5 Ingredients or Fewer

Gluten-Free Sponge Cake

April  2, 2014
9 Ratings
  • Serves 8
Author Notes

This light as a feather sponge is made with just three ingredients - potato starch, eggs and sugar. It's based on Pellegrino Artusi's 1891 recipe for "Torta Margherita" (daisy cake), a classic Italian "breakfast cake". It's a great recipe when you need a sponge for other dessert recipes like trifle or Sicilian cassata as it is light, fluffy and dry (so it's wonderfully absorbent for desserts that need a sponge to soak up other flavours and wet fillings). I also use this sponge recipe as is, or filled with freshly whipped cream and strawberries. —Emiko

What You'll Need
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 2/3 cup (150 grams) sugar
  • 1 cup (150 grams) potato starch
  1. Beat together the yolks and half the sugar until extremely pale and creamy, about 10 minutes. The longer you beat, the fluffier the cake.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat the whites until fluffy then add the rest of the sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Gently fold some of the potato starch into the yolk mixture, then some of the whites, and continue alternating this way until you have a well-combined, smooth, fluffy batter.
  3. Pour into a cake tin lined with parchment and bake at 350ºF for about 25 minutes or until golden brown and puffed. A skewer inserted in the middle should come out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly in the pan before removing to a rack to cool.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Jeanie March
    Jeanie March
  • Jillian Wallis
    Jillian Wallis
  • Emiko
  • Cassie Roth
    Cassie Roth

