James Beard Award-winning Cookbook Author

Foam Cakes: Classic Génoise

November 18, 2012
in Cakes,Génoise,Recipes

Image ***BakedCooledGenoise1.jpg

Génoise is the last of the foam cakes.  It is also a very versatile cake that may be used to make petits fours and jelly rolls.  It differs from all the other foam cakes–angel food, sponge, chiffon–in that it is made with whole eggs.  Warmed eggs are beaten with sugar and vanilla until they triple in volume, become thick and creamy, and are filled with tiny air bubbles, the only source of leavening.  I like to use a mixture of unbleached all purpose flour and bleached cake flour because I think it gives the cake a fine, sturdy crumb.Génoise tends to be dry, and when baked as a thick layer, it is split and brushed with generous amounts of a flavored sugar syrup before filling and frosting.

Here’s what the beaten eggs will look like before you fold in the flour.

Image ***GenoiseWhippedEggs.jpg

Génoise batter ready to bake. The shininess comes from the browned butter.

Image ***GenoiseBatterInPan.jpg

And here’s the cake baked and cooled.

Image ***BakedCooledGenoise.jpg

Here’s the recipe for the cake.  In my next post, I’ll include a recipe for Lemon Génoise with Raspberries and White Chocolate Buttercream.

Classic Génoise


4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
4 large eggs
1/2 cup cake flour (spooned into the cup and leveled; 2 ounces)
1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (spooned into the cup and
leveled; 1 1/2 ounces)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon



1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. When the butter is completely melted, carefully skim the foam off the surface with a small spoon. Continue cooking the butter until the butter solids (which will sink to the bottom of the pan) and the clear butter turn a light brown color. The butter will have a delicious nutty aroma. Carefully pour the butter through a very fine mesh strainer into a heatproof cup and let it cool. It must not be warmer than tepid when used in the cake. You will have about 3 tablespoons of browned butter.


2. Adjust an oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch layer cake pan 2 inches deep and line the bottom with a round of wax paper or cooking parchment. Butter the paper and dust the pan with all-purpose flour; knock out the excess.


3. The eggs must be warmed so that they’ll gain the most volume when beaten. To warm the eggs and make the batter, place the eggs into the large bowl of an electric mixer and cover with hot tap water (120 to 130 degrees). Let stand 10 minutes. Remove the eggs and pat them dry. Discard the water and dry the mixer bowl. Crack the eggs into the warm mixer bowl and add the sugar and vanilla. Stir with the whip attachment to combine well.


4. Beat the eggs with the whip attachment on medium high speed for 3 minutes. Increase the speed to high and beat another 2 minutes, until the eggs are very pale and thick and resemble soft whipped cream. To test for this, stop the machine and stir the eggs once gently with the whip attachment. Then lift it a few inches above the beaten eggs and let the mixture fall back into the bowl; it should form a ribbon that stays on the surface for a few seconds. If the ribbon sinks back into the egg mixture and disappears quickly, continue beating on high speed for 1 to 2 minutes more.  Beat in the lemon zest.


5. While the eggs are beating, measure the flour, sift it with the salt 3 times, and return the flour to the sifter. Place the butter, which must not be more than tepid, into a medium-sized warmed bowl and set it aside. If the butter is hot, it will deflate the batter. When the eggs are ready, sift about 1/2 of the dry ingredients over them and fold rapidly and gently with a large rubber spatula until almost all of the flour is incorporated. Sift on the remaining flour and foldrapidly but gently until it is almost all incorporated. The idea is to deflate the eggs as little as possible. Immediately transfer about 1 cup of the batter to the butter in the bowl and fold rapidly to combine well.  Fold the butter mixture into the egg-flour mixture. The batter will develop a shiny look and is most fragile at this stage. Fold quickly but gently to avoid deflating the batter any more than necessary.


6. Immediately scrape the batter into the prepared pan, carefully spread it level, and place the pan in the oven. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. The cake is done when it is golden brown, it springs back when gently pressed, and it shows a faint line of shrinkage at the edge of the pan. This last test is the surest.


7. Remove the pan from the oven and immediately run the tip of a small sharp knife all around to release the cake from the sides. Cover the pan with a wire rack and invert the two. Carefully remove the pan and paper, cover the cake with another rack, and invert again to cool right side up. Cool the cake completely before using.

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