Genoise (Vanilla Sponge Cake)

Light as a feather Genoise (vanilla sponge cake). This cake will absorb lots of syrup for an extra layer of flavor and moisture.

four layers of cake with a brush drizzling syrup over the layers

How many vanilla cake recipes could a person possibly need? I’ve already shared recipes for Vanilla Butter Cake and Velvety White Cake. If those cakes are so good, and they are, why do we need another recipe?

Well, different types of cakes are good in different ways.

I love a basic “yellow” cake or “white” cake because it’s soft and buttery with a very tender cake crumb. It’s perfect filled and iced with Italian Meringue Buttercream.

When I want a lighter cake doused with a flavorful syrup and filled with mounds of whipped cream or mousse, it’s time to make a classic Genoise.


ingredients for genoise sponge cake in bowls with text overlay.
  • Butter – The butter is browned to add a layer of nutty flavor to the cake.
  • Eggs – Whole eggs are whipped for a strong cake structure.
  • Cake Flour – Has a lower protein content than all purpose flour so it makes a softer cake. Bleached cake flour is acidic which tenderizes the cake and allows the batter to absorb more liquid for a moister cake.

What is Genoise? 

Genoise is, basically, a vanilla sponge cake. What is a sponge cake? A sponge type cake gets most of it’s structure from whipped eggs. 

Like every sponge cake recipe, Genoise is balanced more towards structure builders than tenderizers. This means the cake is not only light and airy from the whipped eggs, it’s also strong and resilient.

Hmmm, that is not a very tempting description of a cake. Don’t we always want a super-tender, moist cake that “melts in your mouth”?

Bear with me though, because we’re not done making a great Genoise once it’s baked. The next step is to add another layer of flavor and moisture with a generous dose of sugar syrup.

How to make Genoise (vanilla sponge cake)

See the recipe card for detailed instructions and measurements.

a pan with browned butter.
  • Melt the butter in a small saucepan, cook until the milk solids sink to the bottom of the pan and become brown.
  • Drain the butter into a medium bowl, leaving the milk solids in the pan. Stir the vanilla into the browned butter and set aside.
A bowl of eggs on a mixer. A bowl of ribboned eggs.
  • Combine the eggs and sugar in a mixing bowl. Whisk the eggs over simmering water until they are warm to the touch.
  • Transfer the bowl to the mixer. With the whisk attachment, whip the eggs until they are light and aerated.
  • If you lift the whisk and drizzle the egg mixture it should fall in a “ribbon” on the surface. This is called the ribbon stage.
  • Gather the whipped eggs, flour and browned butter.
  • In two batches, sift the flour over the eggs and fold in with a hand whisk.
  • Add a cup of the batter to the browned butter and whisk to combine.
  • Add the lightened butter back into the batter and fold just until combined. Don’t overfold.
  • Divide the batter between the two pans.
  • Bake until the cake springs back when lightly pressed in the center.

Pastry Chef tips for making a great Genoise (vanilla sponge cake)

  • Genoise sponge cake can take in a lot of syrup and maintain it’s lovely, light crumb. This means you get a super light cake with lots and lots of flavor and moisture.
  • I’m partial to using alcohol to amp up the flavor – remember, alcohol enhances other flavors! The liquor flavor also gives your cake a sophisticated European flare.
  • Use a liquor that compliments the flavors in the cake. Rum for chocolate, Limoncello for lemon, Grand Marnier for orange. I think you get the idea.
  • If you don’t want to use alcohol you can use vanilla, citrus zest or juice to flavor the syrup.
  • Whether you add the alcohol or not, make the syrup very flavorful so you can really taste it when you eat the cake.

Watch the recipe video to see how to make Vanilla Genoise.

Because Vanilla Genoise is so light and airy, I particularly like it filled with whipped cream and fresh fruit, as in this Peach Melba Cake.

Genoise is also delicious filled with Chocolate and Vanilla Pastry Cream for a version of Italian Rum Cake.

a hand bending a layer of vanilla cake

Because of the high proportion of egg, the cake is very spongy and flexible. This allows the cake to take in lots of syrup and still remain light and airy.

a slice of vanilla cake with raspberries and cream on a plate.

