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Vanilla Genoise – Vanilla Sponge Cake

Light as a feather Vanilla 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
Genoise will absorb lots of sugar 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.

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

Vanilla Genoise, Vanilla Sponge Cake

Yield: 12 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

Light as a feather Vanilla 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

Ingredients

  • 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

Assembly

  • 1.5 cups simple syrup (that's a double batch) flavored with liquor or extract of your choice.
  • Filling & icing of your choice

Instructions

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Cool completely before filling and frosting.

Assembly

  1. Trim the top of the cake to level, if desired, split each cake into two layers.
  2. Brush the layers generously with syrup before filling & icing.

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

Simple Syrup

Simple Syrup

Yield: 3/4 cup
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

Simple syrup is a pastry kitchen staple. Use it to add a layer of flavor to your favorite cake or stir it into iced tea or a cocktail.

Ingredients

  • 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)

Instructions

  1. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan
  2. Heat over medium high heat just until all the sugar is melted
  3. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely before adding the liquor/flavoring.

Notes

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.

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

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Erica Tse

Tuesday 16th of February 2021

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.

Eileen Gray

Wednesday 17th of February 2021

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.

Marisok

Monday 25th of January 2021

Hello. I was wondering how this recipe would work as a 13x9. I’ want to make a tres leches cake. I’ve made this in a 8 inch before and came out wonderful

Eileen Gray

Tuesday 26th of January 2021

You can bake the recipe as a 13x9. It won't be very deep, so you could make 1.5x batch to fill the pan more.

Brittany

Monday 28th of December 2020

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!

Eileen Gray

Tuesday 29th of December 2020

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.

Fergie

Saturday 14th of November 2020

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? Thanks

Eileen Gray

Saturday 14th of November 2020

I would use plain flour since self rising has added salt and baking powder.

Margaret Welch

Monday 19th of October 2020

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.