NZ Woman's Weekly

Duck egg sponge recipe

I was delighted when this recipe landed in my inbox from reader Penny Ure. I had never made a sponge before and hadn’t cooked one with duck eggs, so this was sure to be a bit of an adventure. Little did I know how much of an adventure.

I couldn’t find duck eggs anywhere in Auckland. I thought the Asian supermarkets might have them – which they did, but they were salted and preserved, therefore unsuitable for a fresh sponge.

The specialty food shops didn’t have them nor did my local farmer’s market. But I am reliably informed that some markets do have them and if you know anyone with ducks they should be more than happy to sell you a few.

After days of searching I settled for hen’s eggs, but the jumbo size 8 ones. Having secured my eggs, I didn’t realise until I was about halfway through the recipe that I would be required to beat, by hand, the egg yolks and sugar for 20 minutes.

Penny said at the beginning of the recipe, “I remember my mother sitting at the back door of our farm, beating all the ingredients for this recipe, more than 60 years ago.”

I began to wish I had a back door of a farm to sit at as I was beating this, but it’s amazing how relaxing it can be!

It wasn’t until I was writing this column and decided to do a bit of research in my old books about the art of making sponges that I realised this recipe is nearly identical to one I found in Modern Cookery for Private Families by Eliza Acton, first published in 1845.

This sponge will rise high, has a thick crust and a lovely flavour. It tastes nothing like the ones you get at the supermarket and I’m going to be making this for my family birthdays as it’s quite impressive – well worth the 20 minutes of beating. Thank you for the recipe, Penny.


  • 8 duck eggs or size 8 hen eggs
  • The weight of five eggs weighed in their shells in sugar
  • The weight of three eggs weighed in their shells in flour

1. Line a 20cm square tin with baking paper on the bottom. Then, tie with string a sleeve of baking paper around the outside of the tin so that it comes 7cm above the edge of the tin.

2. Separate the eggs. Beat the yolks and sugar for 20 minutes. By hand is the best method, but you can cheat and use an electric mixer if you like. The mixture will take on a gorgeous coral colour and is ready when the mixture retains an impression of your spoon or whisk for a few seconds.

3. Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold gently into the sugar and yolk mixture.

4. Sift the flour, then fold bit by bit into the mixture. Don’t beat or overmix – you want to keep the lightness of the sponge.

5. Bake at 175ºC for 1 1/2 hours. For the first hour, place the cake in the top half of the oven, then move down to the lower shelf for the remaining time.

Do you have a Nana recipe you’d like to share with me? I’d love to hear about it. Email me at: or write to Nana’s Pantry, NZWW, PO Box 90119, Victoria St West, Auckland 1142.

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