If you’re a chocoholic, try my Chocolate Genoise for a real treat.

If you love this recipe as much as I do, I’d really appreciate a 5-star review.

a slice of vanilla cake with raspberries and cream on a plate
Print Recipe
4.55 from 228 reviews

Vanilla Genoise Sponge Cake

Light as a feather Genoise (vanilla sponge cake). This cake will absorb lots of syrup for an extra layer of flavor and moisture. I like to add a bit of rum to the syrup, but you can use vanilla, Grand Marnier or whatever flavor you'd like. This classic cake is especially delicious with whipped cream, mousse and/or fresh fruit
Prep Time30 minutes
Bake Time30 minutes
Total Time1 hour
12 servings
Save Recipe


  • 4 ounces unsalted butter (½ cup)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 8 large eggs (room temperature)
  • 8 ounces granulated sugar (1 cup)
  • ¼ teaspoon table salt
  • 7 ¼ ounces cake flour (1 ½ cups plus 2 tablespoons, see note)



  • Line the bottom of two 8" cake pans with a parchment round, or butter and flour the pan. Preheat the oven to 350 °F (don't use the convection setting).
  • Melt the butter in a small saucepan, cook until the milk solids sink to the bottom of the pan and become brown. Drain the butter into a medium bowl, leaving the milk solids in the pan. Stir the vanilla into the browned butter and set aside.
    4 ounces unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Put the eggs and sugar with the salt in a mixer bowl. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water (don't let the bowl touch the hot water) and whisk until the eggs are slightly warmer than body temperature. Put the bowl onto the mixer with the whisk attachment and whip on high speed until the eggs are tripled in volume.
    8 large eggs, 8 ounces granulated sugar, ¼ teaspoon table salt
  • Sift half the flour over the egg mixture and use a balloon whisk to fold, repeat with the remaining flour. Whisk 1 cup of the batter into the browned butter to lighten the butter, then whisk in another cup of batter.
    7 ¼ ounces cake flour
  • Fold the butter mixture into the batter just until combined. Don’t over mix or you’ll loose some volume in the cake. Divide the batter evenly between the pans.
  • Bake until the cake springs back when pressed in the center, about 30 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack.
  • Cool completely before filling and frosting. Trim the top of the cake to level, if desired, split each cake into two layers. Brush the layers generously with syrup before filling & icing.
    1 ½ cups simple syrup, Frosting of your choice

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If measuring the flour by volume use the “dip & sweep” method. That is, dip the measuring cup into the flour bin, overfill it, then sweep away the excess.
The cake can be held at room temperature for a day or frozen for up to 1 month. You can freeze the cake layers with or without filling and frosting. 


Serving: 12g | Calories: 247kcal | Carbohydrates: 32g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 129mg | Sodium: 92mg | Potassium: 62mg | Fiber: 0.4g | Sugar: 19g | Vitamin A: 395IU | Calcium: 22mg | Iron: 1mg
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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    Hi, can I make this cake recipe in a 1/2 or 1/4 sheet pan? Is so, would the oven temp and time need to be adjusted? Thank you.

    1. Yes, I would say a 1/2 sheet pan. Definitely the baking time will be less. I’d start checking after 10 minutes.

  2. Hi Eileen!
    I have always loved and appreciated your recipes, tutorials and tips. Question: which of your cake recipes are comparable to the Wholefoods Chantily cake—Vanilla Genoise, Vanilla Buttercake, or the White Velvet?
    I was thinking the White Velvet, however I respect and desire your expect opinion. Also, the Vanilla Mousse recipe is heaven sent!

    Thanks in advance for your reply.

    1. I couldn’t say since I don’t buy cakes. I’ve never had the Whole Foods cake. What are you looking to make? The Genoise is light and spongy with an open crumb and should be sprinkled with sugar syrup for added moisture. The Vanilla and White cakes are essentially the same, without the yolks for the white cake. Those cake are richer.

    2. @Gray, I was hoping to make a berry chantily cake. Must a chantily or gentility cake be sponge, it can it be a regular vanilla or white cake as well?

      Thanks for your reply.

