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Sponge Cake (not to be confused with a Butter Sponge Cake or Genoise) is sometimes used to refer to the whole category of foam or unshortened cakes, but it is rather a type of cake in itself. A Sponge cake is wonderfully versatile, and can be found with a multitude of recipes. It varies by two types: American and European, but the distinction between the two has been blurred. The texture and flavor of sponge cakes is so delightful and subtly flavorful that they are usually eaten without or without adornment.
Sponge cakes are leavened by whipping separated yolks and whites with sugar, resulting in air bubbles being trapped in its mixture. There are three possible methods for preparing sponge cakes, with variations within:
METHOD 1: The eggs are first separated into yolks and whites. Sugar and possibly vanilla extract are beaten into the yolks. The cake flour is gently folded in, followed by the egg white foam;
METHOD 2: Called the Syrup or Meringue Method, creates a finer textured cake. A syrup is made by cooking two parts sugar with one part water and boiling it until it reaches the Soft-ball stage (235 - 240 degrees F). Egg whites are beaten with cream of tartar until stiff, and the hot sugar syrup is poured into it in a fine stream. When the meringue is complete, the beaten egg yolks are combined with lemon juice and folded in. Finally, cake flour is sifted over and lightly folded in; or,
METHOD 3: Whole eggs are beaten until foamy and pale yellow in color. A small amount of cream of tartar or lemon juice is added. The mixture is beaten until stiff before the sugar is added in 2-tablespoon increments. A presifted flour and salt combined is sifted over the egg mixture and folded into the batter.
When baked, the air bubbles expand from the heat of the oven and the cake rises spectacularly high, if done right. The resulting cake is light and airy (spongy) texture, being the very essence of it's being. It also has a wonderfully subtle scented fragrance to it. Because these cakes are based on precious and delicate air bubbles, these batters require precise techniques when making, special pan preparation, and must be placed in a well-preheated oven right away, so none of the air cells are broken down.
AMERICAN SPONGE CAKE
The American Sponge cake ingredients are typically sugar and flour, being cake flour, not self-rising, yielding a fine textured recipe. Because cake flour is usually bleached white, the cake easily takes on the color of the egg yolks or other add-ins. Superfine sugar, rather than regular table sugar is preferred, because it dissolves faster, yielding a finer texture. (It can be easily made by placing granulated sugar in a food processor for a few seconds, but the process will scratch your work bowl).
Typical of some sponge cakes, the American version has no or little melted butter and has more eggs than other sponge cake types. The yolks and whites are often beaten separately; the beaten whites holding more air than beaten yolks, providing a boost of air to the cake's leavening, resulting in a spongy texture. Sometimes heated milk is added to the recipe and it is called a "hot milk sponge recipe".
EUROPEAN SPONGE CAKES
Among the more popular Sponge cake types are the European styled Biscuit and Genoise, which more often than not moistened with syrups because of their tendency to be naturally drier than butter cakes. The right amount of syrup - usually brushed on lightly - helps result in soft and tender crumb, too little can render the cakes dry or tasteless, while too much produces soggy. Hardcore European versions have liqueur as part of their syrupy additives, resulting in notably enhanced flavors. In both the Genoise and Biscuit, cornstarch replaces some of the flour, causing the cake to be tighter. Superfine sugar is recommended because is dissolves faster than regular granulated.
JOCONDE: is an almond sponge cake. This biscuit is named for the Mona Lisa (La Joconda in French). In addition to containing almonds, it differs from other sponge cakes by having whole eggs (rather than just yolks) beaten with sugar and ground almonds before the meringue is folded in. Joconde is baked in thin layers on baking sheets. Joconde is used to make linings for the outsides of charlottes, a traditional French raspberry mousse cake, and other Bavarian mousse cakes.
BISCUIT ROULADE: Jelly rolls, also known as Biscuit Roulade, are a form of sponge-cake, baked in a shallow pan and used for jellyrolls or holiday cakes. Rolls are immediately removed from the oven when done and rolled up in a sugared tea towel. When cool, they are unrolled gently, filled with jelly, custard or icings and rerolled.