Amber Rose's Perfect Sponge Cake Recipe

New Zealand chef to the stars Amber Rose shares her recipe for a fail-safe sponge cake from her new book The Wholefood Pantry

Amber Rose's perfect sponge cake. Picture / Supplied

The Perfect All-in-One Sponge
Cake Recipe

Makes 1 x 20cm cake

This is my fail-safe recipe for whipping up a light and airy sponge for birthday cakes and afternoon tea parties. It’s super-easy and spelt is a great alternative to plain white flour: it contains far less gluten and it tastes wonderful. Spelt is a heritage grain and much easier to digest than some of the more modern varieties.

Once you get the hang of the basic sponge you can then decorate the cake any way you like from the suggestions below, depending on the season. I love having basic recipes that can be adapted throughout the year – it takes the stress out of planning.

This is my son’s absolute favourite cake, the one he always requests when his birthday rolls around in the middle of summer.

300g unsalted butter, well softened, but not melted
300g white spelt flour, sifted
5 large free-range eggs
2½ tsp baking powder
150g coconut sugar
125g honey
1½ tsp vanilla powder
3-4 Tbsp whole milk

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To make the recipe lactose-free, use ghee in place of butter and nut milk in place of whole milk. To make it gluten-free, substitute the spelt for a gluten-free flour blend and add 1 tsp of xanthum gum.

1. Preheat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas mark 6. Line two 20cm round sandwich tins with butter and baking parchment or one 20cm loose-bottomed round cake tin.

2. Place all the ingredients into a free-standing mixing bowl and beat for a few minutes until thoroughly combined, smooth, creamy and fluffy. If you don't have a free-standing mixer you can use a hand-held electric whisk on the low–medium setting.

3. If using sandwich tins, scrape the batter equally into both tins, even out the mixture using a pallet knife or the back of a spoon and put into the preheated oven on the middle shelf. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cakes are golden and spring back to the touch.

4. If using a 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin, scrape all the batter into the tin, level the surface and put into the preheated oven on the middle shelf. Bake for 40 minutes, or until golden and the centre springs back to the touch. You can also test doneness by inserting a skewer into the middle of the cake: if it comes out clean, then the cake is ready.

5. Take the cake(s) out of the oven and set aside to cool for 10 minutes before removing them from the tin(s) and placing on a wire rack to cool completely. If you have baked the cake in one tin, this is the moment to cut it in half, once it has cooled and you are ready to ice the cake.


Spring: Rhubarb, pomegranate and rose.
You will need 1 x quantity of Chantilly cream (below), and add 1 tsp of rosewater to the cream when whipping.

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas mark 4. Cut 4–5 slender stalks of pink forced rhubarb into 6–7cm pieces and lay them in a single layer in a roasting dish just big enough to hold them. Drizzle with 125g honey or maple syrup and a few tablespoons of water and cover. Roast for 15–20 minutes, or until soft but still holding their shape.

2. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Lay the base cake layer on a serving platter, spoon over a generous amount of rhubarb jam, then spoon over the rosewater Chantilly cream and lastly spoon over the rhubarb and syrup. Top with rose petals and scatter with the seeds of half a pomegranate.

Summer: Summer berries and vanilla chia jam, with vanilla Chantilly cream.
You will need 1 quantity of Chantilly cream (below), and add 1 tsp of vanilla and coconut sugar spice mix (below),to the cream when whipping. You will also need 1 quantity of my raspberry and rose chia jam (below).

1. Lay the base cake layer onto a serving platter, spoon over the Chantilly cream, then the chia jam, just enough to cover the cream in generous amount.

2. Lastly, scatter with 200g of summer berries, strawberries and raspberries, any lovely fresh berries are a treat. Top with the second layer of cake, give a light dusting of unrefined icing sugar and decorate with a beautiful garden rose if you have one to hand.

Autumn: Roasted plums and spiced cream with hazelnuts.
You will need 1 x quantity of Chantilly cream (below), and add 1/4 tsp vanilla powder to the cream when whipping.

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas mark 4. Take 4 large red plums or 8 smaller plums, cut in half and remove the stones, lay them cut side-up in a single layer in a roasting tray just big enough to hold them. Place a small knob of butter or coconut oil in the centre of each plum, sprinkle with 4 teaspoons of my vanilla, star anise, nutmeg and cinnamon spice mix (below).

2. Roast for 15 minutes or until tender and sizzling and catching at the edges. Set aside to cool. Roast 80g hazelnuts on a baking tray for 8 minutes, rub them in a napkin to remove the skins, then chop roughly. Lay the base cake layer on a serving platter, generously spoon over the cream, then arrange the plums on top and drizzle over any juices.

3. Lastly scatter over the gloriously golden toasted hazelnuts. Top with the second cake layer and dust with unrefined icing sugar.

Winter: Honey lemon curd with toasted almonds.
You will need 1 x quantity of Chantilly cream (below), 1 quantity of my honey and lemon curd (below), and 80g toasted flaked almonds.

