This post is for all of those who find making cakes intimidating, or are a beginner when it comes to baking. With clear instructions and useful tips, mastering the sponge will be a piece of cake. What more? This cake is made from 100% whole wheat flour and uses raw sugar. Feeling motivated? Read on.
Somewhere between the quest to switch to whole grain and my little one constantly asking for a cake, I decided to make my sponge cake using 100% whole wheat flour. To my surprise, the cake came out amazingly well. Ever since, I make my basic sponge cakes using whole wheat flour and then cover them with whatever frosting the kids like. I will share a secret for making the cake fluffier and airy. What more, you can make this sponge cake in a microwave as well as in an oven. Isn’t that amazing?
A good sponge is the essence of a good cake. You can decorate the cake in the most amazing way that you can, but if your sponge is not good, the cake is a fail. The sponge should be soft, spongy (as the name suggests) and light. It should not be dry and hard. If you like your cake extra moist, you can drizzle a few teaspoons of orange juice with a spoon all over your sponge, before icing it.
What ingredients to use and where to buy them?
You will need 8 basic ingredients + 1 secret ingredient (listed at the end) in total to make this basic sponge cake:
- Whole Wheat Flour/ Atta (Weizenvollkornmehl): It’s best to buy it organic (bio) whole wheat flour. But if you cannot find organic, use the normal one. Whole wheat flour is easily available by the name Weizen-vollkornmehl or Weizenmehl-vollkorn at all grocery stores in Germany at the flour/sugar aisle. You may use atta instead if whole wheat flour is not available to you.
- Baking Powder (Backpulver): Baking powder is available by the name Backpulver. You can find it at any grocery store (Edeka, Rewe, Aldi) in the aisle where all the other cake related products are sold. You can use any brand that you like.
- Baking Soda (Kaiser Natron): I found out about baking soda being available in Germany quite late, as the name doesn’t even nearly suggest it’s English counterpart. It’s called Kaiser Natron in German (usually sold in green pouches) and could be found at the fancier stores (like Edeka, Rewe, Hit etc) in the cake aisle.
- Unprocessed (raw) sugar (Rohrzucker): I use raw sugar for my sponges. It does make the it darker in color, but you will like it’s caramelised taste when baked/cooked. You can use brown sugar instead. You can find raw sugar by the name rohrzucker or rohrrohrzucker at well stocked grocery stores or at DM.
- Ghee/Butter: I like using homemade ghee instead of butter in my sponge. It’s nutty smell makes the cake smell wonderful. But if you do not like the smell of ghee, you can replace it with room temperature butter.
- Vanilla: I like to use fresh vanilla, which comes in a mill (Vanille-Mühle). You can buy it from the fancier grocery stores. You can also use vanilla powder or vanilla essence instead.
- Salt: Any regular salt can be used.
- Eggs: I use fresh, free range (freilandhaltung), medium sized eggs.
- Secret ingredient- Lemon Juice: Lemon juice reacts with baking soda to create bubbles in the batter, which helps the cake to get fluffy and airy. Add it just before putting the batter in the oven for baking to get the best results.
- For an extra moist sponge: Orange juice (optional): You may drizzle your sponge (after baking, before icing) with a few teaspoons of orange juice to make it extra moist. It works well if you are planning to frost the cake with whipped cream or chocolate. It balances the sweetness and fat by providing some acidity, while keeping the sponge moist.
Points to remember:
Making a basic sponge cake is not difficult. You only need to keep some points in mind:
- Separate dry and wet ingredients, as shown in the following picture. Sugar will go with wet ones.
- Beat the sugar, ghee, vanilla and eggs until it’s a smooth and fluffy mixture. If using butter, make sure to bring it to room temperature before starting to beat.
- Sift all the dry ingredients together. This helps in mixing and also ensures that there are no lumps.
- Carefully fold in the dry ingredients into the wet mixture, a little at a time. Do not mix rigorously that the air bubbles are broken, nor overmix the batter as it will result in a dense cake.
- Lastly, add juice of half lemon just before transferring it into the tin/ bowl for baking/microwaving.
- Line your tin/glass bowl with parchment paper so that the sponge doesn’t stick on the sides/bottom and you can easily take it out.
- Always preheat the oven before putting your cake into it.
