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An attempt at chocolate Genoese sponge, argh!

foodsmith Jan 9, 2009 08:56 PM

So I went for my 2nd attempt at the chocolate Genoese spong cake, using Michel Roux's recipe from the book "Eggs".

This time I used my brand new 7 QT Viking stand mixer and had no problem beating the 4 eggs to a proper consistency where they left a trail of ribbons when lifting the whisk.

But here's the problem. The recipe calls for flour and cocoa to be sifted and once the eggs are done to be added and folded in. Of course the recipe says not to overwork the batter. So I was as careful not to as possible, but all the while still wanting to actually have the cocoa be somewhat uniform.

I stopped well short though of making sure the cocoa and flour was uniformly incorporated because I felt that the batter was losing volume, I could hear and see it deflating as time went on.

So when I went to pour it into the cake pan, there was a marble of yellow egg froth and light cocoa powder, which I imagine is going to result in a marblish looking Genoese, which is not what I want given that I plan to use the cake as the base of a chocolate truffle cake, which should be uniformly colored like chocolate.

So I have to ask, how do people get the flour fully incorporated? I see the batter in the book Eggs and there is not a hint of flour in it. Surely they spent more time folding?

Incidentally when I did pour the batter into the pan, there was plenty of it, it almost went to the top. Which made me wonder if it meant that it would have been ok to have continued folding the flour a bit more, since there was plenty of volume and I don't believe the cake pan was supposed to have been full with batter when placing in the oven.

Any suggestions? I am determined to master this Genoese!! :)

Edit: Here is a youtube of someone folding egg whites with chocolate. Not quite the same, but I notice she is folding pretty hard and I can see it losing volume:


But in the end the whole thing is uniformly colored. So is it possible to get it uniformly colored without losing all that volume?

  1. l
    Lisbet Jan 11, 2009 04:08 AM

    "foodsmith"....read again....(third down) You whisk the eggs constantly over simmering water until warm to the touch! **Then you beat on your stand mixer (for as long as it takes; maybe takes 4 or 5 minutes) until cool**. (Nothing about Hot Eggs)

    I also got out my Nick Malgieri book "How To Bake", and this is what he says about butter in the génoise batter......page 270 A "practical all-purpose sponge cake is quick to prepare and used in a variety of circumstances". Also, "Many recipes for génoise call for folding in butter at the end -- a practice I think often accounts for overmixing and consequently ruining the batter. The butter does contribute extra richness and moisture, but the same thing can be accomplished by using a combination of whole eggs and extra yolks, as in my recipe." (His recipe consists of cake flour, cornstarch, 3 large eggs + 3 large egg yolks, sugar and a pinch of salt)

    A good read on the subject is "Understanding Génoise", which appeared in Cook's Illustrated Mag., May/June, 1981 p. 26. Perhaps you save all old cooking magazines, as I do, or perhaps know of someone who does......or go to your local library. The article is by Rose Levy Beranbaum.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Lisbet
      foodsmith Jan 11, 2009 06:59 AM

      Why cake flour instead of all purpose flour? That is the first I've seen of cake flour mentioned.

      Interesting thought though about using extra yolk instead of the butter, which does reduce the folding. I'll consider that one. Many thanks.

      Also as far as I know the only reason to heat the eggs is because you're using granulated sugar. Using caster sugar (fine grained) negates the need to do this. This step to me is a big hassle. I've been using caster sugar and had no problem dissolving the sugar.

      1. re: foodsmith
        Pastryrocks Jan 11, 2009 09:38 AM

        The reason for using different flours is to insure different properties in the sponge. Depending on the time of year AP flour can be quite high in starch or high in protein, which can vary from as low as 7% and up to 14%, if I recall correctly. Cake flour does not exceed 10% protein.

        You need gluten to hold the structure of the sponge, however, too much will make the sponge rubbery and make it difficult to work with the batter. Too much starch will make for a tender, light crumb. However, the sponge can collapse somewhat after it has been baked. The right amount of cake flour and hard flour will create a sponge that is light and tender and will not fall after it’s been baked. AP flour will not always work well.

        In an industrial patisserie’s sponge is almost always made using a bag of commercial dry ingredients and then adding the wet ingredients, Puratos comes to mind. In this way the right percentage of starch and protein can be adjusted depending on the season.

