If you’ve watched The Great British Bake Off, you’ll have heard the judges asking for the bakers to make a genoise sponge at some point in the competition. If you ever want to enter the Bake Off tent, or even become a baking extraordinaire, knowing how to make a genoise sponge is a useful skill under your baking belt. But what exactly is genoise sponge, and how can you make it at home?
What is it?
Genoise is a sponge which originates from Italy, and is generally associated with French cuisine. It’s a bit different from your average sponge cake – it doesn’t require any chemical additives such as baking powder or bicarbonate of soda to rise. Instead, it relies entirely on the air that you work hard to whisk into the batter. It is notoriously difficult to make, and has had many a baker throw up their whisks in anger. The key to getting it right is in how you whisk your eggs.
Whereas with a normal sponge cake you would just mix the eggs together with the creamed butter and sugar, you need to beat your eggs a little differently for a genoise sponge. The key is to whisk them together with the sugar over a bain-marie; start them off like this, then remove them from the heat and mix them with your electric mixer until the mixture gets to the ribbon stage.
The secret of a good genoise sponge lies within the heating of the eggs, and of course the properties of the eggs themselves. The protein in eggs is made up of tightly-woven molecules; when these molecules are heated, they unwind and reconnect with other nearby proteins, which helps to give bakes the structure that we want from a good genoise.
Chef’s tip: Once you’ve successfully made your batter and it is sufficiently aerated, be gentle when placing your batter in the tin for cooking. Try and bring your bowl as close to the tin as possible, as you want to ensure you keep as much as you can of that lovely air you’ve worked hard to get into the batter.
Give it a go
Why not be brave and give it a go yourself! After all, the only way you’ll make the perfect genoise sponge is to practice, practice, practice. As genoise gets most of its flavour from the syrup or toppings you choose to add to it, it’s not a sponge that you’ll eat on its own. Take a look at our delicious strawberry genoise sponge recipe to get you started! Have you got a favourite genoise recipe? Let us know over on our Facebook page.
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