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Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafes of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague


By Rick Rodgers

Published 2002

This sponge cake batters the cornerstone for most of the famous tortes. Sponge cakes (Biskuittorten) are made from beaten eggs without any chemical leavening. Most American cakes depend on creamed butter and sugar for flavor and structure and get an extra lift from baking powder/baking soda. However, butter cakes harden when chilled, making the layers unpleasantly firm. Chilled sponge cakes stay soft, an important consideration as refrigeration is imperative for the many tortes with cream fillings. While butter-based cake batters do exist (Sachertorte comes to mind), there is no basic recipe that is used as often as Biskuitmasse.

There are two methods of making sponge cake batter. The “warm” method, by which whole eggs and sugar are heated together before beating to allow better incorporation of air, makes a soft, spongy cake that is best for recipes that use a sugar syrup to flavor and moisten the cake. In fact, “warm” sponge cakes are so soft that they can be baked in a jelly-roll pan to curl into the roulade cakes that the Viennese love so much (butter cakes would crumble). The “cold” method beats the yolks and whites separately, and the resulting cake is firmer and a bit moister.

The German word Biskuit comes from the French biscuit, a similar whipped-egg cake made by the cold method. In the French pastry kitchen, the warm-method cake is called genoise. To the Austrians, they’re both Biskuittorten.

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