        In a home kitchen making one sponge at a time, and maybe one or two a month, well this may seem a little too much. I think for most people as long as the sponge does not collapse after it has been removed from the oven, all is good. Hence why most recipes for sponge call for the use of AP flour, and not a mixture of cake and hard flour. Heck, you can use a mixture of cake flour and cornstarch to make Genoese!

        Like I posted above, heating the eggs up to 43ºc may seem like a pain, but you will be rewarded for a few reasons. One despite the type of sugar you use, the heat will enable the eggs to emulsify better and this will help with the crumb (cell structure). Also, you will incorporate and hold more air in the egg foam.

        This is like I’m back in school!

        1. re: Pastryrocks
          foodsmith Jan 11, 2009 02:17 PM

          I'm going for what can be produced in a 3 Michelin star restaurant, I don't want industrial cooking, I guess that would be like Entemann's? In any case your post gave me a lot to think about.

          How do you measure the gluten and starch in flour? Any way to do this? I microscope? Maybe I'm just better off mixing cake flour and AP flour half and half at all times?

          1. re: foodsmith
            paulj Jan 11, 2009 03:20 PM

            Bittman's Best Recipes book specifies cake flour.

            1997 Joy of Cooking also specifies cake flour.

            But for some reason LaVarenne Practique just says 'flour'. On the other hand it is quite adamant about using cake flour for angel food cake. There seems to be some variation in opinion as to whether American AP is low enough gluten for this purpose or not.

            I'm only an occasional cake baker, so my box of cake flour has lasted for several years.

            1. re: paulj
              foodsmith Jan 11, 2009 04:00 PM

              Well it seems all the french recipes say all purpose flour, question is whether their all purpose flour is equivalent to ours.

            2. re: foodsmith
              Pastryrocks Jan 11, 2009 05:07 PM

              I realize that you are not into industrial baking, and I also realize you will not be purchasing a 20Kg bag of Puratos sponge mix any time soon. I was trying to explain why some bigger patisseries use sponge mix in a bag, it is consistent and dependable.

              The only way I know how to tell the difference between hard and soft flour is by hand. Squeezing hard flour in your hand it will crumble when you open your hand. Cake flour will cling together. How to find the actual percentage is beyond me.

              I do know that from season to season, miller to miller, and I would assume from farmer to famer, that the amount of starch, protein will be different. So I would not advise switching any cake flour for AP flour. You might be better off switching all the AP flour for a mixture of cake and hard (bread) flour.

              Lisbet above has given some great advice from Nick Malgieri book "How To Bake". If you wish to know more about sponge making, may I suggest you pick that book or Nick’s Perfect Pastry. I believe either book would be very helpful.

          2. re: foodsmith
            Lisbet Jan 11, 2009 03:15 PM

            I am not "savy" enough to explain the reasons behind heating the eggs over simmering water, but go to:


            Read the fourth paragraph down. I knew the reasoning behind heating the eggs while whisking, was more than just to dissolve the sugar. Just not smart enough to explain the chemical action.

            1. re: Lisbet
              Pastryrocks Jan 11, 2009 04:12 PM

              Great link Lisbet.

        2. l
          Lisbet Jan 10, 2009 07:30 PM

          These are exerpts out of my "Baking With Julia" Book. (Written by Dorie Greenspan)

          On Page 263: "Pour the clarified butter into a 1-quart bowl and stir in the vanilla extract, if you are using it. The butter must be hot when added to the batter, so either keep the bowl in a skillet of hot water or reheat it at the last moment".

          "Although the flour and cocoa were sifted before they were measured, they need to be triple-sifted together. Sift the flour and cocoa together three times".

          " whisk the eggs and sugar together in a large heat-proof bowl or the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Set the bowl over direct heat, or in a pan of barely simmering water and heat the eggs, whisking constantly until they are warm to the touch. Remove the bowl from the heat and, working with a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or using a hand-held mixer), *beat eggs at high speed until they are cool*, have tripled in volume, and hold a ribbon when the whisk is lifted".

          It goes on to tell the reader to sift the dry ingredients onto beaten eggs in thirds, folding in after each addition.

