16 Jun 2010

My nemesis, the sponge

Excuse me blowing my own trumpet for a moment here, but I consider myself to be a pretty decent cook. Nowhere near my Mum, of course, but then again few people are as good as my Mum. Gravy does not frighten me. Nor does a rich creamy hollandaise sauce or a real mayonnaise. I make my own salad dressings, jams and chutneys. I bake pies using my own pastry and make my Thai currys from scratch. I turn out a mean chocolate cake and a to die for pavlova.

There is, however, one thing that has managed to elude me. Merely a mixture of eggs, sugar, flour and air, the sponge cake has become my nemesis.

As an Australian country housewife, I fail if I cannot make a sponge.

I do not want to be a failed housewife. Ergo, I must conquer the sponge.

I started my Battle with the Sponge last Wednesday. Wednesdays are good for a great sponge battle because my homegroup can eat the results.

Only last Wednesday's effort was even too bad for the homegroup boys - the ones whose wives never cook. That bad even. So bad that I couldn't even bring myself to take a photo to show you girls. Jemimah and her Daddy and I had a piece each and the rest was consigned to the rubbish bin. It tasted pretty good, in fact, but even a dish sponge filled with lemon curd and whipped cream and dusted with icing sugar would taste okay. My result was similar - in texture, if not in the pretty green colour.

Tonight's effort is up above. It looks rather respectable when coated with passionfruit icing and filled with cream, but you can tell how bad it was really when I relate to you the fact that one of the homeschool ladies asked whether I had cooked the cake in a ring tin!! Nope, I had to admit - that's why it is failure number two. The homegroup boys judged it a success. So did my gracious husband. Jemimah's piece went into the bin. Mine should have but I am too miserly to throw away good food.

I will make Great Sponge Battle Attempt Number Three next Wednesday. I will report on the outcome shortly thereafter.

Wish me success - I do so want to be a good Australian country housewife. I might even be invited to join the CWA.

I doubt it though - I can't sew.

Hmmm. Is the plural of nemesis 'nemeses' or 'nemesi'?


  1. Oh, sponge cake is overrated. I'd much rather have a nice butter cake any day. There is a reason it's called a "sponge" cake, you know!

    What I want is a sample of your Thai curry, and a slice of your chocolate cake. I do admire your gumption, though.

  2. Too true, Sue. I still wanna be able to cook a good one though.

    Can you buy Thai curry pastes in Japan? If so, try frying about a table spoon of paste (any colour - I like red) in a table spoon of oil until fragrant. Add 500-800g chicken sliced thinly and stir until coloured over low heat. Add a tin (about 400g) of coconut milk, 2 tablespoons of fish sauce, a tablespoon of sugar and four shreded kaffir lime leaves. If you can't get the leaves then a piece of lemon rind is okay. Not as good but okay. Add some green veges - broccoli, snow peas or asparagus work well, but so does baby corn and bamboo shoots. It doesn't matter really. Cook uncovered until chicken is cooked through and serve with rice.


    If you want the curry paste recipe to make from scratch then I'll post that separately.

  3. Remember "Calendar Girls"? Helen Mirren, "I'm not a total dead loss as a woman!" She wins the Women's Institute [W.I.] Victoria Sponge contest with a cake made by Marks and Spencer! If you haven't seen it, put Jemima to bed and enjoy it one evening!

  4. I've never eaten sponge cake. That picture looks yummy to me.

    I'll be interested in your results and might just have to give a sponge cake a try in the near future.

  5. I'm with Sue. I want some of that Thai curry. Yummm!

    Good luck with the sponge next week.

  6. No help here. I can't make a sponge either. I believe it's all in the air...☺

  7. My Mum makes the best sponge cake.

    Practise makes perfect eh! x

  8. Mum's were okay too but she didn't like to make them often. Usually for lamingtons on Dad's birthday!
    Now I know why I am living in the city... I just would not cut it as a good country housewife, apparently!
    Looks okay to me, Jeanne. That is a bonus having guys in your home group whose wives don't cook. It doesn't matter what you make they are going to love it!

  9. ha ha ha....waiting for the next attempt...

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  11. Here is a no-fail receipe:

    4 eggs separated
    3/4 cup sugar (though 1/2 is enough)
    3/4 cup cornflour
    1/4 cup custard powder
    1/2 tsp carb soda
    1 tsp cream tartar

    Sift dry ingredients twice. Beat egg whites till stiff and add the sugar gradually, beat in the yolks. Fold in the dry ingredients Bake at 180 deg cel. for 25 mins.

    This sometimes is a little dry - (nothing that jam and cream filling won't fix though.) You can substitute the custard powder with spices for a spice sponge or with carob/cocoa powder and spices for a chocolate sponge. A little bit of brown rice flour in the cornflour amount also gives it a bit more body and I think flavour.

    I've used this receipe for years and even sometimes use honey instead of the sugar - and it's still a no-fail favourite.

  12. Funny, Silvia - that is the recipe I'm using!! And there I was thinking that it was my mum's special one!!

    My problem is not the recipe, it's the oven. I've purchased an oven thermometer for attempt number 3. Wish me success!!

  13. The same receipe....hmm........maybe it's in the feelings that go with it - I always know this one will work and you doubt! (Or maybe because mine is always gluten-free?)
    I'm sure you'll get there and if not - well I'd prefer the curry anyway!


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