Regular cake versus sponge cake. What is the difference?


The light airy sponge cake, one of the most popular cakes, has been loved for centuries and it’s roots can be traced all the way back to the 17th century. This makes it one of the earliest cakes ever documented! It differs from a regular cake in texture, in content and baking methods. Although the regular cake and the sponge cake might look similar, they are actually very different, when you put that fork in to take a bite. Let’s dive into the main differences between the two delicious favorites.

The main difference between the sponge cake and a regular cake lies in the fat content. A classic regular cake contains butter, which creates a dense moist texture. The sponge has no butter or oil. This will give you that light, bouncy feeling that is so characteristic of the sponge cake.

There are numerous substantial differences between the two cakes. Trying to decide which one is right for you? Read on while we zoom in on the two cakes.

LET’S GET TO KNOW THE SPONGE CAKE

Sponge cake, is actually part of the “foam” cake family. It is made with three major ingredients: sugar, flour and eggs. Yes, it’s that simple! That is at the root of that airy, springy crumb. This cake usually doesn’t use any butter or oil, but there are a few exceptions to that rule- the Chiffon cake and the Victoria sponge, for example, do contain some butter. Most cakes use the whole egg, but some will only call for the egg white- as is the case with angel food cake, a popular sponge cake.

It is important that the eggs are at room temperature. If they are cold, it is possible to place them in warm water for a short while to bring them to the right temperature. The warmer the egg, the more volume you will get in your batter. 
What gives the sponge cake its signature personality is first and foremost in the mixing process. Beating the eggs carefully and correctly is key. This will create a foam due to the air bubbles that appear while mixing. These air bubbles are what cause your sponge cake to rise, seeing as this cake doesn’t usually use other leavening agents such as baking powder. While whipping the eggs, sugar is slowly added in. Make sure to give this time, to ensure that the sugar blends and is not crunchy. Following that, you will be gently folding in the flour and other dry ingredients. You want to do this slowly! Speed could take out the air bubbles that are so crucial to the cake so be as gentle as possible, to keep the egg mixture intact. You don’t want to have the batter deflate.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE SPONGE AND REGULAR CAKE?

Let’s start off with a cool trick: If your recipe instructions first call for whipping butter with sugar, it is generally a regular cake.  If it starts with whipping eggs and sugar, it is a sponge cake. 

When we talk about “regular” cake, there are actually numerous cakes that can be compared to the popularity and personality of the foam type cakes. Most of these cakes are actually butter cakes: for example, pound cake, red velvet, American Yellow and vanilla are all similar in texture and comparable with the sponge. The texture of butter cakes is dense, firm and moist. They are generally easy to bake and are a staple at birthdays and other celebrations.

The main difference to the foam cakes is that classic regular cakes contain softened butter, shortening or oil. The pound cake for example, which earned its name due to its ingredients, is comprised of one pound of butter, one of sugar, one of flour and eggs.

In addition, regular cake generally uses a leavening agent, such as baking powder or baking soda, while sponge cake relies on the whipped eggs for leavening. Other ingredients are usually flour, eggs and sugar.

The most crucial part of baking a regular cake is making sure to cream your butter well. This means mixing the softened butter and sugar thoroughly, until you have a well-mixed, thick batter.

BAKING METHODS

In the baking process we also find differences in the two types of cake:

  • When baking a sponge cake, you want to make sure you steer clear of over-browning, so you will be setting the oven to a relatively low temperature, about 325F (165C). It is best to use an ungreased pan, usually a high mold, with a removable bottom so the cake can climb up and gain maximum rise. Spare yourself the heartache and be sure not to underbake the sponge cake so that it doesn’t collapse! Once you have finished baking, let it cool down for at least an hour before removing it from the pan. You can let cool down upside down to avoid if collapsing into itself.
  • Regular cakes, on the other hand, are usually baked at higher temperatures, say around 350F (175C). This will ensure your cake is baked evenly and rises properly. In the case of cakes based on butter, it is best to grease the pan, to be sure the cake doesn’t stick to the pan and slides out easily. You might even want to use parchment paper to make sure your cake doesn’t brake and comes out whole.  Be sure not to overbake your cake so it does not come out too dry.

WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES IN FLAVOR BETWEEN THE SPONGE CAKE AND REGULAR CAKE?

Let’s admit it, all cakes are delicious, and it is usually hard to stop after one piece! But what are the differences in flavor between the two types of cake? The sponge cake has a subtle, milder flavor and is considered to be a slightly healthier cake due to the fact that it contains less fat. It is the perfect companion to a hot cup of tea or coffee. Regular cakes on the other hand are rich and have a deep buttery flavor.

Flavor is also affected by toppings, add-ins and frosting! Here is where it gets super creative.  The delicate sponge cake will be perfect for light toppings such as syrups, custards or topped with whipped cream and berries, to create lovely, elegant desserts. It can also be lovely, when lightly sprinkled with powdered sugar, the choice is yours.

Regular cakes on the other hand, with their hefty dense structure, are better matched rich creamy frosting, such as buttercream frosting or ganache, as well as delicious cream fillings. This is because their texture can withstand the addition of these, without the risk of collapsing.

CONCLUSION

Both the sponge and the regular cake are great options for your next baking adventure. They are both easy, are made with ingredients easily found in most homes and they can both be tailored to your palate. Basically, what it comes down to is personal preference. I am sure that whichever of the two you choose, if you follow the basic instructions regarding each of them, you will have a scrumptious addition to your meal.

Amit

Hi, my name is Amit. I started baking at a young age at my father's bakery. I hope I can answer some of your questions and hopefully you will find some hidden gems to help you out with your home baking skills.

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