A version using baking powder.
Victoria Sponge Cake by Inspire Kelly on Flickr
Sponge cakes were originally an evolution of ladyfingers, or Savoiardi, which date at to the 11th century. The traditional Savoiardi recipe hasn’t changed since then: well-beaten eggs, sugar, and flour.
Until 1840, that was the basic recipe for most American sponge cakes, too. But around 1840, two things happened: one, we started domestically producing baking soda in 1839, and two, the wire whisk appeared around 1841.
(You’re wondering how we beat the eggs before then, aren’t you? Generally, a flat knife, a reed, or a fork did the job. This is substantially why cakes were for people with servants.)
Much as the 1-2-3-4 cake became the foundation of an entire class of cakes, the sponge cake was the parent of another class of cakes, made with different concentrations of egg foams and leavening agents (including baking powders, which were invented in Germany around 1843, but proliferated in American recipes after the introduction of Rumford baking powder in 1965).
For more on sponge cake, see today’s post for golden sponge cake.
From the box of A.D. from Lutz, Florida, by way of Pennsylvania in the 1940s, and originating in Ohio in the 1920s.
4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
3 cups sugar
1 cup cold water
1 tsp. lemon extract
Beat eggs and sugar smooth. Add flour, salt and baking powder, water and extract.
Bake in square pans in quick steady oven 35 minutes.