- 280g (500ml) - cake flour
- 40g (60ml) - cornflour
- 15ml - baking powder
- - a pinch of salt
- - a pinch of cream of tartar
- 5 - eggs, separated
- 150g (180ml) - castor sugar
- 180ml - lukewarm water
- 125ml - oil
- 15ml - vanilla essence
- - about 80ml jam of your choice
- 250ml - cream, whipped
- 5ml - castor sugar (or to taste), extra
- - fresh fruit of your choice
This feather-light cake is so versatile, and can be garnished with anything from butter icing to chocolate ganache.
1. Preheat the oven to 160°C and line the bottom of two 23cm cake tins with baking paper. Don’t grease the tins: this cake rises best when the batter can ‘stick’ to the tin as it bakes; a greased pan will let the batter slide down and make the cake denser.
2. Sift the flour, cornflour, baking powder and salt together twice. This captures extra air in the batter and ensures a lighter cake.
3. Add the cream of tartar to the egg whites and beat with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Add 125ml of the sugar, a spoonful at a time, beating well after each addition until the egg whites are stiff and look shiny like meringue. Using the same whisk, beat the egg yolks, the remaining 55ml sugar, water and oil, and 5ml of the vanilla essence until mixed. Then immediately beat in the flour mixture until just combined. It must be smooth, but not beaten unnecessarily.
4. Add a spoonful of the stiff egg whites on top of the batter and fold in quickly. Add the rest of the egg whites and fold everything in with a large metal spoon until just combined. Divide the batter between the two cake tins and bake in the middle of the oven for 30–35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Turn the tins over on a wire rack and cool completely.
5. To assemble, remove the cakes carefully from the tins and pull off the baking paper. Spread the bottom cake layer with your favourite jam, place the second cake on top and garnish with whipped cream flavoured with the remaining vanilla essence and 5ml sugar. Top with fresh fruit of your choice as a final flourish.
• Don’t open the oven door while the cake is baking, until at least half of the baking time has expired. The cake may collapse due to the temperature fluctuations.
• Did you know that fresh eggs will not get sufficiently stiff with beating? Store-bought eggs are usually a day or two old but if you use farm eggs, they must be left for a day or so before using them for baking.
• Use eggs at room temperature when you bake, but store them in the fridge to keep them fresh for longer.
• Check your oil before baking. The taste of old oil may affect the end result. Olive oil tastes rich and delicious, while rancid vegetable oil can give cakes a bad taste.
• Egg whites will not get sufficiently stiff with beating if they come into contact with any grease, oil or egg yolk. Make sure the mixing bowl and whisk are clean and dry before you start beating.