1. Lay the base cake layer on a serving platter, spoon over first the cream, then the curd, and sprinkle with the toasted flaked almonds for a wonderful crunch. Top with the second layer of sponge and dust lightly with unrefined icing sugar.


Chantilly cream (with a wild delicious twist)
Serves 4-6

Chantilly cream is probably one of my favourite ways of serving cream. I can eat a bowl on my own; its softly peaking lusciousness transports me to heaven and beyond. You can sweeten it with whatever you like – honey or maple syrup work well – each adds their own unique flavour.

It’s not traditional but I love to add 1–2 Tbsp of unsweetened natural yogurt, for a hint of sourness that is offset by the sweetness of the cream. It also helps the cream not to become over-whipped. For me, most of the pleasure in whipped cream is its texture, so it should not go beyond that softly whipped stage, or ‘ribbon stage’ as the professionals like to call it. Ribbon stage is reached when you can lift the whisk up and the cream that falls gently off the end in a kind of ribbon sits on top of the cream below for a minute before it sinks back in.

You can use this cream to fill cakes, top puddings, tarts, pies, pancakes and fresh or baked fruit, scones and pikelets.

400ml whipping cream or double cream
2 tsp raw honey
½ tsp vanilla powder
2 Tbsp unsweetened natural yogurt

1. Put all the ingredients in a mixing bowl. Whisk until the ribbon stage – when the cream is softly peaking and will only just hold its shape. The cream will keep for a few days if covered well in the fridge.

Raspberry and rose chia jam
Makes 1 x 450g jar

Chia jam provides an excellent and delicious way of getting more of these super seeds into your daily diet. It’s really easy to make and it uses less sugar than the more traditional jam recipes. It doesn't last as long but it will keep in the fridge for a good week. I use it for decorating cakes, topping nut butter on toast, swirling through slow-cooked porridge with yogurt, on cookies, and mixed with granola with fresh fruit and coconut yogurt. Chia seeds are one of the most nutritious foods on the planet, loaded with fibre, protein, omega-3 fatty acids and various micronutrients. What’s not to love?

180g raspberries, fresh or frozen
2 Tbsp honey, or more if desired
Squeeze of lemon juice
½ tsp rose water
½ Tbsp chia seeds

1. Put the raspberries, honey and rose water in a small saucepan over a medium heat, add 1–2 Tbsp of water, just enough to get them to release their juices. As they start to bubble, simmer on low for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

2. Add the chia seeds and stir to prevent any lumps from forming. Leave the mix to stand for another couple of minutes, then stir again.

3. Repeat this three or four times. Pour the jam into a clean glass jar and transfer to the fridge for several hours or overnight to thicken up and chill. This jam will keep for about 10 days in the fridge.

Vanilla and coconut sugar spice mix
Makes 1 small jar

4 tsp vanilla powder
6 Tbsp coconut sugar

1. Mix the ingredients in a small bowl, then transfer to a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid and keep in the cupboard until ready to use.

Vanilla, star anise, nutmeg and cinnamon spice mix

This wonderfully heady and earthy-sweet spice mix is delicious paired with late summer fruits such as plums and hearty autumn and winter fruits such as pears and apples.

1 star anise
½ cinnamon stick or
3 tsp ground cinnamon
8 Tbsp coconut sugar
4 tsp vanilla powder
½ nutmeg, finely grated

1. Place the star anise and cinnamon stick into a coffee or spice grinder. Grind until you have a fine powder, add the coconut sugar and grind again.

2. Mix the ground spices with the vanilla powder and the nutmeg. Mix and then transfer to a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid and keep in the cupboard until ready to use.

Honey and lemon curd
Makes 2–3 225g jars

Lemon curd is a most unctuous and decadent thing. It’s beautiful in tarts, as a topping for pancakes, on French toast, and on yogurt and fruit. Use it for the parfait recipe, right – it’s a cinch to throw together and is a perfect way to end a late summery Sunday lunch.

Finely grated zest and juice of 6 unwaxed lemons
250g light honey
150g cold butter, cubed
4 eggs and 1–2 egg yolks (medium-sized eggs)

1. Begin by sterilising several glass jars, either by putting them and the lids through the dishwasher or by boiling them in a pan of water for 10 minutes.

2. Place the lemon zest, juice, honey and butter into a medium heatproof bowl. Place the bowl over a pot of barely simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl doesn't touch the water.

3. Allow the ingredients to melt and come together, helping this process along a little by stirring with a whisk every so often.

4. In a separate bowl, give the eggs a thorough beating with a metal whisk. Slowly pour the eggs into the lemon mix and stir continuously for 9–10 minutes, or until the mix is custard-like, beautifully thick and irresistible.

5. When the curd is ready, remove it from the heat and set aside, but do give it a little stir every now and then as it cools to keep a skin from forming. Scrape the lemon curd into sterilised jars and seal. It will keep for several weeks in the fridge.

• From The Wholefood Pantry ($49.99, published by Kyle Books, distributed by Bookreps)

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