27 Reviews

Misfitdeno October 3, 2022
I was wondering if I don’t have potato starch on hand that I could substitute it with rice four or tapioca starch. Would it work?
Emiko October 11, 2022
I believe rice flour and tapioca starch might act a little differently but I've tested it with cornstarch and it works too.
sinjawns October 8, 2021
This is a simple, plain sponge. First slice tasted of nothing but eggs -- I will wait to try again tomorrow. Note that despite following the directions to the letter (with firm peaks on the egg whites) my cake crumb was nothing like what is pictured here... it was denser and collapsed quite a bit after it came out of the oven. It will be fine as as an ingredient in other desserts, but I don't see eating it on its own.
Mesh December 16, 2020
Hello, I cannot find potato starch in our stores. Can you please recommend a replacement but not cornstarch for this cake. I am making it for my husband and he and I cannot have gluten. I am trying to make it today....would someone be able to answer this. I greatly appreciate it! Look forward to baking with you. Mesh.
Emiko December 16, 2020
Hi, I usually make this with potato starch (fecola di patate in Italian) or cornstarch (Maizena in Italian, in case you can find these in an Italian deli) for gluten free. If you don't want to or can't use either of these, I might suggest looking at Poiresetchocolat's Tarta de Santiago which is an almond cake, similarly simple and uses only blanched, ground almonds: https://food52.com/recipes/22940-tarta-de-santiago-almond-cake
Karen December 4, 2020
Hi, would this be good to use for a Swedish Princess Cake?
Jeanie M. October 14, 2019
I made two of these in two days. This recipe says to bake for 30 minutes. That turned out well. I used a different version of your recipe a couple days ago that called for 4 eggs, 120 g of sugar, and 120 g of potato starch. That recipe said to bake for 1 hour. I took it out after 45 minutes because it was getting really brown. It was pretty dry. This version, baking 30 minutes, was much better!
Josh April 12, 2019
Can I add some vanilla for flavor?? Also could I substitute 1/4 a cup for caco powder?
liztree June 30, 2017
tiramisu... will this work?
Emiko June 30, 2017
Yes! I use this recipe for making trifle and zuppa inglese (similar, you did the sponge pieces in liqueur and layer with custard and cream), so I am sure it will work great for tiramisu. I've also just used this mixture to pipe savoiardi/lady finger biscuits, which you can bake for classic tiramisu (the finger shapes simply mean they are 'drier' than cake form, but both work for dipping and layering).
liztree June 30, 2017
OK thanks. I think I am making this today!
Cassie R. December 10, 2018
Hi, I am celiac and got to eat gluten free tiramisu many times on a recent trip to Italy! I loved it. I would love if you could share a recipe for gluten free tiramisu!
Jillian W. June 13, 2016
This recipe is great! I have made a lemon version with lemon zest and lemon oil, and a chocolate version by subbing 1/3c cocoa for a 1/3c potato starch. It is the one sponge cake I can make without fail, and is so tender!
flourgirl April 21, 2014
Reporting back on my Tres Leches cake. It was incredible! I never could find the potato starch, so I used King Arthur's Gluten-Free flour, and followed the recipe otherwise. I used an 8" cake pan and it puffed up beautifully, almost too much! A 9" would have been better, probably, but this one looked so tall and gorgeous. It soaked up the 3 1/2 cups of the milk mixture like a dream. I refrigerated it overnight, presented it with a fresh-whipped cream topping and fresh berries and orange slices, and it was a huge hit! MY granddaughter loved it, and my husband and I, who are not gluten-free, actually liked it better than my regular Tres Leches! Special touches: added a bit of orange zest to the lovely batter, and a smidgen of rum to the whipping cream. But the recipe, as is, worked out beautifully. A splendid end to Easter dinner. Thanks so much!
Emiko April 26, 2014
Lovely to hear! Sounds great. Orange zest is a wonderful idea too, thanks for the feedback!
flourgirl April 16, 2014
I will be using this recipe to make a Tres Leches cake on Easter for my gluten-free granddaughter. She's visiting me from college. The only thing I could find was Bob's Red Mill Potato Flour. Will that work? No sign of "Potato Starch". Thanks for your help!
Emiko April 17, 2014
Hi! No, potato flour is a thickening agent and quite a different product! Potato starch is much like cornstarch, which is a good substitute if you can't get potato starch.
Ekatrina July 17, 2014
Hi, I replaced potato starch with corn starch. The cake doubled in the oven and looked great, but once I took it out it collapsed. Is it possibly the corn starch?
Nan April 16, 2014
Would this recipe work in a jelly roll pan (approximately 15.5" x 1" x 10.5") ?
Emiko April 17, 2014
I have only made it in a round pan and have used a 10 inch and also a 12 inch for this recipe in the past with this same amount and it has been fine, always producing a cake about 2 inches tall. So it may be enough for your jelly roll pan but if in doubt, for those extra inches, you could add 1 egg, 2 tablespoons of sugar and 30 grams (about 3 tablespoons) of potato starch.
Linda April 16, 2014
I would love to make this for my next breakfast meeting. Do you recommend a particular size pan for the baking time and temperature in the recipe? Thanks
Emiko April 16, 2014
Good question -- a regular 10 inch pan should do the trick!
flourgirl April 14, 2014
Would this cake work for a "Tres Leches", soaking up the milk mixture which is poured over it?
Emiko April 15, 2014
It's a great cake for soaking up anything - haven't experienced with Tres Leches but I'd imagine it would work out very nicely!
Yazoolulu April 7, 2014
I made this yesterday to use in a trifle. I was intrigued by the history and the fact that it has only three ingredients (which I already had on hand). It worked perfectly. I whipped the egg whites first, put them in another bowl and then whipped the yolks for 10 minutes. I used a springform pan and it turned out just as pictured. It is a pretty eggy tasting cake. The next time, I think I'll add lemon zest or vanilla. Still, I love the history and simplicity.
Emiko April 8, 2014
Great to hear the feedback - yes, I particularly like using lemon zest in this cake too, though I have to admit I've never found it eggy. Though saying that, this is the basic cake that I usually use for other preparations, like with cream and jam or fruit or in a trifle - it's a great cake for these things precisely because it's so plain. Perhaps once it's cooled and rested (like the next day) it loses that? What do you think?
Yazoolulu April 8, 2014
Indeed, I am happy to report that after resting a day, it was absolutely delicious and not eggy in the least. I am so glad to have this recipe - so easy and versatile. Thanks for sharing it!