Light as a feather Vanilla Genoise (vanilla sponge cake). This cake will absorb lots of syrup for an extra layer of flavor and moisture.
How many vanilla cake recipes could a person possibly need? I’ve already posted a recipe 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 Vanilla Genoise.
What is Genoise?
Vanilla Genoise is, basically, a vanilla sponge cake. Ok, so what is a sponge cake?
It’s a cake that gets most of it’s structure from whipped eggs.
Like every sponge cake recipe, Vanilla 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 a great Vanilla Genoise (vanilla sponge cake)
- As the name sponge cake implies, thanks to that strong and resilient texture, this cake can absorb a lot of moisture.
- If you add too much syrup to a tender butter cake it could become soggy and pasty. But a Vanilla Genoise can take in a whole bunch 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.
- The syrup is a required ingredient for this recipe. The cake is not done until you add the syrup because the syrup is integral to the flavor and texture of the cake.
- 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, like this Peach Melba Cake.
It’s also really good filled with Chocolate and/or Vanilla Pastry Cream for a version of Italian Rum Cake.
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.
- 1 stick (4 oz, 113g) unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 8 large eggs
- 1 cup (8 oz, 225g) granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon table salt
- 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (7.25 oz, 196g) cake flour
- 1.5 cups simple syrup (that's a double batch) flavored with liquor or extract of your choice.
- Filling & icing of your choice
- 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.
- Put the eggs, sugar and salt in a mixer bowl. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water (don't let the bowl touch the water) and whisk until the eggs are slightly warmer than body temperature. Put the bowl onto the mixer and whisk until the eggs are tripled in volume.
- 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.
- 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. 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.
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- 1/2 cup (4 oz, 125 ml) water
- 1/3 cup (3 oz, 85g) granulated sugar
- liquor of choice to taste (I would use about 2 tablespoons)
- Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan
- Heat over medium high heat just until all the sugar is melted
- Remove from heat and allow to cool completely before adding the liquor/flavoring.
The simple syrup can be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks.
Without the added liquor, this syrup is also great for sweetening iced tea or lemonade.