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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
4.54 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


  • 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)



  • 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


My Book
KA Stand Mixer
Round Cake Pan, 8 x 3-Inch
Parchment Sheets
Offset Spatula

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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

Mike Sr.

Monday 10th of April 2023

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.

Eileen Gray

Tuesday 11th of April 2023

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


Sunday 12th of June 2022

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.


Tuesday 14th of June 2022

@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!


Monday 13th of June 2022

@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.

Eileen Gray

Monday 13th of June 2022

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.


Friday 18th of February 2022

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.

Eileen Gray

Friday 18th of February 2022

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?


Tuesday 15th of February 2022

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.


Saturday 11th of December 2021

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!!!