      1. By “chantilly” cake do you mean a cake filled with berries and cream? I really like to use Chiffon cake as the base for a cream filled cake. But, honestly, any of the cake recipes would work. I looked up the Whole Foods version and it does look like a White Cake base. But I can’t be sure.

    3. @Eileen Gray, Hi Eileen!
      Thank you for your suggestions. Can’t wait to try this recipe and the Chiffon recipe. The Vanilla Buttercake is already my ‘go to’ so, I look forward to making the white base variation. Again, you’re the best!

  3. Hello,
    Would you make any adjustments for baking at a higher elevation? I live at 4300 feet and my cake turned out a bit flat/dense. Of course, this is my first time making genoise so it could be other things.

    1. High altitude would definitely make a difference in the outcome. I’m not an expert in high altitude baking. Can someone else chime in and help Anne?

  4. I am not new to baking cakes. I followed the instructions exactly because I was preparing for dinner guests at our house. I made the cake twice because I thought maybe I did something wrong the first time. I tripled the volume of the batter the first time. I quadrupled the volume of the batter that second time. The cake came out way too rubbery and dense because the butter mixture deflated the batter. I watched that happen twice.

    Either 1 stick of butter is too much or perhaps whisking so much batter into the butter 1 cup at a time (2 cups total) makes the butter mixture way too heavy, deflating the original batter.

  5. Read a lot of recipes before selecting this one as my first genoise. I changed nothing, except the flavoring. My sponge cam out absolutely perfect!!! I think I actually surprised myself!!

    I have been looking for that perfect sponge to use when making a Chantilly Cake. I found it.

    Thanks so much!!!

  6. I’ve tried this recipe twice and it failed twice. Way too much melted butter which deflates the batter immensely despite folding in batter to the melted butter to lighten it. Will not be using this recipe again! In researching other genoise recipes, much less butter is in the recipe. A whole stick is weighing this cake down!

  7. this was a veryveryvery good recipe, loved it sooo much!!! used to for a strawberry shortcake – just whipped up cream, added strawberries in the middle with the cream – was a huge hit! 🙂

    1. Do you mean something like Stevia? The syrup is just for moisture and flavoring. As long as the syrup tastes good it will be ok.

  8. Hello, I am going to try making this for the base of my son’s birthday cake (he turns 4 this Friday). Just wonder if it is possible or ok to use maple syrup, instead of simple syrup. Just that I think I may struggle with time preparing everything for the birthday and wonder if I can perhaps save time by using maple syrup. I am so looking forward making this cake in 2 days.

    1. I suppose so. The cakes takes in a lot of syrup, so using real maple syrup might get a little expensive. But it will moisten and flavor the cake.

      1. Ah thank you. Yes it will be a bit expensive, but i am time poor too, so I will have a go. Now at least I know that maple syrup won’t ruin the cake, which is very important. Thank you.

  9. Hello. I was wondering how this recipe would work as a 13×9. I’ want to make a tres leches cake. I’ve made this in a 8 inch before and came out wonderful

    1. You can bake the recipe as a 13×9. It won’t be very deep, so you could make 1.5x batch to fill the pan more.

  10. I made this today and I’m only a little nervous that I knocked too much air out. It springs back when I touch it and it did rise in the oven. I suppose I’m a bit paranoid about doing it wrong. How much should it have risen in the oven? How tall should each sponge be? Thanks for this fun and easy to follow recipe!

    1. How was it when you cut into it? If you watch the recipe video you can see how the batter should look and at the end you can see the thickness of the cakes when I pick them up.

      1. I see! My sponges weren’t quite tall enough to slice in half, I’d say they were about 2/3 as tall as the ones in the video. (For some reason the video wasn’t popping up when I was baking, so I watched a bunch of YouTube tutorials–but your directions were also super clear). They’re still tasty, not tough, resilient, and airy enough–I think they could just be lighter. I think I might have knocked out too much air when I was getting the flour in, even though I sifted, whisked, and did it in small batches. I was having a tough time actually incorporating it for some reason, so I felt like I was whisking a lot–not the quick easy swipes you do in the video. Maybe just a first-timer technique issue. Can you hit everything with the stand mixer again to build more air in after the flour? Or will that not work? Thanks for your quick responses! Makes the baking extra fun. 🙂

        Do you ever poke holes in the sponge for the syrup? And do you always wait until cooled to paint the syrup on or can you do it while warm? Thank you!

