Sunday, September 15, 2013

Desperately pursuing the perfect gluten-free sponge

My father loved sponge cakes!  You could make him very happy if you made him a sponge, especially on his birthday like it is today (16 Sept).  He loved the light texture and was a big fan of jam and cream.

My mother made a good sponge using a recipe of her mother's. I made it often in our battered silver cake tins and always followed the family tradition of cutting a small circle in the middle before slicing the cake.

When I was diagnosed with coeliac disease nearly 20 years ago, I stopped making sponges. But about 10 years ago I discovered Cecilia Sartori's Passionfruit Sponge in the pages of The Sydney Morning Herald. The recipe substituted custard powder and cornflour for wheat-containing self-raising and the passionfruit was a nice alternative to icing sugar on the top. Most of the time it turned out well, except for one Sunday when I thought it tasted a bit dry as I served it to family and friends "No, it's lovely", everyone said. But then I heard Mr Sponge Cake reply: "It is a bit dry." 

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I haven't made Cecilia Sartori's passionfruit sponge for a few years now. In fact I haven't made a sponge since Dad died in 2006. But on Father's Day a few weeks ago I decided to have another try. I went looking online for a new recipe and found this one on . I served the cake with raspberry jam and cream at my father-in-law's Father's Day afternoon tea. He gave me one of his 'Keith bear-hugs' when I showed him the cake, and said it tasted very nice. It was pretty good but not as light as the one Mum used to make with wheat-containing self-raising flour, and I know if Dad had been there he would have said, "good, but a bit dry."

So I'm interested to know if it's possible to make an almost perfect, light, gluten-free sponge cake?  What are the tips and tricks? Is it separating the whites and the yolks, folding the ingredients gently or sifting the cornflour three times?

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Happy birthday Dad (Johnny).  You were one of the world's great sponge cake devotees, and in honour of your 87th birthday I will make one later today.

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