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Philip Le

Troubleshooting genoise.

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I'm trying to make a spongecake and it is just awful. The cake is dense, eggy and crunchy. Is it supposed to be like this until I add the syrup? I don't think the addition of syrup would help all that much.

Anyway, here is the recipe.

225g AP Flour

6 Eggs

160g Caster Sugar

75g Butter, melted

Add sugar to eggs in a heatproof bowl and beat over simmering water until a ribbon consistency. Remove from heat and allow to cool for three minute. Add cool butter and sifted flour, using a large metal spoon to fold in until just combined. Split evenly into two 8" pans and bake at 350°F for fifteen to twenty minutes, checking doneness with a skewer. Cake is done when the center bounces back after slight pressure.

Now, I have tried replacing the AP flour with cake flour and a combination of cake flower and cornstarch and I still get an eggy, crunchy texture. I have tried adding warm butter directly to the batter as well as cooled melted butter. I have tried adding a little batter warm butter, then combining all of the batter together but butter still weeps out of the batter. Regardless of what I do, I am deflating the batter as soon as I add butter to the it. With the flour, I can fold in fairly quickly without deflating the batter but if I do that I am left with clumps of flour in the batter that I generally fish out. If I go slower, I can incorporate the flour more thoroughly but I find I lose quite a bit more air.

So, what am I doing wrong and where do I go from here? I thought this was going to be the easiest recipe out of the book because it has the fewest ingredients and steps but I have been through a dozen cakes and I still can't get it to look more like a cake and less like Vietnamese baked eggs?


Edited by Philip Le (log)

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What I have found that works best for me is to shift the flour over the egg batter in 2-3 additions, and fold in with a whisk. I've noticed that the whisk doesn't deflate the eggs as much as a spatula, and it helps to break up the flour so it doesn't clump.

Then I remove about a cup or so of batter, and thoroughly mix that into the melted butter. Return this back into the main batter, and fold in gently. This will prevent the butter from sinking and forming that eggy, rubbery layer.

The recipe I use shifts together cornstarch and cake flour as well. I can dig that recipe out if you'd like.

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When I take the eggs off the heat, I keep beating them until they are cold. I don't let them sit unbeaten. Also, I find the egginess of a génoise recedes slightly if you leave it for a day or two.


Edited by Marie-Ora (log)

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What I have found that works best for me is to shift the flour over the egg batter in 2-3 additions, and fold in with a whisk. I've noticed that the whisk doesn't deflate the eggs as much as a spatula, and it helps to break up the flour so it doesn't clump.

Then I remove about a cup or so of batter, and thoroughly mix that into the melted butter. Return this back into the main batter, and fold in gently. This will prevent the butter from sinking and forming that eggy, rubbery layer.

The recipe I use shifts together cornstarch and cake flour as well. I can dig that recipe out if you'd like.

I have heard about folding it in with a whisk; I just don't have one. (Except for an attachment for a stick blender that I've been using in a pinch, but that seems rather awkward in this situation.) I guess I should go out and buy one. By thoroughly mixing some batter into the butter, do you find that the batter deflates a lot as you mix? I tried that while the butter was warmish and I couldn't get the butter to incorporate well. If you could find the recipe that you use pretty easily, it'd be nice to compare, but if it's stashed away somewhere I can probably find more recipes online.

Also, I suspected that there might have been too much flour (and butter) but I didn't want to mess with the proportions in case removing the flour made the cake too eggy or removing the butter might make the cake too crunchy. I suppose I should find a different recipe.

Beating the eggs while cooling definitely seems like a good idea. I don't know why I didn't think of it. It would help the batter cool down faster as well.

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I use 170g sugar, 140g AP flour, and 60g of fat to 5 eggs, so I agree that the flour looks a little too generous. I don't heat the eggs, just room temp. If the batter deflates quickly, the eggs may not be thick enough. Keep going! Here is my method: whip eggs and sugar until very thick in the kitchenaid with the whip attachment on high speed. Meanwhile, sift flour 3 times onto parchment and melt butter. When eggs are thick enough, turn the mixer to low and gradually add the flour then the melted butter (or I often use olive oil). Remove bowl from mixer and, using a spatula, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and fold in any unmixed ingredients. Pour into parchment lined pans and bake at 325F in convection oven until done.

