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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

  • 1/2 cup (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

Kay

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.

Kay

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!

Kay

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.

Anne

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?

Julie

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.

Sharon

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!!!

Mary Brown

Monday 23rd of August 2021

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!

Eileen Gray

Monday 23rd of August 2021

Well, having made this recipe dozens and dozens of times, I have no problem folding in the butter.

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