What Are the Different Types of Sponge Cake?

J. M. Mancini

Sponge cake is a popular type of cake and is the basis for a variety of delightful treats. There are two main types of sponge cake: American and European. The American version is more moist and sweet, and it contains no solid fat, so it is ideal for people who are watching their weight. The European version tends to be more flavorful but more dry. Another type of sponge cake is Passover cake, which is popular during this Jewish holiday.

Orange peel is sometimes included in sponge cakes.
Orange peel is sometimes included in sponge cakes.

As the name implies, sponge cake is light and airy. It is made using flour, sugar and eggs. Unlike a traditional butter cake, sponge cake contains little fat other than the egg yolk.

Gâteau is a type of French sponge cake.
Gâteau is a type of French sponge cake.

When the American version of this type of cake is made, room-temperature eggs are separated. The yolk and white are beaten separately until they are thick and fluffy, which gives the cake a full volume. Non-self-rising flour and superfine sugar are the other staple ingredients. Granulated sugar can be placed in a food processor for a few seconds to create the same effect as superfine sugar.

Batter is then poured into an ungreased pan. The pan is left ungreased so that the batter can adhere to the sides of the pan, allowing it to achieve maximum volume. As the cake rises, air bubbles form, resulting in the light and airy texture. The cake can be served plain, dusted with powdered sugar or topped with fruit and whipped cream.

European sponge cake, also referred to as Genoise cake, is the foundation for many Eastern European desserts. For this type of cake, eggs are beaten whole. A small amount of melted butter is also added to the batter. The result is a more flavorful, less-sweet cake than an American sponge cake. The cake tends to be dry, so syrups and liqueurs are often added.

Sponge cakes are popular dessert choices during Passover because yeast is not used. Passover sponge cakes are often made with matzo meal or matzo flour instead of raw wheat. Potato starch and dried orange peels or orange juice also can be added to the batter. Passover sponge cakes can be flavored with chocolate, almond, lemon, apples and poppy seeds.

Eggs may be utilized differently in various sponge cake recipes.
Eggs may be utilized differently in various sponge cake recipes.

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Discussion Comments


@SarahGen-- You can make eggless sponge cake but it's going to be a little tricky. If you eat dairy, you can use milk, cream or yogurt in place of the eggs. If you whisk them with the sugar, you can get air bubbles into the cake mixture which will result in a fluffy cake. You can also put some baking soda into the batter to achieve this result.

When the cake is done baking though, you need to remove the sponge cake from the pan quickly or it will start to flatten. It might take a few tries to get the cake right.


Is it possible to make a vegetarian sponge cake without eggs? I know that the eggs cause the cake to be fluffy and airy. Does anyone have a sponge cake recipe without eggs?


I love European sponge cake, especially when it's layered with custard. I think that American sponge cake is too sweet. It's difficult to eat American sponge cake with icing or frosting because the sugar is overwhelming. European sponge cake might have more fat but it feels lighter to me because of the less sugar content.

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