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As some of you will know, I love baking and usually manage a few sessions a week. The exception is when I go to stay in my parent's holiday caravan. The local shop is small and doesn't stock a lot of the essentials such as baking powder and what ready made cakes etc that are there are very expensive. I take groceries with me when I can but there is a limit to what I can carry without a car. So I thought one solution to my problems might be to buy some sponge cake and other packet mixes to take with me as they are light to transport. The Tesco Value sponge mix that I am reviewing today also has the advantage of being very inexpensive at 25p!
I can't say that the pack looks especially attractive, but it does have a picture of the finished cake on the front. It was this that caught my eye in the shop. On the back are the cooking instructions, which are very simple. This particular product is intended to make a 17.5 cm/6-7 inch sandwich cake. All the ingredients you need are in the packet, with the exception of a little water and an egg. If you decide to ice the cake or add a filling as you would when making a Victoria-style sponge, you will of course also need icing ingredients. The first time I made the sponge, I was still at home with ready access to all my sandwich tins so I decided to make the cake exactly as per the instructions. Preparation merely involves emptying the mix into a bowl, and then adding the egg and a measured amount of water. You don't even need a pair of scales so that reduces the amount of washing up slightly. After beating the mix for 1 minute with an electric mixer, you are required to add a little more water and then beat for a further minute. At this point, I thought the mixture looked absolutely perfect as regards it's consistency and texture. There is a light, pleasant vanilla aroma too which seemed a positive sign. All that is then required is to pour the mixture into 2 lined sandwich tins. I estimate that the whole process to this point took much less than 10 minutes, including the preparation of the tins. As you can see, there are no technical or complicated processes involved in the mixing stages so I would imagine this would be an ideal starter mix for a less than confident baker. I can't see that you could really make a mistake providing you are careful to measure the water accurately.
The cake is supposed to bake in 15 to 20 minutes - the shorter time is accurate for my oven. I was impressed with how well the cake had risen and how it had developed an attractive light golden colour. It holds together well once removed from the tin, and has a wonderful light and airy texture. The taste does not disappoint either. The only other packet sponge mix I have tried tasted rather dry and eggy. This is perfectly sweetened, with a discernible vanilla taste. I have to say that I expected a Tesco Value product to be merely ok rather than nice, so this was a nice surprise. I have also tried adding some cocoa powder to the mix, or dried fruit, and this works well to add some veriety if you don't want to have a traditional jam-and buttercream sponge. I think it may have been helpful for Tesco to print a suggestion or two like this on the packet, as I am sure they would sell more if everyone realised what a versatile product it is.
Since the first occasion I have bought the mixture, I have mainly used it to make fairy cakes. The instructions for this are not on the packet, but I simply make the mix up in the usual way, and then divide it between 12 large cake cases. Used this way, there is sometimes a little mix left over. They take about 10 minutes to cook - I judge them to be ready once a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. A final use for the sponge is to turn it into a sponge pudding. For this I make up 2 sachets of the mix together, add some dried fruit and then cook it in the microwave in a large pudding basin. This is a way of making a traditional style steamed pudding without the need to boil it for long lengths of time. [It takes 5-8 mins depending on how much I am making.] I then add custard or lemon sauce on top, for a simple but filling pudding.
I would recommend you give this product a try. It is quick and simple to make, and it is a much more versatile mixture than it may seem at first. The price of 25p is also competitive, even if you have to factor in the additional cost of an egg and icing ingredients. The shelf life is also reasonable, typically 6 months, so it is a useful standby for the cupboard. Well worth buying!
Contains wheat and gluten. Tesco can't guarantee that it will be nut free. One sixth of the cake contains 4.8g of fat, 0.5g salt, and 180k calories. Suitable for vegetarians.