Sponge Cake

If you’ve read about the history of Sponge Cake I’m sure you’ve heard the story that the first English Sponge Cake recipe shows up inĀ Gervase Markham’s 1615 book The English Housewife. But of course none of the websites that mention it give you the recipe, and I’ve seen a number say that it was probably less airy, or that it was flat like a cookie. Which got me wondering, what exactly was the recipe? Well, it’s cake time. For this I’ll be using the 1986 edition, edited by Michael R. Best, of Gervase Markham’s The English Housewife : Containing the Inward and Outward Virtues Which Ought to Be in a Complete Woman. For reference our modern sponge cake is 1:1:1:1 flour, sugar, butter, eggs. Here’s Markham’s:
To make biscuit bread. To make biscuit bread, take a pound of fine flour, and a pound of sugar finely beaten and searced, and mix them together; then take eight eggs and put four yolks and beat them very well together; then strew in your flour and sugar as you are beating of it, by a little at once; it will take very near an hour’s beating: then take half an ounce of aniseeds, coriander seeds, and let them be dried and rubbed very clean, and put them in; then rub your biscuit pans with cold sweet butter as thin as you can, and so put it in and bake it in an oven: but if you would have thin cakes, then take fruit dishes and rub them in like sort with butter, and so bake your cakes on them, and when they are almost baked, turn them and thrust them down close with your hand. Some to this biscuit bread will add a little cream, and it is not amiss, but excellent good also. Markham 1986, p 112-113