Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Dorie Greenspan's Génoise

A Tuesdays with Dorie event

Have you ever set out to make a dessert in the face of a time crunch?

If so, you must have - armed with some forethought - diligently prepared each component a few days in advance, making sure that these will keep in the refrigerator. And, if you're like me, the one thing you probably didn't anticipate are the other hungry fellows who live with you and raid the fridge in your absence.

That is the gist of why I only have the génoise for this week's TWD event, the Berry Surprise Cake on pages 273 to 275 of Baking: From My Home to Yours.

Having baked a few génoise cakes in the past, I was not so much daunted at the thought of having my cake fall, which I have been told, foam cakes are apt to do. I personally think the fear mongering around foam cakes is unfounded.

I can imagine in the past when the foam batter was beaten by hand - continuously up to half an hour or more - that the génoise might have acquired its reputation as a capricious prima donna. Kitchen Aid stand mixers now make easy work of creating the foam batter.

There is a "secret" to getting it right: the warm sugar/whole egg mixture needs to be beaten to the point that a thick, billowing, rope (the oft-used term "ribbon" isn't quite enough) falls from the whisk when lifted. This rope should coil over itself and dissolve very slowly back into the batter. Most cookbooks will direct letting the Kitchen Aid rip at medium to medium-high speed for 5 minutes; I find that it takes me about 8 minutes to reach this state. In any case, it is best to ignore the advised time and go with the appearance of the batter - this is almost never less than 5 minutes.

A common cause of consternation is folding. A génoise batter is nothing more than a large bubble held together by egg proteins that have become arranged in an orderly manner because of the energy it received from vigorous beating. Folding must be done gently, evenly and quickly on one hand so the bubble doesn't burst, but also thoroughly so no unmixed flour remains. This description makes it seem harder than the task really is. Many professionals use quick and apparently strong (to a casual observer) strokes when folding. But because I am not a pro, I like to fold this way (if video is not visible, click on this link):

Without the filling, I wasn't be able to assemble the Berry Surprise Cake. However, I dug out some leftover plain butter cream in the freezer to which I added some pureed preserved peaches and came up with this:

Thanks to Mary Ann of Meet Me in the Kitchen for choosing this recipe. Please visit the other blogs participating in Tuesdays with Dorie.


  • A génoise is endlessly adaptable and is a remarkable contrast to butter cakes in terms of its composition. The right amount of soaking syrup is essential so that the génoise comes to life.
  • Instead of making one 8-inch cake, I divided the batter between two 6-inch round pans. The baking time was about 25 minutes.
  • A sturdy cake, it tolerates carving before it is soaked with syrup. Here is a sketch of how I was going to excavate the middle of the genoise to make room for the filling:

  • Instead of just using clarified butter, use browned butter (beurre noisette). It gives the cake a deeper, richer, nuttier flavour.
  • To add the clarified butter or beurre noisette: fold all of the flour into the foam in three portions then take a cup of the foam and mix it with the beurre noisette, and finally fold that mixture into the foam. The batter will deflate slightly.
  • It is fascinating to watch a génoise bake. In the final stages of baking, the génoise batter is somewhat sunken in the middle and has the appearance of a buttercake that is ill-fated and bound to fall. Then, in the last few minutes, the middle catches up and domes slightly. The cake flattens perfectly when it is taken out, and all is well.


Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

What a gorgeous looking Génoise Cake!



vibi said...

Beautiful results, Julius!
All that tweeking must have made it a one of a kind, very tasty peachy cake!

ecrunner said...

GREAT JOB!!! Your pictures help big time as I had some real problems with that part of the recipe as well as many others!! THANKS!!

chocolatechic said...

I am so jealous of your cake.


kim said...

beautiful cake, and thanks for linking that video! i need some more practice, because mine fell in the oven (still tasty though ;) )

Passionate About Baking said...

That's a gorgeous genoise Julius...& I love the pureed peaches & cream on top. How refreshingly delicious! The graphics are intriguing; must give that a tray one day!

Cooking for Comfort by Jennifer said...

WOW...the flavor combo of peaches and cream sounds amazing! Way to show those egg divas who's boss! Stunning work!!!!

Julie said...

Mmm, peaches! Sorry about the loss of your berry surprise filling, but your improvisation sounds awesome. Kudos for recommending that people use brown butter in cake recipes--I especially like it with cakes based on nut flours!

Di said...

Your cake looks lovely, Julius! Peach sounds delicious. And I'm definitely going to try the browned butter idea next time.

Dave Jones said...

the cake looks delicious..gonna try it out next time.

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