Sponge cakes are made with very little fat and featured in layer cakes, jelly rolls, even tiramisu! Here's what you need to know to make them right.

Get this recipe: Triple Chocolate Roulade
| Credit: Kim

Soak up some sponge cake knowledge.

Sponge cakes are European-style cakes made with very little fat. They're featured in layer cakes, jelly rolls, and tiramisu.

Unlike butter cakes and chiffon cakes, sponge cakes include little fat other than what's in the egg yolks. And because of their low fat content, homemade sponge cakes won't resemble a moist, cream-filled snack cake. But soaked with simple syrup and flavorings, they are delectable.

We'll share top tips to make delicious sponge cakes, and share favorite recipes to try.

How to Make Homemade Sponge Cake

Sponge cakes require some special treatment.For one, sponge cake batter waits for no one. So have all of your ingredients measured and sifted and ready to go in separate bowls. Accuracy is key: use a scale if you have one. Your cake pans should be greased and lined with parchment, and your oven preheated.

Sponge cakes are best made with an electric mixer — preferably a stand mixer, so your hands are free.

Some sponge cake recipes use just yolks and some use the whole egg. Read through your recipe first to see what you'll be using, and most importantly, if you're using the whole egg, see if you need to whip the whites separately from the yolks or if you whip them together.

Warm the Eggs

Why? Because warmed eggs hold more air and create more volume when they're whipped than cold eggs. Here's how you do it:

  1. Set a stainless steel bowl over a pan of simmering water.
  2. Add a few tablespoons of sugar from the recipe into your eggs (white or yolks or both depending on your recipe), and whisk it in. Sugar has an insulating effect, and helps protect the eggs from coagulating over the heat.
  3. Keep whisking the eggs while you heat them, testing now and then with your fingertip until they feel warm to the touch.

Alternate Method: Hot milk sponge cakes use scalded milk to warm the eggs.

Whip the Eggs

Egg whites: Whipping egg whites separately from egg yolks adds even more volume to a sponge cake batter. When the egg whites are warm, transfer them to your mixing bowl and whip until medium-stiff peaks form. Stop beating the egg whites just when stiff peaks form: you don't want them to appear dry. Perfectly beaten egg whites will fold into batter without breaking apart into white flecks and islands, and the air bubbles will still expand in the oven.

Egg yolks: Beat your egg yolks with sugar until they're thick and lemon-colored; when you lift up the beaters, a "ribbon" should form on the surface as the mixture drops back into the bowl. Meanwhile, adding melted butter or sifted cocoa powder decreases the batter's volume, so fold these in very carefully.

Fold in Egg Whites

Use the "one-third, two-thirds" method for folding in egg whites:

  1. Add one-third of the beaten egg whites into the bowl of thick batter.
  2. For best results, use a balloon whisk -- one of the big bulbous ones -- stirring gently until the ingredients are incorporated and the batter is lightened. (A rubber spatula, plastic bowl scraper, or even your hands also work well.)
  3. Add the remaining egg whites to the batter, gently folding with smooth strokes through the center of the bowl, around the sides, and lifting through the center again, repeating until batter is smooth.
  4. Immediately divide batter into prepared pans, smoothing the surface if necessary, and transfer them to the hot oven.
  5. Bake as directed.

Sponge Cake Recipes to Try

Sponge cakes are made for soaking up sauces and fillings. Try this recipe topped with macerated strawberries for a strawberry shortcake.

Mom's Sponge Cake
Photo by lutzflcat

"Great recipe! This recipe was easy to follow and turned out great," says Jenn Jones. "I would definitely say using a handmixer (on the highest level) to get the whites to a stiff texture is a must!"

Glorious Sponge Cake
Photo by Julia Antoinette Macarenas

Be sure to poke holes in the top of the baked cake so the milk mixture can soak in deeply to flavor it all the way through.

a square slice of cake topped with whipped cream and a sliced strawberry, served on a square white plate
Photo by Melissa Goff
| Credit: Melissa Goff

"Genoise is typically a dry cake," says KATRINP. "This allows you to add extra flavor and moisture through a simple syrup flavored with any liquer or extract(thus, minimizing the egg taste) You must keep the genoise covered and/or use quickly as it does dry out quickly."

Tip: Try topping this cake with Real Strawberry Frosting.

Genoese Sponge
Photo by abapplez

A chocolate sponge cake rolled up jelly-roll style and decorated with chocolate frosting. The ultimate holiday cake!

Chocolate Decadence Yule Log
Photo by Yan
| Credit: Yan