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French Strawberry Cake

I chalk up this particular génoise recipe as a learning experience. A very tasty lesson in the art of mixing up and folding a fussy sponge cake.

You can find the recipe here at this week’s hosts: Sophia’s Sweets and Think, Love, Sleep, Dine.

A génoise is a whole egg sponge cake that uses air suspended in the batter to give volume to the cake. So no leavening agents are used like baking powder. It’s dry and often soaked in syrups or liqueurs. Génoise is a classic and the foundation of much French patisserie. For a fledgling baker like myself it’s tricky. Very, very tricky.

I watched this video with Julia Child and Flo Braker making a génoise several times before I even began the process. I tried to follow their steps closely. This was my first mistake. I am neither Julia Child nor Flo Braker.

The basic procedure for this recipe is to take 4 room temperature eggs (in a more classic génoise you would heat them) and combine them with sugar and whip it in your stand mixer until it is tripled in volume. You want it to be able to lift the whisk and have the mixture fall back into the bowl in a ribbon that rests on the surface about 10 seconds. This is known as the “ribbon stage.” THIS IS IMPORTANT! If you don’t properly mix in enough air here your finished cake will not have the height you want. I thought I accomplished this but looking back I think I would have mixed mine even longer and maybe at a higher speed.

The next step (eek! I’m nervous just thinking about it) is to fold in some sifted cake flour with a small amount of sugar and salt in three additions. I followed the Julia video from above and just kind of dumped in each of these flour additions. This was a mistake on my part! I have since talked to my helpful TWD bloggers and learned I should have instead SIFTED the flour over the beaten eggs. Dumping it in caused it to sink to the bottom (making it hard to fold in and deflating my whipped eggs) which was one of the reasons my génoise was less than perfect. I should also mention that my husband called me from a fishing trip while I was folding the flour in. I gave him an earful later for picking this moment to tell me he was having a great time.

The last and most critical moment for this fragile whipped egg batter is mixing 1 cup of the batter with some melted butter then folding this mixture in the whipped eggs and flour. You don’t want to deflate the whipped eggs so you have to delicately mix in the butter to the rest of the batter. The butter should be melted, but not warm.

You pour the batter into a 8-inch pan and use a spatula to smooth it out and slightly raise up the sides. Then bake for around 25-27 minutes in a 350 degrees F. oven.

My cake was only about 1 1/4 inch tall when finished, surely not the height it was supposed to be. I cut it into two layers instead of three. The bottom layer had a slightly doughy texture because the flour sunk to the bottom when I dumped it in and was probably never fully folded in. Next time I will whip like crazy to make sure I achieve the ribbon stage and sift the flour into the whipped eggs instead of dumping it in.

Here’s the best part though: I made the strawberry filling and heavy cream icing, filled and decorated my génoise and served it to my family. And it was delicious!! Not ready for a French Patisserie. . .but a fantastic dessert nonetheless.

Making it even more special was the fact that we had just returned from a local strawberry U-Pick farm with a large haul of strawberries.

I used some of them for the filling and decoration. Freshly picked strawberries are the best! They helped cover up any small flaws my cake had.

My family at the strawberry farm.

I am already thinking about the next time I attempt this recipe and have found comfort in this post by Rose Levy Beranbaum on her recent failed génoise.

If you have any additional génoise tips please share them with me!