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How to bake the perfect sponge cake

“Keep it simple , keep it tasty , you ll seldom go wrong”

perfect fatless sponge

Sponge cake is probably one of those things that any baker worth their salt should know. Its the most basic of recipes and a building block to countless others. But basic doesn’t always mean easy , and mastering the fatless sponge cake takes a little bit of practice and skill.

So have I mastered it? and what makes me an expert to write an article about perfect sponge cakes! Well, I am neither an expert nor a master but I have had enough failures and successes with sponge cakes, that I thought that I can share whatever I ve learned to do and not to do . I know most of you might know whatever is coming already, but I thought that maybe some beginner could learn from my mistakes (read disasters!) . I m proud to say that my last sunken sponge was a long long time back !

What is a sponge cake? Its not just any plain or vanilla cake. Its a light, aerated cake that has the texture of a sponge (duh!) .No butter or oil goes into . It can be eaten by itself or dusted with some sugar for a simple dessert/tea time treat. But the beauty of a sponge is when its layered with jam (so British!) or with cream . Fancier still, sponges when soaked with syrup and filled , take up flavors beautifully to form delicious layered cakes. It can be used for desserts like trifles and tiramisu.

Now, there are like 23,910,427 recipes and more on the net for the perfect sponge cake! Some use dozens of eggs and special pans, some divide the eggs and whip separately , some use leavening like baking powder , some use butter or shortening. I’m sure many of them taste great too. But this tried and tested (and cherished) recipe is a SIMPLE one with flour, eggs , sugar , a pinch of salt and a dash of vanilla. I am not sure whom to credit it to , too many sources for it! It makes an 8 inch cake that is perfect for slicing into two  layers (warning : attempt three only if you are used to handling delicate cake layers) . And of course you could double it ( use 6 eggs) and make either two 8 inch cakes or a bigger 9 inch cake that you could easily slice into 3 average sized layers . Aint that perfect for all your cake building ideas!

Now I go into some detail (a lot of detail!) but you can skip on down to the recipe!

About the pan and oven :

  • Preheat the oven to 180 C (350 F) atleast 20 minutes before you put the pan in if using an OTG/ oven. Place the middle rack if needed. If using a convection microwave , preheat as long as possible ( 10 mins or so). 
  • DO NOT grease the pan or flour it. Sponge cakes made by this method (foaming method) rise by creeping up the sides of the pan. Grease would hinder its rising. DO line the bottom with parchment paper. If you don’t have parchment paper, you can lightly grease the bottom , but I strongly recommend parchment whenever possible (this is from someone whose both used and not used parchment)! Update: I have since tried greasing and flouring the sides , and the difference is just a few mm in height!
  • Use a high pan, at least 2 inches as this cake will rise (!)
  • A stainless steel or glass bowl is best to whip you eggs . Plastic may hold some grease over time. 
  • You can make this using a stand mixer (best) , hand held mixer ( definitely good enough) or a whisk ( get ready for super sore and achy arms !). 
  • You can use a removable bottom pan or springform pan if you want but it is not essential.

Preparation of ingredients:

  • Have everything ready before you start so that you don’t let the batter collapse and lose air while searching for something or other. 
  • Use fresh eggs, at room temperature as these whip up the best. 
  • Measure everything carefully especially the flour. Take your half cup measuring cup, scoop it into your flour box and level the top with a knife so that the extra falls off. DO NOT stuff flour into your measuring cup. If your weighing the flour, no worries there.
  • Sift the flour well.I skip sifting for several recipes but never for sponge cakes. It is advised to sift it thrice times. Sifting adds air so keeps the flour light. So measure it out with your measuring cup and sift it through a fine meshed sieve onto a sheet of parchment or clean paper. Sift this back into a bowl/ second paper. You can sift the third time directly into the bowl when needed. If making chocolate sponge, sift the flour and cocoa together thrice.
  • Use large mixing bowls and make sure they are very clean. 

Step one  – Start beating the eggs and add your sugar:

  • Break your eggs into your bowl and start beating them at medium speed.
  • When the eggs are just beaten ( yellow and a little frothy like how you would make an omelette) , add in your sugar all at once. If you have a stand mixer, you could add it at the side while the eggs are beating.

Step three – Beat your eggs and sugar:

  • This is the most important step . Start beating your eggs and sugar at medium speed and increase to high speed and continue beating until they are all fluffy and airy. This can take anywhere from 8 minutes to 15 minutes or more depending on the strength of your mixer. Scrape the bottom and sides few times in between.
  • You ll know your eggs are done , when : a) the mixture is very light colored or pale. b) the volume becomes at least three times the volume of the initial eggs ( see why i told you use big bowls!) c) lift your beater / whisk and make a “8” pattern with the dripping batter onto the surface of the batter in the bowl . If you can see the 8 distinctly at least for a couple of seconds before it disappears, you eggs are done! This is called figure of 8 test or ribbon test and is a surefire way of making sure you have beaten the eggs and sugar enough. So, beat until the mixture is pale, looks like three times the volume and then test for “8”. 

