Friday, February 5, 2010

Génoise with Chantilly Cream and Strawberries—Perfect for Valentine's Day

Here's the thing. I'm ready to leave white pepper and chicken liver behind for a bit and pull out the sugar, so I'm starting to work through some of the lessons in Basic Pastry. The first class is all about Les Biscuits (Cakes).

What is Génoise
Génoise (pronounced JenWAHZ) is a delicate, Italian sponge cake named after the city of Genoa, a coastal city in northern Italy.

This cake is unique in that it does not use any chemical leavening agent such as baking powder or baking soda. Instead, it uses a technique that allows air to be suspended in the batter during mixing. This is what gives volume to the cake. Therefore, the success of this cake depends totally upon technique. It has been called one of the great "egg power" cakes and is a "test of pastry chef's technical prowess", according to Sherry Yard in The Secrets of Baking.

"This is truly captured air."
– Shirley O'Corriher in BakeWise
Génoise is a basic and adaptable cake that is a building block for much of French pâtisserie, including ladyfingers, petits fours, and madeleines.

Unlike the Sponge Cake, Génoise uses whole eggs without separating the whites from the yolks.

This recipe uses all-purpose flour, but some recipes call for some cornstarch or cake flour. According to Real Baking with Rose, "the higher the starch content, the lower the Génoise." 

Many of the Génoise recipes include fat in the form of melted butter, but this recipe doesn't and according to the Le Cordon Bleu at Home cookbook, butter is not mandatory.

"Some radicals in the kitchen are now preparing a Génoise without butter,
saying that butter was only needed to help it stay fresher longer
(presumably they feel that modern people prefer stale cake.)"
How to Make Génoise
In this recipe, there are only four ingredients. And the key techniques are whisking and folding.

Bring the eggs to room temperature before you whisk them by placing them in a bowl of warm water or leave them out on the counter until room temperature. Warm eggs trap more air when whisked.

In a heatproof bowl, add the eggs and sugar. Don’t leave sugar on top of eggs because the sugar will start to burn the eggs. Whisk the eggs and sugar immediately. {This is called blanchir.} Whisk (using the whisk attachment on your stand mixer or with a hand whisk) for 1 minute, until foamy, before placing the heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water. (Ensure the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the simmering water.)

Whisk for 8 to 12 minutes, over simmering water, until triple in volume. Make sure the mixture doesn't get hotter than body temperature. If it does, whisk the mixture off the heat for a bit. This step is similar to making a sabayon. Your whisk should hit the sides of the bowl like a metronome, whisking to an Allegro tempo, and constantly. In the end, it should have the texture of soft whipped cream.

Take the mixture off the heat, add the vanilla and whisk to cool it down (either with a hand whisk, if your arms can handle more exercise, or with the whisk attachment on your stand mixer).

It's important to sift the flour before folding it into the batter. When folding, be careful not to deflate the batter. Fold in the flour into the batter in two or three batches so that the weight of the flour doesn't collapse all the whisking you just did.

Baking Génoise
Fill a pan two-thirds full so that it has room to rise. According to Sherry Yard, spinning the pan helps the batter to cling to the sides and avoid a dome-shaped result. Bake in a hot oven at 375˚F.

Don't open the oven door during baking or it might deflate. As well, it sometimes falls as it comes out of the oven.

Do not over-bake.

To test whether the cake is done, touch the cake in the center. If it springs back when touched lightly, it's done. At this point the cake should just be starting to pull away from the side of the pan.


Makes 1 8-inch round pan {I made 2 mini hearts, 3 cupcake-sized ones, and 2 minis}

3 eggs, room temperature
½ cup sugar
¾ cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Chantilly Cream:
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

You can find the recipe for Génoise with Chantilly Cream and Strawberries in the Le Cordon Bleu at Home cookbook (page 176). To see how the rest of the Whisk Whenever group fared with their recipe, click here (or check out the sidebar) and then click on each blogger!

Tasting Notes
This Génoise cake is like biting into a cakey marshmallow and makes a small squishy sound in your mouth. It is a strong cake that holds together after taking a bite, unlike the crumb of something cupcake-like. Paired with a bite of vanilla-infused whipped cream (or Chantilly cream as the French call it) and a sweet strawberry, it's a crowd pleaser. It would be even better soaked in a flavored syrup or liqueur. And it's best eaten when fresh since Génoise cakes without butter don't keep well.

Julia Child
Gourmet Magazine

• Real Baking with Rose "Fear of Génoise -- an Important Lesson"
• Joe Pastry "How to Make Génoise Batter"
• Zoë Bakes "Basics: Génoise and Homemade Rolled Fondant! part one"
• Cordonblues' Blog "Building Block of Cakes: Génoise"
• Practically Edible "Génoise"

. . . . . . . . . .

Running total: $1.15
($0.14 per serving, if 8 servings in 8-inch round cake pan)

Butter used so far: 0 tablespoons

Less than 3% complete Basic Pastry

Next recipe: Pudding Diplomate, Crème Anglaise (Ladyfinger Pudding with Crème Anglaise) and Biscuits à la cuillère (Lady fingers) page 118

::Whisk Whenever::
We're cooking our way through a cooking school curriculum (currently Basic Pastry) using the Le Cordon Bleu at Home cookbook. The "classes" are based on the Le Cordon Bleu curriculum found online and used as a guideline. Not all the items in the curriculum are in the cookbook, but most are. Where the items are not in the book, we try to find a suitable substitution. Find out more here.
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    Michele said...

    How pretty and tasty looking!!

    Megan said...

    I've successfully made a genoise several times - but it can be tricky. I agree that this would be perfect for Valentine's Day!

    Lynda said...

    You are brave to try this recipe. It sounds like you have mastered it. I love the pictures.

    MacWithoutAManual said...

    Your photos really are beautiful Shari. You have a special knack for taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary. Even "LOVE" when you get a hold of it becomes something more than it should be.

    pigpigscorner said...

    I'm very bad with recipes that involves separating egg whites and yolks. Guess I need more practice!

    Zsofi Anna said...

    Those pictures are completely fabulous. I don't know if I'm up for trying to master this right now, but I sure would love to have a friend come over with these gorgeous treats.

    February is SUCH a good time for sugar!

    Inspired by eRecipeCards said...

    Such beautiful photos... I really want to try this

    Angela said...

    I would like to test my baking "prowess" and if I don't get too nervous about blogging it, maybe it will come out. I love all the little baking tips. Did you learn those at Le Cordon Bleu?
    Angela Spinach Tiger

    Mansi said...

    that looks so pretty! and it has LOVE written all over it!:)

    this would be perfect for the Valentine day giveaway I'm hosting on my blog. would be great if you could participate!

    Unknown said...

    I've always wondered about genoise! Never made it though. Following you trhough Basic Pastry should be fun :)

    Chats the Comfy Cook said...

    Besides being beautiful, it looks so light and delicious. Someday, I will brave this and make one too.

    Unknown said...

    Hi , I really like your blog! On January I will start the basic course of patisserie at London LCB and I'm trying to organize my kitchen ..could you suggest me an affordable kitchen mixer that is good and at an afforbable price ? Thank you :)

    Shari@Whisk: a food blog said...

    Hi Michelle, sorry to get back to you so slowly! I hope you're enjoying your first weeks at LCB in London! I can't live without my KitchenAid stand mixer and can only recommend that brand. Good luck at school!