I baked my first sponge cake today. This may sound strange, seeing as I have had a cake business for six years. However, very shortly after moving to Australia a year ago, I was having a discussion with my neighbour about the perfect sponge cake, and how her family compete with each other to get the lightest and fluffiest.
I rapidly concluded from her description of the procedure that her idea of a "sponge cake" was not the same as mine. This was not your classic Victoria Sponge of butter, sugar, flour and eggs. The Australian Sponge cake is what I grew up to call a fatless sponge, using mainly cornflour, and no butter or margarine. What we call a sponge, the Aussies call a butter cake.
It turns out that my neighbours are not the only ones who compete to produce the most perfect specimen either. The Sydney Royal Easter Show is a grand occasion, held every year, in the same vein as a British agricultural show, but on steroids. Each year, bakers come together to show their masterpieces, be it a beautifully decorated cake, banana bread or a perfect sponge - so perfect, in fact, that they are not allowed any marking from cooling racks to spoil their aesthetic beauty.
Winning at the Royal Easter Show is a huge achievement. I have been lucky enough to befriend Laura Saad, who owns Couture Cupcake Creations, located in the Oatlands Region of Sydney. Laura has been attending the Easter Show since she was a child in a pushchair, and would stand in awe in front of the cake-decorating cabinets; it was from then that she knew what she wanted to do for a career and always said she would have her cakes in these cabinets.
Laura entered the Perishable Goods category and the Decorated Cakes category and her hard work and dedication paid off in 2012, when she won Bronze awards for her labours. So what does this mean for Laura? She says "The Royal is the most prestigious competition around. A blue ribbon means you are the best of the best and clients are very impressed by this;, they get their own piece of my ribbons when they purchase my products".
I think this stands for all bakers. Having won the Best Presented Cupcake Category in 2011’s National Cupcake Championships, I tend to agree with Laura; these accolades boost our confidence as bakers and give us a chance to show our best work. A staggering 40 hours were put into Laura’s beautiful cupcakes, and these were 40 hours well spent for her business.
I asked Laura if she was intending to enter again. "Sure am!" she said. "I will be putting my application form in by Christmas; which reminds me you should enter..." Maybe sometime, Laura.
However, my first attempt at an Aussie Sponge was a flop, so I doubt I’ll be entering THAT particular category.
To view Laura’s work, please visit her website: www.couturecupcakecreations.com
Recipe - Aussie sponge Cake
Try your hand at creating the perfect Aussie Sponge Cake
- 2 heaped teaspoons of plain flour
- 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 1 level teaspoon cream of tartar
- 4 eggs, at room temperature
- 165g caster sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
- Preheat oven to 190°C (170°C fan). Grease two 8" round cake tins
- Put plain flour, bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar on weighing scales. Make the rest of the weight up to 120g with cornflour
- Beat eggs and sugar on a high speed for 7 minutes. Add the vanilla and beat for 30 seconds to combine.
- While eggs are beating, put the flour mixture through a sieve three times
- Gently fold in the flour mixture. Divide mixture between the 2 tins
- Place in the oven on the centre shelf and bake for approximately 20 minutes or until the sponge springs back when touched or is coming away from the side of the tin
- Take sponges out of the oven. Turn sponges out from tins onto the cooling racks. Allow sponges to cool completely
- Fill with your preferred filling
About Victoria Forward
Victoria Forward has just returned to the UK after two years in Australia, and is setting up cake business "Victoria Sponge", in Buckinghamshire. She previously ran Let Them Eat Cake in the UK for six years providing celebration cakes / cupcakes, cake decorating courses and workshops. In 2012 she won the award for Best Presented Cupcake at the British Baker National Cupcake Championships. Victoria is married with 2 children.