How to make Genoise sponge cake: This recipe bakes up so light and airy! Leavened only with eggs, infused with rich butter & sweet vanilla.
Today’s post is a really classic recipe: Genoise cake!
This one has been around foreverrrrr….
It’s a really simple one, made with just 6 pantry staples, and it bakes up really airy, light, and spongy, with a rich, buttery back note.
Genoise is unusual in that it doesn’t contain any kind of chemical leavener (like baking powder or baking soda). It gets all its “lift” from whipping eggs. In this way, it’s similar to pound cake, ladyfingers, or angel food cake.
Table of Contents
- What is Genoise?
- What’s great about this recipe
- What does cake Genoise taste like?
- Special equipment
- How to make this Genoise cake recipe
- How to serve Genoise sponge cake
- Expert tips
- Frequently asked questions
- A few more of my favorite cake recipes
What is Genoise?
Genoise is a type of cake that is leavened by whipping eggs and sugar together until really light and fluffy.
The difference between Genoise and regular sponge cake is that Genoise is enriched with butter.
And, in case you were wondering, I’ve heard it pronounced like “jen-oh-EEZ” or “zhen-WAZZ.”
What’s great about this recipe
- The flavor: There’s a buttery richness to this cake that you don’t get with plain sponge cake.
- The texture: It’s really airy and light.
- Few ingredients: You only need a handful of basics to make it.
- Versatile: It can be baked in lots of different shapes and sizes, and “fancied up” in all sorts of ways (more on that below).
What does cake Genoise taste like?
I find Genoise to have a nice sweet, eggy flavor, similar to like a creme brulee.
This version is perfumed with sweet vanilla, although you could use other kinds of flavorings too.
It also has a buttery richness that allows the flavors to linger on your palate.
You can make this recipe with just 6 basic ingredients.
This cake gets all of its “lift” from the air you whip into the eggs. It creates millions of tiny little bubbles that expand when the cake is baked.
Use large chicken eggs here, preferably at room temperature.
Or, if you have a really good plant-based egg substitute that you know can whip up really well, use that. As long as it swaps 1:1 for large chicken eggs, it should work.
Sugar adds sweetness (obvs!) but it also aids in browning and keeps things moist, since it’s hydrophilic (this means it loves water, in other words, it draws moisture in).
The rough texture of granulated sugar creates friction with the eggs and helps to create that airy texture.
You can sub for another type of sweetener if you like. As long as it has a crystalline texture and swaps 1:1 for granulated sugar it should work.
Vanilla extract adds a subtly sweet flavor without being at all sugary.
Or anything else you have on hand!
Salt carries the flavors and intensifies them. The end result won’t taste salty, but it will make everything so much more flavorful!
I like kosher salt best because it doesn’t have any additives (table salt usually contains iodine which can leave a bitter taste), so the flavor is pure. It’s also inexpensive and easy to find in a regular grocery store.
Cake flour is best for this recipe. Because it’s so light and fine, you run less risk of the batter deflating when it goes in.
If you’re unfamiliar with cake flour, you can learn lots more about it here: What is Cake Flour?
I like to use unsalted butter because it lets me control the amount of salt in the dish. Different brands of butter can contain different amounts of salt, so this way you get a more consistent result.
For a vegan or dairy-free Genoise recipe, use a plant-based butter that can substitute for dairy butter 1:1.
The butter should go in melted but not overly hot.
Here are the kitchen tools you will need.
- Measuring cups and spoons: For measuring out the ingredients.
- Large mixing bowl: I use the one that comes with my mixer.
- Electric mixer: I prefer a stand mixer, but a powerful hand mixer would also work in a pinch.
- Fine mesh sieve: To sift in the cake flour.
- Silicone spatula: With which to fold the flour and butter into the batter.
- Cake pan(s): I’ve used three 6-inch diameter pans, but you could also use two 8-inch diameter cake pans, make 18 cupcakes, a 9×13-inch sheet cake, a 5-cup capacity loaf pan, or double the recipe and bake it in a 12-cup capacity bundt pan.
