Genoise Bastards

I spent Friday and Saturday wrestling a grisly migraine. The anti-emetics are no longer working for me, which is very sad indeed as it means I cannot keep pain killers down. It also means that I will have to give in and go back to the Dr. I hate going to the Dr. as regular readers will know, and anyone who is new to the blog because of my campaigning for my Dr. surgery to stay open will no doubt find quite baffling.

Nobody said it was going to be easy.

Which brings me to the main concern of this post, which is bloody Genoise sponges.

A Genoise sponge, for those of you who are not quite as obsessed by the world of baking as me, is a kind of Victoria sponge but one which is supposed to be much, much lighter than you traditional sponge cake.  This is because you spend half your life whisking eggs and sugar frantically over a simmering bain marie until you lose the will to live, and then fold your other ingredients in with a spare fairy’s wing, etc.

It is a cake that requires patience, subtlety and a ‘knack’. I have none of those things, which will come as a surprise to nobody who knows me.

I promised I would try and get a grip on the Genoise because my friend Jenn needs one making in the next week or two. I have already added the caveat that if I can’t do it, she will have to put up with a standard Victoria sponge cake, which I can do with my eyes closed and one hand tied behind my back.

It may come to that.

I had set today aside for the making of the Genoise. A good job I set aside the whole day.

I have just taken my third attempt out of the oven. The first two attempts are in the bin, tasting rather like a cross between an omelette and a Boudoir biscuit, and not in a good way. They were also flat. As flat as a flat thing that is very, very flat indeed.

I attempted a Genoise once before, years ago, and the result was similar.

Today I thought I could not go wrong because I am older, wiser (in the ways of baking anyway) and was armed with Paul Hollywood’s recipe which is the one on his blog entitled Summer Fruits Genoise or some such stuff.

I believed I had followed his instructions to the letter. Clearly I had not.  His method was not much help. I realise that the fact that the method is extraordinarily simple, should have set alarm bells ringing. It is much like the time I decided to give plastering a go and there were only three instructions in the book and I blithely set off thinking: ‘How hard can it possibly be?’


So here are the things I have learned from baking Genoise.

If you think your mixture has tripled in size, it almost certainly hasn’t. You need stacks more volume than you think. Absolutely stacks.

If your bain marie is too hot, you end up cooking the eggs and this is a fucking disaster. You need minimal heat, and in my opinion, you should dip a finger in the mixture and if it is warm, you can take it off for a few minutes whisking until it needs popping back on the water again.

Seven minutes whisking time is in a pig’s ear if you’re using my whisk. In fact, I abandoned timing the whisking the third time around and just whisked the living shit out of it for what seemed like hours until I had something that approximated the kind of volume I was looking for and got to the ribbon stage.

The ribbon stage is clearly not something I’ve ever done before because I had no idea what I was looking for. He says the batter needs to drop in ribbons from the whisk. This happens very soon after whisking and actually is no clue at all. In the end I whisked mine until trails of mixture were settled on the surface of the batter for long enough for me to recognise them and see them sink. Even so, third attempt round I’m still not entirely thrilled with the rise.

I wish to know why I cannot just whisk in the flour and butter? It says you have to sift and fold, which I did, watching the mixture decrease in volume as I went, even though I had attained the ribbon stage and also used a metal spoon in a figure of eight pattern so as not to knock all the air out.

Professional, long standing Genoise makers, HELP!

I refuse to be beaten by a sponge cake, even though I have to be until I can be arsed to go out and buy new eggs.



4 responses to “Genoise Bastards

  1. Life is too short for Genoise baking, and Paul Hollywood is useless at recipe writing.

  2. Hollywood makes me heave that said don’t use a bain marie just whisk that shit up melt the butter stir it in and then fold in the flour works a treat.

  3. Tchah! Foreign cakes, they simply don’t know how to behave! I’d say stick with the proper British Victoria Sponge and damn these foreign fal de lals. But then I can’t make them either.

  4. Sad indeed to hear you’re struggling with pain challenges. ( Have periodic muscle pain challenges, and perversely, engaging/tackling with some GP’s couldn’t come at a worse time! Wouldn’t it work out *so* much better to be fronting up to the surgery when fit and strong?) Often during those l-o-n-g nights, great to return to comfort reads such as G Heyer, William books and the Jane books.
    Through Andrea Camilleri’s Montalbano, have become an aficionado of Italian crime novels, so you can imagine how the heart leapt at being introduced to a new Italian author with a series on Genoise bastards.

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