This Trinidad sponge cake recipe is a little heavy-handed on the spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and tonka bean. The spices give the cake such a tasty, memorable flavor that friends and family will ask for more.
Sponge cake is the go-to cake for all occasions in T&T, especially birthdays and Christmas (alongside black cake). Every aunt will make you one for your birthday at some point in your life, even when you’re old. Ha!
It’s a simple recipe… really simple… to the point where teens and tweens can make the cake on their own with little supervision.
I’ve been making the cake for a long, long time. But, this recipe is a little different – there are much more spices in it and more flavor. If you want a basic sponge cake instead, be sure to tone done the amount of spices you add.
What is in this Spiced Sponge Cake Recipe
The ingredients in the cake are typical for the average Trinidad sponge cake. These are:
- juice like lemon or orange
- zest like lemon or orange
- baking powder
- baking soda
- essence like vanilla, lemon, anise, or almond
- tonka bean*
Okay so tonka bean isn’t common in the Trini sponge cake. It is a small bean that has a vanilla-like smell and taste. My mom uses it to make her ‘chocolate’ for cocoa tea.
I found tonka beans in the market recently and I’ve been adding it to all sorts of desserts. I mixed it into my Trinidad black cake recipe – but the flavor didn’t stand a chance next to the soaked fruits and the alcohol.
In this cake though, the tonka bean and nutmeg flavors are prominent. But, if you don’t want those extra unique, spicy flavors, reduce the amounts you use.
Also, substitute tonka bean for vanilla bean if you have it on hand.
How to Make this Spiced Trinidad Sponge Cake
The first thing you have to do to make this recipe is to take the butter out of the fridge and leave it on the counter for about an hour or two to soften.
If you’re short on time, cut the butter in smaller pieces and pop it in the microwave for about 10 seconds. Leave it to sit for a minute. If it’s still cold and firm, microwave again for another 10 seconds.
Add the softened butter and sugar together and whisk until fully incorporated. If the butter is cold, the sugar will not dissolve and become fluffy.
Next, add one egg and mix into the batter completely.
Repeat for each egg.
The batter should be smooth, light and fluffy.
Mix in the juice and zest of your choice.
In a separate bowl, mix all your dry ingredients together – flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon powder, freshly grated nutmeg and freshly grated tonka bean (or vanilla bean) if you choose to use it.
Once that’s done you will need to alternate between adding the dry ingredients and milk. You can spoon the dry ingredients a little at a time while pouring in some milk.
Or you can add half of the dry ingredients and milk and then restart your mixer on a low speed. Any faster and you’ll have flour flying all over your kitchen.
When that’s properly incorporated into the batter, continue adding the dry ingredients and milk.
Whisk thoroughly to remove any flour pockets in the cake batter. Be sure to stop the mixer and use a spatula to remove the flour that’s always left on the sides of the bowl.
Continue mixing again.
Next, add the essence. Here you can use what you have in the fridge. Vanilla is my favorite but lemon goes really well in the cake and gives it a mild citrusy flavor. Almond and anise essence also add sweet, unique notes too.
Pour the batter in a buttered cake pan.
Bake for 40 to 60 minutes at 350°F.
Why the time range? Well, my oven doesn’t keep the perfect temperature throughout, so it took some extra time for the cake to bake. I gave it an initial half an hour but the cake had visible batter in the center. Ten minutes more didn’t see much change but another ten minutes made the cake perfect.
The sides pulled off the cake pan and the bamboo skewer I used to stick the cake came out clean.
Leave to cool before serving with your favorite desserts like ice cream. Around Christmas time, it goes so well alongside a Trinidad black cake and a refreshing glass of sorrel.
Here’s a quick video on making the cake:
Tips for Making Sponge Cake
Be sure to use butter at room temperature when it’s softened. The warmth will ensure the sugar completely melts into the butter and won’t be grainy.
Preheat the oven before starting the cake. The oven will need the time to get to temperature – otherwise you’ll have a longer bake time like I did.
Lastly, don’t open the oven door when the cake still looks like batter. The temperature change will cause the center of the cake to sink. When this happens, the cake won’t have a light, fluffy texture and feel. So, don’t check on the cake every minute – give it the time and space to do its magic.
Spiced Trinidad Sponge Cake Recipe
Spiced Trinidad Sponge Cake Recipe
- Cake mixer
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup butter (unsalted, softened)
- 4 eggs
- 1½ tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 3 cups flour
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated)
- ½ tsp tonka bean (grated)
- pinch of salt
- 1 cup milk
- 2 tsp vanilla or lemon essence
- Preheat oven at 350°F.
- Butter and flour your cake pan.
- Cream softened butter and sugar together.
- Add one egg and incorporate fully.
- Continue adding one egg at a time until the batter becomes light and fluffy.
- Mix in lemon juice and zest.
- In a separate bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together.
- Add half of the flour and half of the milk to the batter.
- Mix slowly until no dry flour is evident.
- Then mix faster to ensure there are no flour pockets and the ingredients are fully incorporated.
- Include the remaining flour and milk.
- Add the essence.
- Pour the batter into your greased cake pan.
- Bake for 50 minutes or until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan.
- Remove from the oven and check the center of the cake with a skewer. If it comes out clean, your cake is done. If not, continue baking for another 10 minutes.
- Place on a cooling rack and cool completely.
- Serve as a dessert alongside ice cream, fruit cake and more.
- You can use lemon, lime or orange juice and zest.
- Essence like vanilla, lemon, anise, or almond can be used.
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