- Let it cool completely before you cut off the top layer and start frosting.
Basic Whole Wheat Sponge Cake (with vanilla icing)
- Hand mixer/ stand mixer
- cake tin (20 cm) / microwave safe glass bowl (20 cm)
- Big sieve
- Mixing bowl
For the sponge cake:
- 1½ cups whole wheat flour (Weizenvollkornmehl)
- 1 tsp baking powder (Backpulver)
- 1/2 tsp baking soda (Kaiser Natron)
- 1/8 tsp (about a pinch) salt
- 1 cup raw (unprocessed) sugar (rohrzucker)
- 1/2 cup ghee (substitute butter on room temperature)
- 3 medium eggs
- a pinch of vanilla (substitute: 1 vanilla pod/ 1 tsp vanilla essence)
- juice of 1/2 lemon
For the vanilla icing:
- 400 grams Whipping cream (Schlagrahm- 32% Fett)
- 1 pouch/ 8 grams/ 2 tsp cream stiffener (Sahnesteif)
- 1/2 cup icing sugar (puderzucker)
- 1 pouch/ 8 grams/ 2 tsp Vanilla sugar (vanillinzucker)
For the sponge cake:
- If baking in an oven: set it to preheat at 180° Celsius.
- Line your baking tin/ microwave safe glass bowl with parchment paper on the bottom and on the side. Cut into a circle to cover the bottom, and cut into strips to cover the sides. Spread some ghee/butter to facilitate the parchment paper sticking to the tin/bowl.
- Take a big sieve and add flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into it. Sift it together into a bowl to make your dry mixture. Set aside.
- In a stand mixer bowl/ big mixing bowl add ghee/butter and sugar. Beat for about 2 minutes until creamy. Scrape down the sides in between for even mixing. Add the eggs and vanilla, and beat for another 3-4 minutes, until everything is well combined and the mixture is fluffy.
- Add in the dry mixture, a little at a time and carefully fold it in. Do not mix rigorously as it will break the air bubbles and your cake will become dense.
- When the batter is evenly mixed, add the lemon juice. Mix just until combined and transfer quickly to the lined tin/ glass bowl.
If baking in oven:
- Bake at 180° Celsius on 3rd (from top) rack for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
If making in microwave:
- Microwave on high for 6 minutes or until the batter is not wet and wobbly anymore.
- If the batter is still wet after 6 minutes, microwave for an additional 30 seconds and check again.
For the vanilla icing:
- Pour the whipping cream in your mixing bowl and add the cream stiffener. Beat for just 15 seconds.
- Add the icing sugar and vanilla sugar and beat it just until firm peaks are formed. Stop immediately at this point and do not overmix, otherwise the cream will separate and it will turn into butter.
- Carefully cut off the top layer of the cake in a straight and even layer.
- Add some cream on the top and spread it evenly all around using a cake spatula or a flat spatula. You can cover the sides as well or leave them uncovered.
- If making a layered cake, just add sponges on top and continue covering with cream.
- Decorating option 1: Evenly spread the cream on top and leave the cake looking neat.
- Decorating option 2: Create a pattern on top of the cake with the back of a spoon. Put the spoon lightly on the cream and lift to make small peaks all over.
- Decorating option 3: You can use a piping bag to create a design on the cake. Add decorative elements like sprinkles, cherries or shaved chocolate to decorate the cake further.
- The above measurements are for making one cake of 20 cm x 5 cm. Double all the ingredients if you are making 2 cakes. Triple them for making 3.
- For an extra moist sponge you can drizzle your sponge (after baking, before icing) with a few teaspoons of orange juice. It works well if you are planning to frost the cake with whipped cream or chocolate. It balances the sweetness and fat by providing some acidity, while keeping the sponge moist.
- The cake from the microwave will have a lighter color as compared to the one baked in the oven.
- Whole wheat cake is crumbly in comparison to refined one. Put a thin layer of cream/icing on the sponge first, to seal in the crumbs and refrigerate for 30 minutes. After it sets, continue covering the cake with the rest of the icing. Consume within 2-3 days.
- Whole wheat cake would not rise as much as the refined flour one.
- Because of the whole wheat and raw sugar, this sponge cake gets dark in color while baking. Do not confuse the dark color with burning. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.