Step four – Add vanilla and salt:

  • When the mixture has reached the texture as in Step three , add the vanilla and salt and mix for a minute or two more.
  • Use the best extract or essence you can find !

Step five – Fold in the flour:

  • This is the tricky part. The idea is to add the flour (or flour-cocoa mixture) and mix while maintaining the air that has been built up into the batter by all that whipping. Sift your flour (after already sifting at least twice) into the batter . Now “fold ” it in using a spatula. Make a gentle figure of 8 in your batter by cutting and lifting your spatula into the batter. Until you no longer see any more flour. Make sure you run your spatula along the bottom as thats where the flour sinks. This takes only a minute or so.
  • DO NOT OVERMIX. I know this is scary and I was constantly in fear of over mixing during my initial sponge cake days. That lead to many lumpy and flourly and flat cakes! Just mix gently making a figure of 8 until you see no more flour and you are good. The batter doesn’t collapse that easily . Even if you do over mix slightly , your cake will be slightly flatter . But thats better than having bits of flour in your mouth while eating cake!
  • You could also sift in flour in two or three installments and fold gently in between
  • For folding, its best to use a light thin rubber/silicon spatula or a big metal spoon. Do not use a wooden spoon as it will be too heavy for the light batter and make it collapse a bit.

Step six – Pour batter into pan:

  • As soon as , and i mean AS SOON AS you no longer see flour in your batter after folding, pour it into your prepared pan and put it into the oven. DO NOT let the prepared batter lie around. 
  • One more thing I find works is don’t scrape the little batter at the bottom of the bowl like you would in other cakes. The reason being the very bottom might have unmixed flour. 
  • Tap the pan gently against the counter to pop any large air pockets.

Step six – Bake :

  • Bake at 180 C for 20-25 minutes. If your batter is light enough , it ll be done closer to 20 mins. start checking at 20 minutes and every 2 mins after until done.
  • Don’t open the oven door while your sponge cake is baking, otherwise it can sink in the centre. Open only after at least 20 minutes ( you see a brown top)
  • You know your cake is done when : a) top is brown b) when you press the top, it springs back c) the edges come away from the sides d) a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Step seven – Cool:

  • Cool the cake in the pan for at least 10 minutes. The sides of the cake will shrink further from the sides. You ll notice that i filled my pan only about a 1/4 full but the cake rose to 3/4 th full .
  • Run a knife between the cake edge and pan , loosen the cake. Invert onto another rack or plate. Remove parchment paper. Reinvert so right side is up and cool completely.

Fatless sponge

Update (23rd November 2016) : A lot of people have followed this way of making a fatless sponge and loved it. Just thought I’d address a few problems a few of them faced.

My cake smells too eggy.

Unfortunately or fortunately I have a very high tolerance of smells. But after a lot of people tried this , I realised that some bakers find this cake has a smell that is too eggy, particularly if you are not accustomed to baking with eggs. I can tell u that the smell is a lot less noticeable after resting it overnight. You can also add in a teaspoon of lime or lemon or orange zest with the sugar to reduce the smell. A good brand and an extra shot of vanilla extract also helps !

 My cake is too soft.

This is meant to be a a really soft cake and that means, it isn’t the easiest to slice. Chill the cake well before slicing and handle it as gently as possible . Crumbs are unavoidable but if disaster strikes , you can place the pieces of cake together and use the syrup. The final slice will not let your secret out.. I promise !

 There is a sticky layer on top of my cake.

 This usually happens when u store or cover a still warm cake . Cool your cake and then cling wrap or store in an airtight container. Use castor sugar if possible or whiz your regular granulated sugar once in your blender to get smaller granules.Don’t worry too much abt it though as it peels of readily and you need to remove the top to layer the cake anyways.

 My cake dips in the centre.

This is unlikely if you follow the steps . But if it still occurs , the oven or your pan might be to blame. Baking at too low a temperature or in a smaller pan (batter too deep)  can cause dipping. 

