Freak Cake – Fatless Sponge

So it’s been a while. I started off feeling guilty about this, but quickly gave into the realisation that the reason that the mummy bloggers are able to commit so much time to their blogs is that they’ve got time in one place, as opposed to dashing about the country in trains. [PLEASE NOTE BEFORE YOU TAKE TO THE TWITTERS WITH HORROR: I am not saying Mums have shedloads of time and life is easy. I am aware that babies are bloody hard work. What I’m saying is that a mum at home with a baby is more likely to have a stable internet connection and not have a drunk guy asking “What are you looking at? Pictures of food??”  while you’re trying to write about the amazing lasagne you made at the weekend. Props to the Mummy Bloggers, you’re all amazing.]

And while I’m sure you’re all dying to read my guide to cooking in a hotel room with a kettle and a teaspoon (seriously, it’s possible), there’s only so many blog posts you can read about yet another variation on  a salad.

That said, I do want to do more than just peer at spreadsheets on trains. And I’m going to have to get super creative with my time and energy in the next year, because the Lovely One went ahead and decided to ask if I’d share his insane last name. So there’ll be a hell of a lot of “WHY IS EVERYTHING SO EXPENSIVE” going on in relation to wedding shit.

In the meantime, I’m making use of the time I have to enjoy myself which means re-watching Game of Thrones and trying out insane recipes by the likes of Merle Parrish, Masterchef Australia sensation in 2011. Seriously, look at her, the crazy-eyed loon.

Don’t trust her. There’s INSANITY lurking beneath the surface. Also check out that icing thickness variation – methinks I’m looking at an underbaked sponge, Merle.

I’ve heard of fatless sponges, naturally. The original Victoria Sponge is meant to be made without butter and I’m obviously very keen on mastering the art of the Genoise in the fullness of time. But chucking a shitload of water into the mix and turning straight out of the pan and chucking a warm cake on the side is new on me, and I was relatively convinced it would go hideously wrong.

BUT IT DIDN’T. In fact, it was amazing. Basically, I’ve tried a whole bunch of shop-bought cakes in my time. I assumed that sugary lightness was impossible to recreate at home. Now I know differently, and it’s because of Merle. PRAISE BE UPON HER NAME.

Freaky Cherry Fatless Sponge 

serves 8 – adapted from Merle Parrish’s “Never Fail Sponge” from Merle’s Kitchen


3 eggs, separated

1 cup caster sugar

1/2 cup cold water

1 tsp vanilla essence

2 tsp baking powder

1 cup plain flour, sifted twice

1 tbsp cornflour

4 tbsp cherry jam

200 ml double cream, whipped with 1 tbsp icing sugar



Preheat the oven to 170C (Merle specifies 180 but I find it’s way too quick for delicate cakes) and grease and line 2 shallow pans of 20cm. Don’t, I repeat, don’t just chuck this recipe in a springform and hope for the best. It will be the worst and you will waste a lot of time and energy trying to eat a soggy biscuit/cake hybrid.

Take the egg yolks, sugar, vanilla essence and the half cup of cold water and beat the CRAP out of it with an electric whisk. Merle says to whip for 10 minutes until pale and very thick, but in honesty it really won’t go thick in the way you expect. After 7 minutes whisking you’ll be all OH HELL NO MERLE THIS IS NOT WORKING and it won’t really feel heavy on the whisk in the way you think it should, but you’ll beat for another 4 minutes and hope for the best. The amount of water means it will be light and voluminous and crazy airy but not really thick, it certainly won’t be ribbon-state when you trail the mixture over the surface. It will sort of look like angel delight, very bubbly and light, but runny. WEIRD STUFF YO.

Clean the beaters and whip up the egg white with the baking powder to stiffish peaks. You must work quickly so ensure you know where everything is. Sift the flour and cornflour over the surface of the egg yolk mixture and fold it in, then fold in the egg white/powder firmly but gently.

Pour into the prepared pans and put into the oven, and make sure you don’t open the oven again. You very much need to let this mother sort itself out. The mix will look rather runnier than you want and you’ll think there isn’t enough in the pan, which will be awfully unsettling. Set the timer for 20 minutes and sit back. Magic will happen.


After 20 – 25 minutes or so the cakes will look something like this and be airy as anything. A light touch will suffice to check if they’re done, a little springiness is what you’re looking for.

Now, take a clean tea towel and lay it on a rack, then run a knife round the outside of the pans and turn the cakes gently straight out onto the tea towel. Carefully peel off the paper,  watching for steaminess as you do so. Miraculously the cakes didn’t collapse into nothingness at this stage, as I was fully expecting. What kind of witchcraft is this, Merle?!


Fill with cherry jam and cream and sift icing sugar over the top. Enjoy the lightest, fluffiness thing you ever put in your mouth. God damn, it’s good.

2 thoughts on “Freak Cake – Fatless Sponge

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