The genoise is a classic European sponge cake that has been made in Italian and French kitchens for centuries. It uses beaten eggs to create lift in the cake, rather than relying on baking powder or some other kind of chemical leavener. This produces an airy cake that tastes like it has been crafted in a fine patisserie.
Genoise sponge is especially good for taking on liqueur, fruit curd, buttercream, jam, or any other ingredients containing liquid. The final cake is light and moist – it won’t last long on the table.
How to make a genoise sponge cake
Yield: One 8” round cake. Serves: 10. Prep time: 15 minutes. Cooking time: 35 minutes.
- 5 ¾ oz all-purpose flour (plain flour)
- 6 eggs, room temperature
- ¾ cup superfine sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 ounce butter, melted and cooled
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 2 tsp confectioner’s sugar
- 1 pound strawberries
- Grease an 8” round cake tin with butter, then dust with flour. If there is any excess flour then shake it off. Preheat the oven to 315°F.
- Sift the flour into a bowl. Repeat the sifting a second time into another bowl to ensure the flour is light and clump-free. Set aside.
- Add the superfine sugar, vanilla, and eggs to a large heatproof bowl and whisk with an electric hand beater until combined. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (bain-marie), making sure the water doesn’t reach the bottom of the bowl. Beat the mixture on high for 10 minutes or until the texture is is thick and glossy. It will have almost doubled in size and when you lift out the beater, a ribbon trail should form. Remove the bowl from the heat.
- Lightly scoop the butter over the egg mixture along with half the flour. Gently fold them in using a spoon or spatula. Add the remaining flour and fold it in until just combined.
- Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan ensuring the surface of the cake is smooth, then bake until the top is a light golden color (about 35 minutes). Other signs that the cake is ready are a skewer inserted comes out clean, or the sides are slightly coming away from the pan. Allow the genoise to cool for 5 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- Use a serrated knife to slice the cake in half then smother the bottom half with jam and then cream. Replace the top half of the cake and cover with cream, then garnish with strawberries.
A gallery of the steps
How long can a genoise sponge be stored?
A genoise sponge can be baked one day ahead of eating. Once cooled, securely wrap the sponge and store it in a cool dry place. The cake is also suitable for freezing up to one week. It should be thawed at room temperature before decorating.
5 tips to improve your genoise sponge
1. Get the mixing time right
There is a fine line between under and over mixing. Once the batter reaches the ribbon stage stop immediately to avoid deflating all the air bubbles. Over beating will flatten the mixture, resulting in a flat cake. The texture should look a lot like the picture below.
2. Keep the oven door closed
Avoid opening the oven door as the cake is cooking. It will cause the sponge to deflate instantly and there is nothing you can do to fix it. Using an oven thermometer to ensure the heat is accurate will give you confidence that 35 minutes is going to provide a perfect cake. You should also use the oven set on its conventional setting rather than fan-forced.
3. Always use a bain-marie
Whisk the eggs in the bain-marie constantly to avoid them turning into sweet scrambled eggs. It is also important to make sure the bottom of the bowl isn’t touching the water as this can also cook the eggs.
4. Consider using two pans
If you aren’t confident in cutting the cake into two perfect layers, another option is to halve the batter and pour it into two cake tins. Check that they’re the same dimensions or the final cake will look a little wonky.
5. Work quickly
Once the flour is folded in, scoop the batter into the pan and get it straight into the oven to get a cake with plenty of height. Every minute that passes, the bubbles in the mixture will begin to burst, flattening the batter.
- Genoise cakes are also known as Genoese or Genovese, named after the Italian city Genoa.
- They can be used as a ladyfinger substitute in your next tiramisu.
- A bain-marie isn’t essential to make this cake; however, it results in a fluffier foam.
- The sponge cake is often used as a base in other recipes like Black Forest cake, Swiss Roll, and Jaffa cake.