hired by households in both England and France.
  2. The new items that they introduced were called “biscuits,” though they were the forerunner of what we now consider to be sponge cake.
  3. Gervase Markham (1568-1637),  English poet and author, recorded the earliest sponge cake recipe in English in 1615.
  4. These sponge cakes were most likely thin, crisp cakes (more like modern cookies).
  5. By the middle of the 18th century, yeast had fallen into disuse as a raising agent for cakes in favor of beaten eggs. Once as much air as possible had been beaten in, the mixture would be poured into molds, often very elaborate creations, but sometimes as simple as two tin hoops, set on parchment paper on a cookie sheet.


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