Last summer my aunt gifted me the wonderful book Bake & Decorate by Fiona Cairns. For those who are familiar with it, you know it’s full of delicious recipes, innovative ways to execute them, and gorgeous photographs of it all. For those who aren’t familiar, you’ll get a small taste today with one of my favorite discoveries from Bake & Decorate — blackberry genoise.
Genoise is a sponge cake that was born in Italy but found its true home in French pastry. This cake has no chemical leavener, i.e. baking powder or baking soda. So, how does it rise, you ask? Air! When eggs are warmed and beaten with sugar, they expand many times their original size. This expansion is because the whisk beats air into the mixture and the eggs trap that air. That trapped air is carried into the oven and results in an incredibly light and delicate cake. So light that you’ll easily envision yourself eating this cake by yourself*.
There is one tricky bit to making the perfect genoise, beating the eggs to ribbon stage. Ribbon stage occurs when you can drizzle a stream of batter back into your bowl, and this line or ribbon sits on top of the remaining batter for a few seconds before melting back into the larger mixture (see the ‘S’ to the right?). Beating the eggs and sugar to ribbon stage ensures that the sugar is fully dissolved into the eggs and that there is enough air in the mixture to help your cake rise in the oven. Be patient when beating your eggs. With your mixer on full blast, it will take around 5 minutes** to whip to ribbon stage.
One quick note on folding. Before popping your cake in the oven, you’ll have to fold flour into your beautifully whipped eggs. Add the flour in thirds, and fold ever so gently after each addition. You don’t want to deflate the batter that you just took so much care into whipping up. If your batter isn’t airy, then your cake won’t be either. Think delicate ballerina thoughts and fold gently!
If you’re interested in taking your genoise to the next level, add a simple syrup to your cake. This isn’t mandatory, but it’s super quick and will add another dimension of flavor. I chose to make a blackberry syrup for this genoise. You can use any fruit, but I chose blackberries because they yield a gorgeous purple-pink syrup and because they were on sale***! Making a simple syrup is as easy as its name suggests. Add equal parts sugar and water to a small pot. Cook the mixture over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Add the fruit, turn the burner on low, and let simmer until your cake comes out of the oven. That’s it!
*Personal Admission #12: Although this is not recommended based o
n a 2,000 calorie diet, it would be deeply satisfying.
**Personal Admission #13: Or if you’re impatient like me it’ll take more like 8, because you’re constantly checking to see if it’s there yet. Patience is a virtue I do not have.
***Personal Admission #14: Despite my generous contributions to the International Tree Foundation, they have yet to produce a money growing tree, so I’m on a budget!
- 3/4 and 2 Tbs. flour
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 4 large eggs
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 12 oz. blackberries
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9" springform pan with non-stick spray.
- Sift flour and salt together twice.
- Warm stand mixer bowl and whisk. I heat
- water in an electric kettle, fill the bowl with that hot water, and plop the whisk down in the bowl. Let sit for a minute or two, then pour out water and dry completely.
- Add eggs to mixer. Beat lightly, add sugar, and then slowly increase mixer to its highest speed.
- Beat eggs and sugar until they increase in volume, turn a pale yellow color, and reach ribbon stage.
- Add flour to egg mixture in thirds and fold gently with a rubber spatula. Add the vanilla with your last flour addition and, again, fold gently!
- Pour into prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cake pulls away from the pan and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
- Once the cake is in the oven, add sugar and water to pot over medium heat. Cook until the sugar dissolves.
- Add blackberries.
- Turn burner to low and allow to cook as the cake bakes.
- Once the cake is out of the oven, separate the blackberries from the syrup.
- Whip cream to soft peaks.
- Add sugar and vanilla until medium peaks form.
- Torte, or cut the cake horizontally in half.
- Using a silicone basting brush, pat the simple syrup into the bottom layer of cake. Don't be shy. Use as much syrup as you can until the bottom layer is completely soaked.
- Spread the chantilly cream across the soaked bottom layer.
- Add the blackberries on top of the cream.
- Stack the remaining cake layer on top. You can either leave it as is or smear the cream flush to the cake like I did. If you're feeling especially festive, dust with powdered sugar.
- Serve that day.