1920s Sponge Cake from Nancy Mallett

Thank you to Nancy Mallett for sending in this lovely recipe for sponge cake. It has been enjoyed for generations!

“This recipe for sponge cake came from my grandmother – that is my mother’s mother.  It was considered exceptionally good and all of my aunt’s used to make it.  It was the family birthday cake with a lemon filling added for all birthdays within Aunt Marie and Uncle John’s family down through the generations, and being very plain, my mother used to bake them and take around to neighbours whenever someone was sick in the household.

It was very plain and simple.  One never iced it.  But it was good served with strawberries and whipped cream.  When wanting just a simple plain cake, it was baked in a baking pan with a hole in the centre.  But sometimes we would bake it in a pair of round layer cake pans and add a lemon filling and sprinkle icing sugar on top.  That was the way Aunt Marie prepared the birthday cakes.  It was a sort of lemon pie filling.  A festive favourite was baked in a square Christmas cake tin.  Called ice-box cake, it had tall sides and the cake would be baked in the bottom of the pan and then we would slice it across in three layers and put a special filling in between.  I will give you the details below.  My mother was known for her sponge cakes.”

– Nancy Mallett

Basic recipe for Sponge Cake

3 egg whites
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup flour
1/4 tp. Salt
2 tsp. Baking powder
1 tsp. Lemon extract

  • Beat egg whites until stiff and set aside.
  • Beat yolks, and add water, sugar and lemon extract.
  • Sift dry ingredients and add to yolk mixture.
  • Fold the two mixtures together lightly.
  • Pour into unbuttered pan.
  • Bake 40 minutes at 325 degrees

Ice Box Cake

  • Bake sponge cake in the unbuttered bottom of a cake tin for baking Christmas cake.
  • When completely cool, cut into three thin layers.
  • Prepare filling (see below)
  • Line Christmas cake tin with wax paper.
  • Divide cream filling into three parts
  • Place 1/3 of filling in bottom of Christmas cake tin. Place top layer of cake on top of filling. Follow by the second serving of filling and then mid slice of cake. Finally place third level of filling and the bottom of cake on top. The layers of filling and cake together should reach just about up to the top of the Christmas cake tin. Refrigerate for filling to completely set. Keep in the fridge until ready to serve.
  • When ready to serve, place a large plate on top and turn the cake tin upside down on the plate. The cake should slip out easily as you had lined the pan with wax paper. Peel off the wax paper. The weight of each layer of cake on top of the layers of cream filling will mean that they will sink a bit into the cream and as a result when you turn it upside down onto the plate, not only is the top layer the cream filling, but the cream filling covers the sides as well. We use cherry jelly in the cream filling so you will have a large pink cake. It is festive looking, yet light to eat. You see the layers when you cut it into slices.

Cream Filling for Ice Box Cake
1 pkg, Lushus Cherry jelly or jello (use half only)
2 cups boiling water.

Add 1/4 cup of sugar to half of the hot jelly mixture and chill.
When beginning to set, add 1 cup of canned & drained crushed pineapple and 2 cups cream whipped.

Divide into three portions and commence to build up layers in Christmas cake tin. Will completely set while in refrigerator. Takes time, so should be made in the morning or even the day before serving.

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