I was delighted when this recipe landed in my inbox from reader Penny Ure. I had never made a sponge before and certainly hadn’t cooked one with duck eggs so this was sure to be a bit of an adventure.
Little did I know how much of an adventure. For a start I couldn’t find duck eggs anywhere in Auckland. I thought the Asian supermarkets might have them, which they did, but they were salted and preserved, therefore unsuitable for a nice, fresh sponge.
The specialty food shops didn’t have them either and nor did my local farmer’s market. But, I am reliably informed that some markets do have them and if you know anyone with ducks they will be more than happy to sell you a few. So keep a look out as Penny tells me this tastes amazing when you use them.
After days of searching I settled for hen’s eggs, but the jumbo size 8 ones.
Having secured my eggs I didn’t realise until I was half way through the recipe that I would be required to beat, by hand, the egg yolks and sugar for 20 minutes.
Penny did say at the beginning of the recipe: “I remember my mother sitting at the back door of our farm beating the ingredients for this recipe, over 60 years ago.”
I began to wish I had a back door of a farm to sit on as I as beating this, but it’s amazing how relaxing it can be standing at the kitchen sink, doing nothing but beating some eggs!
My first drama, however, was breaking the rule when separating eggs to do each one into a cup before tipping in with the others, in case it is rotten. I had separated five of the eight eggs when my sixth one was rotten, ruining the previous five.
My favourite thing about recipe is the way you simply weigh the eggs to work out how much flour and sugar you need.
And it wasn’t until I was writing this column and decided to do a bit of research in my old books about the art of making sponges that I realised this recipe is almost identical to one I found in “Modern Cookery for Private Families,” by Eliza Acton which was first published in 1845 so this is a very old recipe indeed. The only addition in her recipe was the rind of 1 lemon which I think would be lovely.
This sponge will rise very high and has a thick crust and a lovely flavour, according to Penny, and I agree. It tastes nothing like the ones you get at the supermarket and I’m going to be making this for my family birthdays as it’s quite impressive and well worth the 20 minutes of beating. Thank you Penny.
I have since managed to make this using duck eggs I found at Auckland’s Avondale Market- the sponge was superb – that’s it in the picture.
- 8 duck eggs or size 8 hen eggs (buy the best quality you can find)
- The weight of five eggs weighed in their shells in sugar.
- The weight of three eggs weighed in their shells in flour.
- First line a 20 cm square tin with baking paper on the bottom. Then tie with string a sleeve of baking paper around the outside of the tin so that it comes 7 cm above the edge of the tin as this sponge will rise very high.
- Separate the eggs.
- Beat the yolks and sugar for 20 minutes. By hand is the best method but you can cheat and use an electric mixer if you like. The mixture will take on a gorgeous coral colour and is ready when the mixture retains an impression of your spoon or whisk for a few seconds.
- Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold gently into the sugar and yolk mixture.
- Sift the flour then fold bit by bit into the mixture. Do not beat or over mix, you want to keep the lightness of the sponge at this stage intact. Go slowly.
- Bake at 175 degrees C for 1 to 1 ½ hours. Do not keep opening the oven door or it might sink. For the first hour place the cake in the top half of the oven then move down to the lower shelf for the remaining time.