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El Bulli 40 second microwave spongecake

Modernist Dessert

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19 replies to this topic

#1 mis

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Posted 13 September 2009 - 08:02 AM

Hi all,

For those of you who have watched Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations episode on spain, or for those of you who have eaten/read up on the menu at El bulli, you probably know what I'm talking about.

I was at El bulli a month ago and I had the black sesame spongecake with miso on top. Frankly speaking, it was one of the most amazing things Ive ever eaten. To sum it up, it was very intensely flavored, and one of the fluffiest things Ive eaten, hence, Ive spent the last month trying to replicate the same cake at El Bulli, here are my reports.

Recipe 1: Playing with fire and water instant chocolate cake
This was the first recipe I tried. I got very inconsistent results, probably because it was the first time I made the cake, and I was trying to figure out optimal settings for my microwave. I did manage to get some very good results, texture wise(fluffy), but I found that the condition of the cakes deteriorated very quickly over time, as the cakes began to harden very quickly. I think part of the reason is due to the microwaving of egg yolks in the recipe.

Recipe 2: Recipe taken from 'the Cooks book' by user on L2O blog
"This is the one I use from the Cooks Book ( it's Adria's recipe)

75g shelled green Pistachio
75g Granulated sugar
20g plain flour
4egg whites.

Process the above then strain.
Fill siphon then charge and chill for 2 hours.
cut slats in plastic cups, half fill and cook for 45 seconds in the microwave."

I got much more consistent results with this recipe, I cant remember much about it, the amount of cakes you can make according to the recipe is very little. I dont think it was as fluffy as the first recipe, but it held up alot better after resting.

Recipe 3: Recipe from onespoonquenelle
"300g egg whites, 6og, almond flour, 60g yogurt powder, 70g sugar, 20g flour. blend everything, strain, fill canister, add 2 cartridges, fill cups just under half, cook for 30-40 seconds depending on size of cup."

This was the latest recipe I tried, and I think it should, in theory, be the closest to the recipe Albert Adria uses in the no reservations episode, because he mentions "almond flour"(basically ground almonds) in the video. I found the cake to be fluffy at the edges, but still fairly dense in the center, and very moist(bad). I did, however, use 60g of Green tea powder instead of yoghurt,and I passed it through a very fine sieve before charging it in a siphon, Im not sure if I removed much almond from the mix by doing this.

That being said, here are my overall observations:

First off, I do not have the specifications of my microwave, it is pretty old, but I found that using it on Medium-high setting for 30-40 seconds seem to yield the best result

2nd, The plastic cup warped every single time, I'm not entirely sure if this is safe for consumption.

3rd, the top of the spongecake(the exposed side of the cup), was usually slightly wet when I removed it from the oven, but the rest of the cake was cooked.

4th, cutting slits at the bottom of the cup before filling it with batter makes sure that the cake does not steam and get too moist

5th, none of the cakes had the fluffy-ness of the one I had at El Bulli, I know it is unreasonable to expect the same kind of texture, but I can tell that there is a very definitive difference in the consistency of the cake, for all recipes. Its alot denser.

Has anyone experimented with any of the above recipes, or tried aerating cake batter by charging it in a siphon?

Edited by mis, 13 September 2009 - 08:19 AM.

#2 Tri2Cook

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Posted 13 September 2009 - 08:31 AM

I played with it a while back. I've done chocolate, peanut butter, gianduja, almond butter, white chocolate, bacon, chicken and brown butter versions based on Linda's (Playing with Fire and Water) recipe. I was happy with the results but with the disclaimer that I've never been to El Bulli so I have no comparison to the original to work towards.
It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

#3 mis

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Posted 13 September 2009 - 08:37 AM

Thanks for the reply. How did you cut slits at the bottom of the cup and did it warp in the microwave?

Also, did you find the that cakes hardened fairly quickly when left out?

#4 Tri2Cook

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Posted 13 September 2009 - 03:25 PM

I just cut 3 slits evenly spaced around the bottom edge with scissors. I didn't have any problems with the cup warping. I'm not sure how quickly they would have hardened, I didn't try storing them. I thought the point was to be able to pop them in the microwave as needed and serve them warm. If you mean they hardened really quickly, as in faster than they could be served and eaten, then no, I didn't have any problems with that either.
It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

#5 blanchandshock

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Posted 02 June 2011 - 01:38 PM

We have been experimenting with them recently, with recipes from Playing with Fire and Water, Michael Laiskonis' (PDF)and a recent Sosa demonstration by Jordi Puigvert.
So far we have made a yoghurt version with fresh and dried yoghurt (Sosa recipe). Chocolate (PWFAW) and beetroot (ML). The best was the yoghurt - the most consistently cooked, the lighest and the one which most admirably stood up to the huge egg flavour. I would like to make it with less eggs, and Michael Laiskonis' recipe calls for egg white only, whereas the others want yolks too. The beetroot version with egg white was dense and sticky and had none of the ethereal quality of the yoghurt.
I haven't found much on the internet specifically about the job of each ingredient in the environment of the microwave, but this thread is a good find...

