Culture

The Hipster’s Cookbook: On Sponges

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Each week in The Hipster’s Cookbook, Meghan Bongartz teaches you how to make delicious food for not a ton of money.

When I was growing up, I mostly skipped over the “I Can Read” stage of books because, you know, I learned to read and immediately moved on to things like Lord of the Rings and Gone with the Wind. Like your average seven year old. Anyway. Some of the few stepping-stone type books that I remember reading and enjoying were the Amelia Bedelia series, which told of a housemaid who makes mistake after mistake because of her literal-mindedness (dusting the furniture by putting dust on, drawing the drapes with a sketchpad, etc.), but always saves the day by baking some sort delicious dessert. She does have a few cooking mishaps, too, though, and one of them involves putting actual sponges in a sponge cake. For years after this, I had no interest in eating a sponge cake. The book had taught me that cutting up kitchen sponges for a cake is, in fact, a mistake, but had also somehow left me with the impression that a sponge cake would sort of look and maybe taste like a sponge.

Obviously this isn’t the case or I wouldn’t even be talking about it right now. At some point, I realized that a lot of wonderful cakes are actually variations on sponge cake–angel food cake and tres leches, to name a couple–and, more importantly, sponge cakes are fairly easy to make. Their name comes from the fact that the cake, like a sponge, is full of air, which is accomplished by beating the egg whites separately into a meringue and folding the other ingredients in. They contain little to no fat depending on whether the egg yolks are used, and this will determine how much volume the cake will have in the end. An ungreased pan is also used to allow the cake to climb the sides of the pan, but I’ve rarely had problems with a sponge cake sticking. If you are concerned about your cake sticking, line your pan with parchment paper rather than greasing it.

This particular cake is the evolution of a request for champagne cupcakes. The cupcakes were delicious but tiny, because the combination of meringue and alcohol made them shrink. The time it took to hollow them out to fill with cream just wasn’t quite worth it (To me, at least; I’m pretty sure the people eating them felt differently). The cake is a much less time consuming endeavor since it just involves frosting the two layers. The cakes can be made ahead of time, but should be put together immediately before serving, as the champagne will separate from the cream if it sits out for too long. I doubt you’ll have to worry about storing leftovers.

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Champagne Cake

1 ½  cups flour

1 ½ cups superfine sugar

15 egg whites

2 tsp cream of tartar

¼ tsp salt

¾ cup Moscato or other sweet champagne

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream

3 tbs superfine sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 tbs Moscato or other sweet champagne

1 cup raspberries

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour and ¾ cup sugar in a medium bowl and set aside.

2) Beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt with an electric mixer in a very large mixing bowl (If your bowl is too small, this will overflow) until foamy. Gradually add ¾ cup sugar a little at a time while continuing to beat until stiff peaks form.

3) Add 1 tsp vanilla extract and ¾ cup of champagne, mixing until combined. Add half of the flour mixture, folding gently to combine. Repeat with remaining flour mixture.

4) Spoon into two ungreased 10” round baking pans and bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Gently loosen around the sides of the cakes with a knife or spatula and turn the cakes onto a wire rack to cool completely.

5) In a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer, combine whipping cream, 3 tbs sugar, 1 tsp vanilla extract, and 4 tbs champagne. Beat until light and fluffy.

6) When the cakes have cooled completely, place one cake on a large plate and spread half of the whipping cream over the top. Stud with half the raspberries. Place the second cake on top and repeat.