- Non-stick spray: For obvious reasons 😉
- Parchment: To line the pans.
How to make this Genoise cake recipe
This cake comes together in 3 simple steps.
Step 1: Whip the eggs & sugar
Place the eggs, sugar, vanilla extract, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
Whip these ingredients together on high speed until they’re super light, airy, and tripled in volume (at least!).
This usually takes anywhere from 5 to 7 minutes. I recommend setting a timer, so you don’t accidentally skimp. This step is super important!
Step 2: Fold in flour & butter
Place about half the flour in your strainer, and sift it right over the bowl.
Then gently fold it in. Cut your spatula down the center and back up the side of the bowl, then turn the bowl slightly and repeat.
You want to be really careful not to knock out all that precious air you just worked so hard to whip in.
Next, add about half the melted butter, and use the same technique to gently fold it in.
Repeat this process with the remaining flour and butter.
Step 3: Bake
Immediately transfer the batter to your greased, floured, and parchment-lined cake pans.
And get them right into a hot oven.
You’ll know the cakes are done baking when they look deeply golden, are set around the edges, and feel springy when lightly pressed in the center. A toothpick inserted in the middle should come out clean.
How to serve Genoise sponge cake
Many times, Genoise is brushed or sprinkled with a simple syrup soak, to bring added flavor and moisture.
We do this when we make tiramisu cake, for example.
It can also be filled in lots of different ways, and frosted. Here are some suggestions:
Just to name a few!
Whip it good
Whipping lots of air into the batter is so important with this recipe! If you don’t do a good job on this step, your cake could come out flat.
You want the eggs and sugar to triple in volume, at least! I think when I made this they got even bigger than that.
It typically takes at least 5 to 7 minutes of whipping on high speed, so I recommend setting a timer so you don’t skimp accidentally.
After working so hard to incorporate all that air, it would be a shame to lose it!
Be sure to fold very gently when adding the flour and butter. This way you won’t knock the air out.
And don’t overdo it! It’s better to have a little lump of flour here or there than to have a dense, flat cake.
As soon as the last of the butter is folded in, get this cake right into a hot oven.
If the batter sits around too long, gravity will pull the air out. You’ll see bubbles popping on the surface of the batter and you’ll know you’re losing air by the second!
Frequently asked questions
Genoise cake is made without any chemical leaveners such as baking powder or baking soda. It doesn’t have yeast either. It rises simply by virtue of steam.
This can happen if you don’t have enough air in your batter. Either you didn’t whip it long enough, you knocked the air out during the folding process, or you let the batter sit too long before baking. Or, if it looked tall and airy at first but then collapsed, it was most likely under baked.
Usually this is caused by under-baking. The cake puffs up with steam, but then it’s removed from the oven before the structure is fully set, so as it cools the steam evaporates and the cake collapses. Make sure your cake feels really springy to the touch and when a toothpick goes in the middle it comes out clean. And don’t open the oven door and let heat out until you feel pretty certain it’s fully baked.
This cake needs to be baked right away, so you can’t make the batter ahead and let it sit. But once it’s baked, it keeps beautifully for a day or two (tightly wrapped) at room temperature, in the fridge for a week or so, or in the freezer for several months. Thaw it at room temp or in the fridge, and fill or frost however you like!
For this recipe, I figured on a serving size of 1/8 the batch. The nutritional info in the recipe card below reflects this.
A few more of my favorite cake recipes
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- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Whip the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a large mixing bowl on high speed until tripled in volume (approx. 5 to 7 minutes).
- Sift in about 1/2 of the cake flour.
- Fold the flour in gently until almost combined.
- Fold in about 1/2 of the melted butter, then sift in the remaining flour, folding gently until amost combined.
- Fold in the remaining butter and tranfer the batter to the prepared pans.
- Bake until the cakes are set on the edges, deeply golden, and springy in the centers (approx. 20 to 25 minutes). A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean.
- Cool completely in the pans, then run the tip of a sharp knife around the edge to loosen the cakes before turning out.