Perfect fatless sponge cake
A step by step to a super fluffy sponge cake that has no butter or oil!
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
25 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
25 min
  1. 3 eggs, at room temperature
  2. 65 grams or 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  3. 100 grams or 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  4. pinch of salt
  5. 1 tsp vanilla essence or extract
  1. Preheat oven to 180 C or 350 F. Line the bottom of a 7 or 8 inch round cake pan with parchment.
  2. Sift the flour twice or thrice. Keep aside.
  3. In a bowl, using an electric mixer or whisk, beat the eggs at medium speed until foamy and yellow.
  4. Add the sugar and beat until light and tripled in volume.
  5. Add the vanilla and salt. Beat for a minute.
  6. Sift in the flour and fold it gently until incorporated.
  7. Immediately pour batter into prepared pan and tap gently against counter.
  8. Bake for 22-25 minutes until top is browned and a toothpick inserted comes out dry.
  9. Cool for 10 minutes in pan , remove and cool completely on a wire rack.
  1. The recipe can be doubled .
  2. Handle the cake gently as it really is soft!
 perfect fatless sponge

See that lovely crumb ! A real well made sponge cake will feel so soft, like pressing on a brand new sponge. So soft that you feel it ll press under the light pressure of your hand, but it springs back and is sturdy enough to move around. Its oh so light, you need to taste it to believe it. Its not meant to be a moist cake by itself, but it soaks up any syrup (its called sponge for a reason!) and becomes super moist, like the birthday cakes from cake shops. 

Like I told you, once you ve got this cake down, it opens the door to endless possibilities . Some of the ways i love to use the the vanilla sponge is in pineapple pastries , strawberry/mango cream cakes and tiramisu cake. And with the chocolate sponge , my favorite is the black forest

70 thoughts on “How to bake the perfect sponge cake”

      1. I did try it today. It came out well, very spongy indeed. However you have not mentioned Baking powder in the ingredients ! I did add 1/2 tsp of baking powder as my heart dint permit me to go without Baking powder. Hope i have done no wrong !

        1. Hey Navalika… So glad to know it turned out well for you! I did make it without baking powder/soda. Its ok to add and since your cake came out fluffy , it obviously worked too!

    1. Hi Sushmita..thanks for trying the recipe. If the eggy smell bothers it , add a teaspoon or so of lemon zest or orange zest along with the flour. Or just rest the cake overnight and use the next day. That really reduces the smell. Hope that helps!

  1. Beautiful. Will try out this recipe for my daughter’s birthday tomorrow. Just wondering, while we are not greasing the pan, why is parchment paper required only at base and not on edges.

    1. Hi Aparna…thank you for the compliment. From whatever I have read up, my understanding is that in extremely light cakes with egg foams , parchment or grease on the sides actually hinder the rise of the cake. the batter grips on to the sides and climbs- and the parchment or grease doesn’t allow that… parchment on d bottom is to make removing the cake easier. you could just grease the bottom too.. Hope this helps. If you do try the cake , let me know if you like the outcome … happy baking !!

  2. Hi.. is there any specific reason baking powder is not present in your recipe? just curious so many recipes ask you to add it.. does it really help n how?

    1. Hey Fatema… this is a recipe of a classical sponge cake where the eggs are beaten really well..the air bubbles in the egg foam expand in the oven and lead to the cake rise. So extra leavening in the form of baking powder or soda is not needed. it rises very well without it !

  3. Hey thanx a ton for the nice recipe
    Had just one query, my 1 cup is 250 ml..
    Your recipe says 65gm or half cup flour.. but on chrome, when I convert half cup of flour to grams, it gives me a 170 GM conversion..

    Could you please guide me, as I don’t have a weighing scale


    1. Hi Bharti… one cup all purpose flour (maida) is around 125 to 130 grams and that is the standard measurement. I use it for all my recipes. To measure it out , whisk or loosen the flour in flour box with a fork or spoon. Then spoon out into half cup. Do not try to pack or press it in. Loosely fill half a cup. Hope this helps!

  4. Hi again
    I tried it last evening and it came as perfect as I can see it in the pic posted by you
    Thanx a lot for this recipe

      1. One thing more, your description is so beautifully written that I read all that in my leasure time and I can fill the smell of your coffe and chocolate…

  5. I tried ur fatless sponge cake its so amazing can’t even express. So light and spongy. Thank you so very much for the detailed explanation. Loving your blog. Also tried ur frostings dey are perfect

  6. HI, is this sufficient to make a 1kg cake with whipped cream frosting? or do i need to bake 2 cakes and frost them together?

    1. This is a very light cake. If you bake in a 7 or 8 inch pan, you can split it into two. But you will need two cakes to make it a one kg cake i think because each sponge is only about 200 grams…

    1. Hi Kauser… I live in India and use regular eggs usually. I have used large eggs on occasion and don’t see a considerable difference in this recipe.