This is the recipe from Sosa by Jordi Puigvert

"Tomato Sponge Cake

Whole Eggs 200g
Flour 25g
Tomato Powder 20g
Salt and Pepper

Blend ingredients, charge with 2 charges (small iSi) or 3 (big)

30-40 secs in an 800w microwave"

It still has loads of egg, but using full-flavoured ingredients will help.

There seems to be some benefit to using freeze-dried fruit powders in place of their 'wet' iterations - i suspect the beetroot puree i used is making the cake sludgy.

I am literally off now to try again ( we are doing the cakes for 100 tomorrow when we give our first lecture at Leith's School of Food and Wine - so my god i hope this next test works) I will post any results if they can further our understand of this cool technique.

#6 paulraphael

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Posted 09 June 2011 - 11:57 AM

The Laiskonis recipe is simple and pretty foolproof. It works well in foam coffee cups. The resulting cake is pretty chaotic looking; Laiskonis uses this in counterpoint to geometric elements on the plate.

#7 vice

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Posted 09 June 2011 - 02:17 PM

Aki and Alex just posted a similar recipe over at Ideas in Food: microwave cheese danish (really a cream cheese-flavored sponge). Man, I need to get an isi siphon.
Dave Viola, aka vice
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#8 mkayahara

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Posted 28 November 2011 - 11:59 AM

I finally got around to trying this technique, and in a "run before you walk" moment, tried to develop my own recipe. Mostly because I wanted red velvet cake. It seemed to work, though I don't have much to compare it to, never having tried any of the professional recipes out there that I used as inspiratoin for my own. The colour and flavour were good, but it didn't rise as much as I thought it would, and I experienced some of the hardening discussed upthread. I would certainly welcome any input on my formulation. I served it with a beet fluid gel, cream cheese icing and candied pecans.

Red velvet sponge 1.jpg

100g egg whites
70g egg yolk
80g sugar
20g all-purpose flour
5g cocoa powder
Pinch salt
60g butter, melted
60g buttermilk
Red food colouring, in paste form, as desired
Matthew Kayahara

#9 Msk

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Posted 13 January 2012 - 11:26 AM


I have tried this recipe, for 90 second Nutella Cake.
It was mostly an experiment, and an activity for my two little girls.

It was however, a dlicious, moist, light and fluffy cake.
I cooked it in the microwave in silicone molds, then put whpped cream inside to make "sandwiches"
Kids loved it.


#10 Kouign Aman

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Posted 13 January 2012 - 12:05 PM

Msk, how did you get the nutella to mix in?
1 tablespoon Nutella
1 egg, beaten
1 heaping tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar

This is on the Do This Tonight list. Thanks
"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

#11 Msk

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Posted 13 January 2012 - 12:22 PM

I literally just put it all into an oversized pyrex measuring cup and whisked. Then it was easy to pour into my molds. I didn't have toe cocoa on hand so just made it without it.

I have tried a couple of these types of recipes, including ones with an isi.

This was the best for me so far, though I plan to try the Ideas in Food and El Bulli versions at some point (though they are more involved).

If you don't like the texture, flip the mold upside downon a plate/counter and let it steam in its own heat for 30 seconds or so.

Also, the batter changes over time if you dont put it all into one serving in the beginning (because of the leavening action).


#12 jrshaul

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Posted 13 January 2012 - 03:42 PM

Thanks for the recipes! I just bought a 100-carton of cylinders, so I'll have to try this.

#13 Baselerd

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 04:02 PM

Just an interesting thought - why does the MC microwave sponge cake require the batter to rest 2 hours prior to siphoning?

I have been trying to get an almond sponge cake to rise well, but the results are denser than I would like...

#14 DianaM

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Posted 12 April 2013 - 02:32 PM

Would anyone mind sharing the peanut butter microwave sponge cake recipe from Modernist Cuisine? 

#15 Kerry Beal

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Posted 12 April 2013 - 06:23 PM

On it's way.

#16 Erdbeereis

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Posted 13 April 2013 - 06:04 PM

Could I have it as well if possible? Thanks!

#17 Kerry Beal

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Posted 14 April 2013 - 02:27 PM

Could I have it as well if possible? Thanks!

Check your PM's.

#18 nidaahmed

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Posted 27 April 2013 - 06:01 PM

@kerryBeal is there anyway I could bother you for the PB microwave sponge cake recipe too!

#19 Kerry Beal

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Posted 28 April 2013 - 03:20 PM

@kerryBeal is there anyway I could bother you for the PB microwave sponge cake recipe too!


#20 Paul2207

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Posted 29 April 2013 - 09:48 PM

What I found worked very well are 2 recipes from the isi wed side, the kumara sponge cake worked really well, regrettably the recipe is in German, but please try it anyway


The other recipe from isi is for brioche, it’s in video form and works   

And what I found this morning and will try next weekend is



Oh if you really want perfect results pick up a copy of Modernist Cuisine at home and hopefully you live in the USA as you´ll need Wondra which is very difficult to acquire outside of the US.


Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: Modernist, Dessert