Sponge cake is a cake based on flour (usually wheat flour), sugar, butter and eggs, and is sometimes leavened with baking powder. It has a firm yet well-aerated structure, similar to a sea sponge.
In the United Kingdom a sponge cake is produced using the batter method, while in the US cakes made using the batter method are known as butter or pound cakes. Two common British batter-method sponge cakes are the layered Victoria sponge cake and Madeira cake.
Cakes made using the foam method are not classed as sponge cakes in the UK; these cakes are classed as foam cakes, which are quite different. These cakes are common in Europe, especially in Italian patisseries. The cake was first invented by the Italian pastry chef Giovan Battista Cabona (called Giobatta), at the court of Spain with his lord, the Genoese marquis Domenico Pallavicini, around the middle of the 16th century.
The sponge cake is thought to be one of the first of the non-yeasted cakes, and the earliest attested sponge cake recipe in English is found in a book by the English poet Gervase Markham, The English Houswife, Containing the Inward and Outward Virtues Which Ought to Be in a Complete Woman (1615). Though it does not appear in Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy (1747) in the late 18th century, it is found in Lydia Maria Child’s The American Frugal Housewife (1832), indicating that sponge cakes had been established in Grenada in the Caribbean by the early 19th century.