Stephanie from Elegant Sufficiency has asked a question about genoise, a cake in the sponge family. The first time I attempted to make it was years before I began baking professionally. I was living in London and had bought a local baking book at Books For Cooks in Notting Hill. I had no idea what I was doing, the recipe didn't tell me anything about what the end result should taste or look like, and I failed beyond edibility.
Genoise is for the rest of the Western world what the Yellow Cake is for America. By American standards it's considered a dry cake. But in Europe the cake is always brushed with a syrup based in liqueur. The cake is strong enough not to get soggy with the liquid, and voila, a cake layer to go between whipped cream or mousse that was inexpensive to make and barely perceptible as a cake per se. It's an in between, not the primary focus.
But expecting everyone to make it well is a long shot. Genoise requires grand finesse and terrific restraint. As with anything which requires sifting, aerating and folding, each action you make after aeration has taken place is about keeping as much of that air in there as possible.
Below are some tips if you should decide to make this cake, or others like it.
You can find (most of) this exchange in the comments section of the previous Devil's Food Cake post:
"Brilliant inspiration ... thank you ... but please Shuna, I'm so far away and can't come to your classes and have just had a terrible cake catastrophe... please give me some tips to make Genoise... I'm telling myself I will get back on the horse but I'm scared!"
Genoise IS hard to make. I know it's a cake that those outside America are expected to be able to make, but to make it well is a challenge.
1. all ingredients must absolutely be room temperature.
2. you may even warm the eggs in a bowl over a water bath to get them beyond cold.
3. Triple sift the flour and any other dry ingredients.
4. start beating the eggs slow on an electric mixer and increase speed slowly-- do not start them on high. you will get better volume if you start eggs slow. (*For more information about how to treat egg whites, click here.)
5. fold triple sifted dries into eggs in the largest, widest bowl that's in your kitchen! FOLD WITH INTENTION. meaning-- do not just fold and fold and think about something else. each fold should be directed at keeping the air structure in place and incorporating the flour in well but carefully. fold butter in this way too. AS SOON as each ingredient is MOSTLY in, fold in a bit more. folding in thirds or fourths is good, but try not to fold in in too many more additions or you will lose more air.
6. when spreading batter into prepared pan, touch it as little as possible. the more you spread it out, the more air you lose. I like to use a large offset spatula.
7. set very small timers so that you can turn the pan and take it out JUST as it is baked.
and please stop by and let me know if this improved your genoise!