My mother tells me that when I was a child, I would often say I couldn't wait to become an adult so that I could eat cake anytime I wanted.
Looking back now, I can only marvel at what a wise child I was: eating cake anytime I want is certainly one of the big joys and perks of being an adult (for me at least, anyway).
So while this sixth day with Rose is my final lesson on cakes, I am certainly not saying goodbye to cakes; they are, after all, my favorite of all sweet treats. I am merely pausing to turn my attention to making pies and pastries. Nor am I saying goodbye to Rose. With all that I've learned from her in these few short weeks, I know I'll be revisiting her again and again for further inspiration and advice. Today's lesson is on sponge-type cakes. Sponge-type cakes get their light, airy texture from a large amount of beaten eggs (compared with a basic butter cake, for example, a sponge-type cake uses double the egg). The Genoise, which I make today, is a European sponge-type cake. Unlike its American counterpart, it contains butter as well as much less sugar. Syrup is added to the cake to give it some added moisture. Since the cake is rather plain, I top it with some whipped cream. The cake is quite simple and quick to make. I find the most time-consuming and somewhat tedious part of the process to be removing the bottom and top crust. Rose explains that sponge-type cakes absorb syrup most easily if the crusts are removed; otherwise the crusts could become pasty. A long serrated knife (and some patience) will help in this process. The results: a delightfully sweet and perfectly moist cake with a fine crumb. Next up: pies, pies, and more pies!
Recipe from The Cake Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum
3 tablespoons clarified beurre noisette
1 teaspoon vanilla 4 large eggs (room temperature) 1/2 cup sugar 1/2 cup sifted cake flour 1/2 cup – 1 tablespoon cornstarch
Syrup 1/4 cup + 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar 1/2 liquid cup water 2 tablespoons liqueur of your choice
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Warm the beurre noisette* until almost hot. Add the vanilla and keep warm.
*If you don't have clarified butter, you will need to clarify some unsalted butter. In a heavy saucepan melt 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat, partially covered to prevent splattering. When the butter looks clear, cook uncovered, watching until the solids drop and begin to brown. Pour immediately through a strainer lined with cheesecloth.
In a large mixing bowl set over a pan of simmering water, heat the eggs and sugar until just lukewarm, stirring constantly to prevent curdling. Beat the mixture on high-speed for five minutes or until triple in volume.
While the eggs are beating, sift together the flour and cornstarch.
Remove one cup of the egg mixture and thoroughly whisk it into the beurre noisette.
Sift 1/2 the flour mixture over the remaining egg mixture and fold it in gently but rapidly until almost all the flour has disappeared. Repeat with remaining flour mixture until the flour has disappeared completely. Fold in the butter mixture until just incorporated.
Pour immediately into the prepared pan** and bake 25 to 35 minutes or until the cake is golden brown and starts to shrink slightly from the size of the pan. Avoid opening the oven door before the minimum time or the cake could fall. **One 9-inch by 2-inch pan, greased, bottom lined with parchment, and then greased again and floured.
Loosen the sides of the cake with a small metal spatula and unmold at once unto a lightly greased rack. Reinvert to cool. Trim the bottom and top crust when ready to complete the cake and sprinkle the syrup evenly on both sides.
To make syrup, in a small saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, bring the sugar and water to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Cover immediately, remove from the heat, and allow to cool completely. Transfer to a liquid measuring cup and stir in the liqueur.