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@ pastrygirl. I love your recipe - I didn't think you could add the flour with the mixer going on low - I am definitely going to try it out. I particularly like the idea of substituting olive oil for butter. Another thing I must add is the size of the pans also makes a difference. If there is too much pan for too little batter, it will not raise as much as it should (assuming you want more of a cake than a product which can be layered).

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@ pastrygirl. I love your recipe - I didn't think you could add the flour with the mixer going on low - I am definitely going to try it out.

Thanks! I find the 5 quart kitchenaid bowl such an awkward shape for trying to fold the flour in, and it seems like you need 3 hands for that anyway. I do it on speed 2 or 3 and use the parchment as a funnel to add the flour. You do want to watch and add it gradually, too much at once isn't good.

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I keep it simple. 150 eggs, 100 flour, 100 sugar.

Crack eggs into bowl on scale. Add 2/3's the weight of the eggs in sugar. On a parchment, sift 2/3's of the weight of the eggs of flour. Mixing method is as others describe. I do like to warm up the eggs over a burner. I don't add fat.

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Alright, so I finally got the courage to try making another cake and this is the result. The outside is still crunchy. The inside, not so much.

I used six eggs, 50g butter, 100g cake flour and 50g corn starch. For the life of me I can not get the flour to fully incorporate. I sifted the flour and cornstarch together 3 times. I tried using my dinky little whisk but found that I was still deflating my batter rather quickly while trying to get the flour to incorporate into it well enough. Should I get a bigger whisk? Should I switch to all purpose flour? The recipe tells me to use all purpose and I think it may not stick together as much as cake flour. Cake flour seems to want to stick to itself even just being sifted into a bowl.

Oh, and I used warm butter. Should I perhaps be using room temperature melted butter?

Also, that's the entire recipe in one pan rather than in two pans, baked at 315° until a toothpick came out clean. The cake was originally domed when taken out of the oven but flattened to almost perfectly level after cooling. There is also no vanilla in this cake (I forgot!) so it tastes... off. Do you think a combination of almond extract and vanilla extract would be good or is pure vanilla the way to go? Do you think that's enough cake to split into two pans? The recipe is for two eight inch tins. The tin I am using is 8.25 inches at the bottom and flares up to 9.0 inches at the top. I buttered the sides halfway up and used buttered parchment to line the bottom. Should I lightly flour the sides? Should I butter up higher? Should I parchment the sides? The outside is crunchy and weird and I don't think I like the idea of cutting off the sides. The cake itself is pretty spongy (I'm guessing this is intentional) but there are like these little sorta hard lumps in it and I can't figure out what's causing that. Would a sugar syrup help with the texture?

All in all, this cake is a huge improvement over my previous attempts but it isn't anywhere near as nice as a grocery store's spongecake. Thanks for any suggestions that may come this way.

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Phillip, génoise is tricky to make. Take a look at this link from Real Baking with Rose for more trouble-shooting. I'm pretty sure those hard lumps are from the flour not incorporating properly into the mix. Have you tried pastrygirl or TinCook's recipes and techniques?. When you say 'dinky little whisk' what are we talking? I don't know what the others think, but I would say the biggest balloon whisk is the way to go. I don't think a sugar syrup would help - if you beat the sugar and eggs together long enough, the sugar should dissolve. Also I prefer vanilla by itself. And remember the grocery store is probably making their sponge from a packaged génoise/sponge mix with loads of chemicals and stabilizers.

A traditional Victoria Sandwich sponge is a lot easier - let me know if you want a recipe. But keep going with the génoise - don't let it beat you. I made them perfectly for years, then suddenly they went horribly wrong. You have to get back in the saddle. Keep us updated!

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The crumb doesn't looks so bad. If the batter deflates too quickly when folding in flour, I think your eggs may not be whipped until thick enough. Those babies have to be THICK!

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When you say 'dinky little whisk' what are we talking? I don't know what the others think, but I would say the biggest balloon whisk is the way to go.

