Never-fail Sponge Cake Recipe by the CWA

What recipe says home to members of the Country Women’s Association? It has to be the sponge!

Almost every CWA branch has a sponge baker – whether it’s the never-fail plain sponge baked in a round tin, a ginger fluff with its characteristic colour and flavour, or a honey roll that begins as a flat rectangle and finishes as a rolled log.

The sponge is the signature dish for all of our special events. The branch birthday cake is usually a sponge, while some branches will celebrate the birthday of a member with a sponge cake for afternoon tea or supper.

Let us tell you about a few of our sponge makers to illustrate the importance of the sponge for members within their own homes and local communities, and at their local CWA.

Doreen is 93 and has been making sponges for at least 80 years. Her sponge recently won best entry at her group’s craft and cookery exhibition. Doreen has entered every one of the 66 annual exhibitions and still cooks sponges regularly for her extended family.

Marilyn makes sponges of every shape and flavour. Her husband John used to say jokingly, “If you think I might leave just make me a passionfruit sponge.”

The most requested items at Rose’s CWA branch are sandwiches and ginger fluff sponges. The tables are spread with cloths of green and gold, the colours of the CWA in Victoria. Sandwiches on long white plates are placed down the middle of the table, and dotted at intervals on either side are round glass plates holding golden fluff sponges filled with rich whipped cream. Visitors and staff always comment on the sponges and regulars remind Rose that they attend just to eat a slice of her sponge.

Pam, deputy president of the CWA in Victoria, has a special treat for her branch members at their Christmas meeting. She makes a honey roll covered in melted chocolate that is fashioned into a Christmas log. Her showpiece is completed with a little robin sitting on a chocolate twig – this little robin came from England with Pam’s mum, many years ago. When the log is cut the white rings of cream contrast beautifully with the chocolate.

The never-fail sponge exemplifies that we never fail to do our best, we never fail to learn and teach, and we never fail to care for others.

Never-fail Sponge Cake


Makes two 20cm cakes

  • 4 eggs, separated
  • Small pinch of salt
  • ¾ cup (165g) caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla essence
  • ¾ cup (90g) cornflour
  • 1 large tablespoon custard powder
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda


Preheat oven to 175°C.

Beat egg whites and salt until soft peaks form, then gradually beat in caster sugar. Beat well until very thick, stiff peaks form. Gently fold in egg yolks and vanilla.

Add twice-sifted dry ingredients, then gently fold them through the egg mixture until combined.

Turn evenly into two well-greased sandwich tins, 21cm x 6cm deep. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the sides of the cake have shrunk a little from the side of the tins.

Turn out to cool, then slice through and fill with cream and jam, to make two individual layered cakes, or one big cake with four layers.

Ice or decorate the top as required; our cake is topped with strawberry halves and dusted with icing sugar.

Variation: For a chocolate sponge, add 2 tablespoons cocoa powder to dry ingredients.

From Our Kitchen to Yours by the Country Women’s Assocation of Victoria is out now.

This article first appeared in The Big Issue Ed#643.

Photo by Cath Muscat.