I'm going to give away my biggest "trade secret". Our most moist, tender and flavoursome vanilla sponge recipe is our Hero. Not only is it delicious on its own, it can be frosted with buttercream, left naked, drizzled with ganache or icing, sandwiched with cream and jam...but it can also be easily converted to countless other flavours. It can be made into cupcakes, or lofty layer cakes.
The best bit? It's also SUPER SIMPLE and the most cost efficient too.
How Reshmi? HOW?!
A few years ago I made the controversial decision to change our cake sponge recipes from butter-based to oil-based. It took me a while to come to that decision as I used to be a pure-butter snob. But the costs of butter spiralling upwards (Lurpak made news recently for a tub retailing upwards of £8) made me rethink our recipes. How can we offer our customers glorious tasting cakes without using butter in the sponge? After all, butter does lend a gorgeous taste.
The issues with butter isn't just the cost of it either. It also takes time being brought to room temperature and then creamed with caster sugar. By switching to oil-based cake sponge recipes, not only do we save time, but we could also substitute the more expensive caster sugar with ordinary granulated sugar as there is no creaming stage in the recipe.
So what about the taste? And the texture?
The two absolute non-negotiables - Taste and Texture.
Re: Taste - Butter does add a depth of flavour, versus oil which is inert. The "secret" to making an oil-based cake sponge recipe taste just as good, if not better, is by adding buttermilk or low fat yoghurt. Not only does the cake sponge benefit from the richness of dairy, they also lend a slight tanginess that lifts the entire flavour profile.
The only place we do not compromise on butter is in our Swiss meringue buttercream. With butter being one of the main components of our frosting, noone will ever miss or even notice its absence from our sponge.
Re: Texture - Butter-based sponges tend to have a tighter crumb. Since oil is liquid at room temperature the sponge tends to be more tender and fluffy. It also benefits from remaining moist for a lot longer than butter-based recipes.
So no more waiting around for ingredients coming to room temp, no more creaming. In fact, you don't even need a mixer for our sponge recipe. Just some scales and an old school hand whisk! And it's just one bowl!
This recipe is so versatile. We use it for our coffee cakes, cookies & cream cakes, lemon cakes, pistachio, matcha...even red velvet! I'll pop the vanilla recipe below and then list all the various inclusions you can use to flavour it further. Thank me in the comments!
The Most Versatile and Moist Vanilla Cake Recipe
Yields: 3x 6" layers or 2x 8" layers or 12 muffin-sized cupcakes.
3 medium eggs
80g oil (any neutral oil such as sunflower or vegetable)
120g buttermilk or low-fat natural yoghurt
100g whole milk
20g vanilla extract
300g granulated sugar
350g plain flour
15g baking powder
1) Pre-heat oven to 150 degrees C. A lot of recipes call for 180 degrees, however for an even rise, low and slow is the key.
2) Crack the eggs into a mixing bowl. Pour the oil, buttermilk, milk and vanilla in and whisk till well combined.
3) Put the sugar and salt in and whisk till mixed well.
4) Sieve the flour and baking powder into the bowl and whisk till no lumps are visible. Do not overwhisk.
Layer cakes: Grease your cake tins and divide the batter evenly into them. Place on the middle shelf in the oven and bake for 27 minutes.
Cupcakes: Divide the batter evenly into cupcake cases, 2/3rds full. Cupcake cases vary in size. Fairy cakes will take about 12-13 minutes to bake, and larger muffin sized cupcakes will take anywhere between 16-19 minutes.
Check for done-ness with a cocktail stick. If the stick has any wet batter on, bake for a further 2 minutes and test again until the skewer comes out just clean. Remove from oven and let cool in tins for 10 minutes before releasing the sponges/cupcakes onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Chocolate Chip - toss 100g of chocolate chips in a tablespoon of plain flour. Stir it through the batter. The flour helps the chocolate chips remain suspended in the batter, rather than sink to the bottom.
Cookies & Cream/Oreo - crush 10-12 Oreo cookies and stir through the batter.
Biscoff - crush 12 Biscoff biscuits and stir through the batter.
Peanut Butter - Lace 3 tablespoons of peanut butter through the batter. I prefer chunky peanut butter for the added texture.
Nutella - Stir 3 tablespoons of Nutella or any chocolate-hazelnut spread through the batter.
Mint Choc Chip - Add 1 teaspoon of peppermint extract and a few drops of green food colouring. Mix it into the batter. Toss 100g of chocolate chips in a tablespoon of plain flour and stir it through.
Pistachio - Stir in 100g of chopped or ground pistachios with 1 teaspoon of almond extract.
Matcha Green Tea - Stir 3 tablespoons of matcha powder into 4 teaspoons of oil. Mix it into the batter. We use oil to emulsify powdered inclusions so that it doesn't risk drying out the sponge.
Coffee & Walnut - Warm 2 tablespoons of milk. Stir in 3 tablespoons of instant coffee granules until dissolved. Mix it into the batter along with 100g of chopped walnuts.
Red Velvet - Mix 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder in 2 tablespoons of oil. Add 2-3 teaspoons of red food colouring until you reach your desired shade of deep red. Red Velvet purists might scoff at this "hack" as we are not using vinegar in the recipe. However, we do use buttermilk which already gives our delicious sponge its irresistible tang and since the vast majority of readily available cocoa powder is Dutch processed, we do not need any additional acidic ingredients for the chemical reaction to make it red. And oh, that small matter of using food colouring anyway!
Orange Chocolate Marble - Mix 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder in 2 tablespoons of oil. Stir the cocoa powder mix into 1/3rd of the batter. Stir in the zest and juice of one medium orange into the remaining batter. Layer the two batters in a ribbon fashion into the tins/cupcake cases.
Lemon - Stir in the zest and juice of one lemon into the batter.
There you go. That's our biggest secret. Let me know how you get on and if you come up with any other fun and tasty flavour inclusions!
Lots of love,