        1. Hi Brittany, sorry for the very delayed response. I don’t always see comments as they come in. As far as seeing the video, if you have an ad blocker running the video won’t run. You definitely don’t want to put the batter back on the mixer after adding the flour. The key is to gently fold in the flour using a wire whisk just until the flour is mixed in. Over mixing can deflate the eggs and you’ll loose some volume and lightness. There’s no need to poke holes for the syrup since the cake is a sponge. You can put the syrup onto the cake while it’s warm, but it will become fragile and could crack if you try to move it.

      2. @Brittany Hey there! I noticed your comment and thought maybe you’d still be interested in an answer, though I’m a total stranger and fellow amateur baker.

        The amount flour is mixed in baking impacts texture a lot – for bread, you knead to create structure, for cake you mix flour as little as possible to keep it light and the air holes inside small and even.

        If you try again, or are making another light cake, I recommend doing the flour in 2 or 3 sections maximum so you don’t over mix.

        I’d also recommend scraping the sides of the bowl before you add the flour to make sure there are no tiny lumps or more eggy/less eggy parts of the mix.

  11. Hey,
    I’m for the uk and we don’t have ‘cake flour’ it’s generally Self raising or plain. Which one would work best for this sponge?

  12. Thank YOU.. I have seen so many Genoise recipes that do not use clarified butter, It’s not a true Genoise if it doesn’t; it’s just a simple sponge cake recipe. True Genoise rely on the fat from the eggs and are enriched with butter to make them stand apart. And using the proper method of a double boiler. Bravo for being authentic!
    I really enjoyed making this.

  13. I tried the recipe so manu times and it was perfect. Today it was very nice too but wasnt stable ( not really but more crumbly than the times befor). What do i think the reason is. Over baked?

  14. Hello,
    Thank you for the video, it made understanding the steps a lot easier, the cake is just perfectly spongie and moist.

  15. If I want to bake the batter in one batch (since my oven generally don’t handle two pans simultaneously well), how much time should I bake it? Will I get the same texture?

  16. Heyy :D! Why do you leave the milk solids behind ? Wouldn’t that give it extra brown butter flavor (if I wanted that)?

    1. I don’t want the brown specs in the cake. The butter fat has picked up plenty of the flavor. You can certainly leave the milk solids in if you don’t mind the brown specs in your cake.

  17. I tried making this today, and sadly as soon as I added the butter/vanilla/2 cups of batter mixture to the main mixing bowl, the entire thing deflated almost instantly. Any tips?

    1. Did you watch the recipe video to see how I do it? You don’t want to dump it all in at once, you want to slowly fold the batter using a whisk to avoid deflating the batter.

  18. Hello
    I wanted to ask you. I noticed that Some Genoise recipes
    Add cornstarch. I’m assuming to soften the crumb. Have
    You tried that?

    1. This recipe uses cake flour so that will give it a soft crumb. If you’re using all purpose flour you could use a mix of ap flour and corn starch to get a softer crumb. A genoise gets most of it’s texture from the egg foam. You don’t want a genoise too soft since it needs to absorb syrup and hold it’s shape.

  19. So this morning I made the velvety white cake, which I loved, I just made this Genoese, loved it I had attempted a Genoese years ago and failed. This baked
    Perfectly.. I’m curious how do you decide which cake to use for which fillings. I noticed that for your passion fruit cake with coconut you use a vanilla butter cake,
    Wouldn’t a Genoise be a good option . Just curious thank you

    1. Generally, I like sponge cakes with cream based fillings. Somehow the light flavors and textures go together. I have another coconut cake made with the white cake as the base that is my favorite coconut cake. I tend to pair butter cakes with buttercream. Again, just my personal preference as I feel the denser cake can stand up to the buttercream. I also like to use sponge cakes when making a cake with a fresh fruit filling. But in the end it’s just my personal preference.