nee’s ‘never fail’ sponge cake

If you haven’t seen the film Calendar Girls, do yourself a favour and watch it. I’ve always loved the scene where the unlikely winner Chris enters a sponge cake in to the illustrious WI cake competition at the village fair. When asked for her tips on making the perfect Victoria Sponge, she answers “..if it’s a special event – buy it at Marks and Spencer“.

True. Absolutely no judgement; by all means channel Chris and buy a cake already made. If you feel up to the challenge of making your own though – give this one a go. A cake so good I reckon it’d win awards.

Charlotte’s absolute favourite – Nee’s sponge cake is a crowd pleaser. So light and fluffy on the inside and topped with whipped cream, strawberry jam and fresh strawberries – you couldn’t get anything better. This sponge recipe, using the bi-carb soda, cream of tartar and corn flour is an old Australian Women’s Weekly recipe and is often called ‘never fail’ sponge or ‘featherlight’ sponge cake.

Nee is a great cook and the girls and I enjoy cooking (and making a mess) in her kitchen whenever we’re in Boorowa. We’re lucky to have her. This recipe and Anne’s specialty is an oldie but a goodie, is easy to make and fun for the kids to get involved in spreading the jam and cream over the top. Perfect for a picnic, kids birthday party or simply ‘just because’, if you can perfect the making of this – you’ll be so pleased with yourself.


The girls and I made this sponge yesterday for a picnic in the park with my good friend Bel. On the way home we stopped in to Cork Daddy’s work and shared the leftover cake with the office. Jock just happened to be there buying some dog biccies; talk about being in the right place at the right time. He said it reminded him of birthdays growing up; apparently his mum makes one exactly the same.


As the old saying goes; ‘the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach’. I kinda think this is true but I’d change it to – ‘the way to anyone’s heart is through their stomach’.


nee’s ‘never fail’ sponge

5 eggs, at room temperature*
3/4 cup of castor sugar
1/2 teaspoon of bi-carb soda
3/4 cup of cornflour
1 tablespoon of custard powder
1 teaspoon of cream of tartar
Strawberry jam, to serve
Whipped cream*, to serve
Fresh strawberries, sliced, to serve

  • Line a large square cake tin with baking paper and grease with canola spray. Preheat oven to 175℃.
  • Sift the bi carb soda, cornflour, custard powder and cream of tartar together and set aside.
  • Separate the eggs and beat the whites until white and fluffy. (Use an electric stand mixer with the whipping beater).
  • Then, gradually add the sugar to the egg whites whilst continuing to whip.
  • Turn down to a low speed and add the egg yolks – mixing until combined.
  • Next, take the bowl from the mixer and fold in the sifted dry ingredients with a spatula or wooden spoon. Do this gently and slowly until all of the flour is combined.
  • Using a spatula to scrape down the sides, pour the cake mixture in to the prepared cake tin and bake for 18 – 20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
  • Turn the cake out on to a wire rack to cool.
  • Spread a generous layer of strawberry jam over the cooled cake, and then spread the whipped cream over the top. Finish by arranging the sliced strawberries on top.

*To make the whipped cream – simply whip 200ml thickened cream, 1/2 teaspoon of icing sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract together until nicely whipped and slightly thickened. (I use my hand beaters to do this).

Lo’s tips

  • *The eggs need to be at room temperature for this recipe because they reach a greater volume when whipped, as opposed to cold eggs. Take the eggs out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before making this cake.
  • Jam coming straight out of the fridge can be a little hard to spread. Using a teaspoon, give it a good stir around so that it ‘warms up’ a bit and it will be easily spreadable.
  • Obviously you can use any type of jam or berries on top.
  • You could also use this mixture to make two small round cakes and sandwich them together with the jam and cream. If you do this – sift some icing sugar over the top of the finished cake.
  • Placing the strawberries on top in lines means that you are able to cut the cake in a way that each individual piece has a strawberry.









If you make this sponge cake, please leave your comments below. xx




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