Considering Europeans' enthusiasm for dessert and decadence, we shouldn't be surprised that they pioneered many pastry innovations.
Early publications suggest the sponge cake originated in England, but by the 19th century, it was already being customized for international tastes. Pound cake, also British in origin, was popular because its simplicity made the recipe easy to remember. It stayed consistent from the 1700s until the 1900s, when cooks began to add newly-available chemical leaveners.
Génoise, another sponge, has Italian origins (perhaps from the city of Genoa), but it's been adopted for treats that are more commonly associated with French cuisine. And the accent over the "a" might have clued you in: gâteau is a proud French creation.
Despite similar composition and upper-crust ancestry, each cake has unique characteristics. On the next page, we'll discuss how to decide which might be best suited to your occasion.