It's the whisk that came as an attachment to my stick blender. Oh, I have the Kitchenaid stand mixer whisk attachment too. That's certainly large and balloon shaped. I will give that a try as well, once with cake flour and once with all-purpose, just to see which incorporates better.

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This is the recipe I use for genoise - 275g eggs (about 4-5 large eggs), 150g fine sugar, 140g flour (sifted), 30g butter (melted and hot) and a pinch of salt.

Oven at 180C. 7-inch (3 inch height) round cake tin, lined and greased. Whisk eggs with sugar and salt till very thick (the batter falls into thick ribbons).Over 2 or 3 portions, sift flour over batter and fold in with whisk (I use the balloon whisk of my Kenwood stand mixer) - I whisk the batter gently but briskly at the top first where the flour lands, and then fold deep into the batter now and then. Remove a portion (about a third) to another bowl. Melt the butter and heat till bubbling, and beat the hot butter gently into this portion. It will deflate, but that's ok. Pour into the other batter and fold in. Turn into cake tin and bake till done.

This can also be baked into an 8-inch tin, and gives a finished product with good height. I can slice this cake into 3 layers. You can add vanilla extract if you like. I used both plain/all-purpose or cake flour, and the result is more or less the same.

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I think you'll find the balloon whisk makes a huge difference, Phillip - I see LT also uses one. LT - I see your recipe can slice into three layers - the most I've ever been able to get from a génoise is two, so I must try it sometime. Also interesting that you use the butter hot. I think we learn more from each other than from a dozen recipe books. I can't stop thinking about pastrygirl's ingenious substitution of olive oil for the butter.

*I see a lot of génoise in my immediate future* :)

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Well, given my egullet name, I guess I'd better throw in my 2 cents :)

Genoise is an advanced skill, so don't feel bad that you haven't mastered it yet. It is not a simple cake.

A few thoughts:

Cakes generally need precise forumulas, and genoise is no different than any other cake. Get a reliable cookbook from the library or bookstore and follow the directions to a T. I like The Cake Bible's genoise, and the author, RLB, is very good at giving all the details that contribute to success.

Genoise requires one to switch gears- first you whip the living daylights out of the eggs and sugar- at least five minutes on high in a powerful stand mixer, double that with a hand mixer. Then, you gently and delicately fold the flour into the mixture, being careful to fold just enough to prevent flour pellets but no more- even one or two extra passes with a whisk will result in lower volume.

If you'd like a beginner-friendly genoise, consider replacing one of the whites with a couple of yolks, which contribute stability. And omit the butter. Once you have mastered that version, consider adding back the butter, and then if you like you can finally move to a whole egg version. Be sure to syrup the cake and let it sit for a day, or it will not be flavorful and moist.

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Pierre Herme's recipe in Larousse is 4 eggs, 40g butter, 140g flour, 140g sugar. He doesn't say what pan, but I've found

this works for 8 inch rings or pans. Scaled 1.5, that is 6 eggs, 60g butter, 210g flour, 210g sugar. My quick thoughts

- agree with Marie-ora, who suggests beating until eggs are cool

- agree with lovesgenoise, who mentions beating the heck out of the eggs and his suggested times to beat.

It's hard to beat it too much. This may be one of your problems. The less it's "inflated" the less margin you have for deflation.

- splitting that recipe into two pans seems like not enough batter . You can always cut off the top or bottom.

PH's recipe recipe for 6 eggs (in Greenspan's "Desserts by PH") is for a single 9 inch pan with at least 2 inch sides.

- the batter definitely deflates when you put in the butter. Agree with suggestions above that you take some out (I take out 1C)

and mix it separately with the butter and then mix it back in.

- if you pour the flour through a strainer with medium holes into the dough, you can get rid of a lot of the lumps.

- you can butter/flour the sides, but you don't have to. You can just detach it with an offset spatula at the end.

- AP flour is fine.


Edited by ejw50 (log)

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I've a question for the genoise experts.

I get good lift and volume when I make a simple genoise, but when I do a chocolate version (with cocoa powder substituting for some of the flour), there is considerably less height. I noticed during the folding of the flour-cocoa mixture that the egg batter deflates a lot more than when I just fold in flour.

Is this your experience too? Or do you have some insight into this? Thanks.

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