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Lemon Sponge Cake

A Tribute For Queen Elizabeth's Platinum Jubilee Celebration

Sponge cake is a lovely alternative to the sweetness of frosted cakes and the weightiness of Bundt cakes. The light, airy confection descends from the British staple, the Victoria sponge. While the cake was later named for Queen Victoria, it hails from the 15th century. It first appeared in a British publication in 1615. While a few differences exist in the recipes, the Victoria sponge is usually made in two layers, separated by whipped cream and strawberries.

This one-layer sponge cake is served with a simple sweet lemon wine sauce and garnished with berries. Like the Victoria sponge, it's dusted with confectioners’ sugar. Although this is a deceptively easy cake to bake, there is a critical step: Do not overprocess. The recipe calls for gently folding—not stirring—both the egg whites and the flour into the mixture. This is what gives the cake its sponge-like appearance and lightness.


1 large lemon

5 large eggs, separated

1 cup sugar

1 cup cake flour (measured after sifting)

Lemon wine sauce

Garnish: confectioners’ sugar and berries

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Coat a 9-inch baking pan with baking spray, or butter the surface and dust with flour, and set aside.

  2. Grate zest from the lemon into a small bowl. Juice and strain the lemon, then pour it over the zest to steep. Set aside.

  3. Separate eggs. Beat yolks at medium speed with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugar, then lemon/zest mixture.

  4. Whisk egg whites until stiff but still glossy and gently fold them into the yolk mixture.

  5. Add sifted flour to the top of the egg mixture a little at a time, folding gently. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

  6. Bake in the center of the oven until golden, approximately 45 minutes. A wooden toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean.

  7. As the cake cools, it will pull away from the sides of the pan. Gently tap the sides and bottom of the pan to loosen the cake. Once cool, place on cake plate.

  8. Top cake with sifted confectioners’ sugar and garnish with lemon wine sauce and berries. Of course, it can also be served with strawberries and cream like its distant cousin.

Lemon Wine Sauce

½ cup white wine (I use chardonnay)

4 Tbsp. sugar

10 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

¼ tsp. nutmeg

Zest of one lemon

  1. In a small saucepan, combine wine and sugar, stirring over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Bring the mixture to a simmer and remove from heat. Turn heat to its lowest setting.

  2. Whisk in 4 or 5 small cubes of butter until almost melted and return to the heat. Continue adding the butter a few bits at a time, whisking until dissolved before adding more. Once all the butter is incorporated, cook over the lowest heat until the consistency of cream, about 20 minutes.

  3. Whisk in nutmeg and lemon zest. Serve at room temperature.


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