  7. Hi,
    I just came across your blog today, via Yummly. Maybe its because of the lack of butter and baking powder, I decided give this recipe a try. Unfortunately, my cake didn’t came out as expected. It didn’t raise as I would expected it (and see in your blog). I was wondering what I did wrong. Once I sift the flour, i used the mixer, on the slowest speed, instead of folding it with a spatula. Can that be the main reason why? I am still curious tho and I will def try again next week, with a spatula. Oh perhaps I also should mention that instead of using a pan, I used a pyrex (glass) and put a parchment on the bottom of the batter.

    1. Hi Prym.. thanks for trying the cake . Too bad it didn’t turn out the way it should have ! If your pyrex pan is in the shape of a round pan about 7 or 8 inches in diameter, you are good. But you definitely should gently fold in the flour with a spatula. A mixer even at the lowest speed would deflate the air we whipped into the eggs. If u do give it another go, let me know.. happy baking !

  8. Hi. I wish you were my teacher in school. Very well explained. Even a person who is new to baking will be able to do this with confidence. Keep doing what you are doing. Thanks a lot.I am waiting for your eggless spongecake recipe eagerly.

    1. thank you for that absolutely beautiful comment Jaya… really appreciate it. and will surely share an eggless sponge cake when i am super happy with one!

    1. Hi Reeann… this is meant to be a fatless sponge , and so butter is not required. You could add one to two tablespoon of melted butter right at the end if you wish.

  9. Omg I love the way you write ha ha, i always have disastrous sponge days and iโ€™m dying to try this tomorrow night , I hate baking sponge but I have to keep trying because I am a cake decorator and every now and then I get sponge orders.

    1. Hi Nat… glad the writing resonated with you ! Hope this recipe gives you good results. Also, i have a recipe called Rasmalai Tres Leches cake. I get great feedback for that sponge cake as well. And its easier to slice than this one.. Let me know if you give one a try.. happy baking !

  10. I was always scared of trying sponge cake. But this time wanted to try it for making pineapple cake. The first cake was a disaster as I tried whipping the eggs using a food processor (though it gives good results while whipping cream creamโ€‹ but it miserably failed). But I was admant this time so tried again using hands. Though I had sore shoulders. But the outcome was amazing. Infact I was scared to cut it horizontally for layering looking at the texture. But it came out perfect. Couldn’t have imagined such simple ingredients could do such wonders. The for such an amazing recipe. My family’s favorite apart from your orange tea cake.

    1. Oh… Really happy you had a good experience with this cake as well Ruchika ! Processor works well for cream.. not so much for eggs. Hats off for beating them urself. I can imagine the achy arms !

    1. Hi Divya…never used self raising flour in this cake. It doesn’t need the baking powder.. you could give it a try though. Many wishes for your anniversary..

  11. Hi.. thanks for your reply…

    I had double your receipe ( used AP Oly) and added 1/2 tsp of baking powder in addition. I did beat correctly until it reached the desired consistency and I did not open the oven in the middle. My cake sank in the middle.. not sure what would be the reason? But some how mangaed it by covering with icing. It did taste very good

    1. Hi Divya… with the baking powder, the leavening might have been too much. Also with double the recipe, what was the size of the pan – was it too much batter for the pan? These could be two reasons the cake sank . Did it sink a little or a lot ? Glad it wasn’t a waste and you could salvage it !

    1. Hi Kalyani… i haven’t tried it , you could. As a thin layer , you could roll it . Its soft enough.

  12. Hi akshatha tried this and it’s super awesome … I am a beginner in baking and I should say this is the wonderful one I have ever done .. though tried a lot with lot of mistakes this one came very perfect .. I dint have parchment paper so just greased the tray .. bit of crumbs got sticked tats it

    1. thats great to know Rajashree.. thanks so much for leaving this amazing feedback. Hope you try more bakes with even better outcomes!

  13. Sounds great recipe. Will give it a try. Wondering if it will work if apf replaced with Whole-wheat. I love to experiment with recipes. If anyone tried, please share experience.

    1. Hi Rinku… This is quite a delicate cake and WWF might be too heavy for it… Will let u know if someone tries it that way !!

    1. Hi Sri… i would suggest you try making 2/3 of the cake recipe instead – with 2 eggs , 1/3 cup flour etc… but do use a 6 inch pan or your cake would be far too thin…

  14. Since this cake is delicate. Do u think this cake can be ganached /buttercream n then covered in fondant. TIA

    1. Yes Maria , i do think this cake is very delicate and not suitable for fondant. however i know some people who have used it under fondant. I have used it with both ganache and buttercream with it personally , and it works fine!

    1. Hi Naz..i would say three times ,that is , 9 eggs for one layer …but you will need huge mixing bowls !

    1. Hey Pipli..i realise this reply is quite late!i was on vacation for a bit. The shelf life is about 3 to 5 days but I would not recommend couriering this cake. It is far too soft and cant handle it.

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