Sponge cake is a cake based on flour (usually wheat flour), sugar, and eggs, sometimes leavened with baking powder, that derives its structure from an egg foam into which the other ingredients are folded. The sponge cake is thought to be one of the first of the non-yeasted cakes, and though it does not appear in Hannah Glasse's The Art of Cookery in the late 18th century, it is found in Lydia Maria Child's The American Frugal Housewife, indicating that sponge cakes had been established in at least some Anglophone countries by the early 19th century.
Variations on the theme of a cake lifted, partially or wholly, by trapped air in the batter exist in most places where European patisserie has spread, including the French Génoise, the Anglo-Jewish "plava" and the possibly-ancestral Italian/Sephardic Jewish pan di Spagna ("Spanish bread" , from the Ladino pan d'Espanya). Derivatives of the basic sponge cake idea include the American chiffon cake and the Latin American Tres leches cake.
Before the mixture has cooled, after cooking, it is still flexible. This allows the creation of rolled cakes such as the Swiss roll, or the Bûche de Noël. This basic recipe is also used for many treats and puddings, such as madeleines, ladyfingers and trifles, as well as some versions of strawberry shortcake. In addition, the sponge cake technique is used in angel food cake (where only egg whites are used) and some recipes for Belgian waffles (where the egg whites are separated from the yolk and folded into the batter at the end of preparation).
A Victoria sponge is made in two main ways. The traditional method involves creaming caster sugar with fat (usually butter, although margarine can also be used), mixing thoroughly with beaten egg, then folding flour and raising agent into the mixture. The modern method, using an electric mixer or food processor, involves simply whisking all the ingredients together until creamy. In the latter case, a little extra raising agent is normally used, and some recipes call for an extra-soft butter or margarine. Both are relatively quick and simple, producing consistent results, making this type of mixture one of the most popular for children and people in a hurry. This basic 'cake' mixture has been made into an endless variety of treats and puddings, including fairy cakes, butterfly cakes, chocolate cake, Eve's pudding and many others.
Sponge cakes can also be made that are suitable for vegan, lacto-ovo intolerant and low cholesterol diets. Most often this is done by using plant based milk instead of dairy (such as rice or soya) and vegetable oil instead of eggs (although many alternatives to eggs are used such as flax seeds, bananas and powdered egg replacers).
Other names for the Victoria Sponge are Victoria Sandwich and, less commonly, Victorian Cake.