          "Spoon about 1 cup of the batter into the hot clarified butter and fold together until well blended.. Spoon this over the batter and, using a large rubber spatula, gently fold in"

          On Page 40: The Whys and Hows of Génoise: "Once the eggs have been beaten to triple their volum, a breathtaking sight to anyone with a passion for baking, their decline - and the baker's trepidation - begins".

          "No matter how gently you fold in these dry ingredients, you're going to deflate the eggs and sugar. Don't worry - this deflation is built into the génoise equation. Work as delicately as you can and stop when the last speck of flour has disappeared - don't go any further".

          3 Replies
          1. re: Lisbet
            foodsmith Jan 10, 2009 09:10 PM

            It says the eggs should be hot? Everything I read says they shouldn't be hot because it will cook the eggs. Well tomorrow will be my 3rd attempt. I think my oven is off or I'm over cooking it.

            1. re: foodsmith
              Pastryrocks Jan 10, 2009 09:17 PM

              Heat your eggs and sugar over a bain-marie to 43ºc so that the sugar dissolves. This will also help to incorporate air into the egg foam.

              1. re: Pastryrocks
                paulj Jan 10, 2009 09:31 PM

                43c is about 110F, about the temperature used to activate yeast.

          2. a
            addicted2cake Jan 10, 2009 11:19 AM

            You might want to post what's been happening with your genoise on Rose Levy Berenbaum's blog www.realbakingwith rose.com or in the cakes forum, or perhaps post on baking911.com. Just a few extra opinions that might be helpful in figuring this out.

            1. Pastryrocks Jan 10, 2009 07:13 AM

              Any time you are folding flour into the egg foam, you need to be quick. When I’m doing a large batch, I use my hand with my fingers spread apart to fold in the flour. And only fold the flour in long enough to properly mix the batter.

              I’m unsure of the Michel Roux's recipe, but even if you’re not using chemical leaveners, since you incorporated enough air in the eggs, ribbon stage, your sponge will still rise in the oven. Furthermore, it will also collapse a little after it has been removed from the oven.

              Some recipes call for cooled melted butter to be added after the flour mixture has been folded in. Now as a rule chemical leaveners are used in this type of sponge. But as you can see there is an extra step, folding in the butter. Not to mention that butter (fat) is the mortal enemy to egg foam.

              Not to worry, you will always lose some air when making sponge, there is little you can do other than try and be as careful and as fast as possible.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Pastryrocks
                foodsmith Jan 10, 2009 08:57 AM

                All recipes that I've read for Genoese call for cooled melted butter, and none of these recipes call for chemical leveners. I am even reading one out of a 4 part tomb on French pastry making, it's practically a text book for professionals. It too calls for melted and cooled butter and no leveners.

                Thanks for the rest of your post, it was encouraging. I will post the Roux recipe so we can all work from the same page here and maybe there will be more comments.

                1. re: foodsmith
                  paulj Jan 10, 2009 10:13 AM

                  Based on my reading of these recipes, the butter is optional, that is, it is not needed for risng. But it does help reduce the dryness, which can be a problem with this type of cake. But you don't want to use too much butter.

                  Butter, or fat in general, is the enemy of whipped egg whites, but in a genoese, it's the whole eggs that are whipped. The yolk already brings fat to the party.

                  Did you sift the cocoa and flour together before adding them to the eggs?

                  I don't recall problems incorporating the flour in the genoese that I made before Christmas. Maybe i wasn't so worried about deflating the eggs.

                  Bittman says: "Use a rubber spatula to fold the flour-salt mixture into this batter, a third of time, gently but thoroughly. Finally, and very gently, fold in the melted butter.

                  How many eggs, and flour, and what size pan?

                  My gut sense is that the pan shouldn't be more than half full, but I don't have enough experience with this recipe to say for sure. I used a spring form which is much deeper than most cake pans.

                  1. re: paulj
                    paulj Jan 10, 2009 11:38 AM

                    The recipe that I last use was from LaVarenne Practique
                    For 8" pan
                    90g flour
                    3 eggs
                    3 tbs butter
                    90g sugar

                    'Sift the flour over the batter in three batches and fold together as lightly as possible. Add the butter with the last batch...'

                    This is the one that says, 1 tablespoon of butter max per egg.
                    It is also the one that talks of setting the egg bowl over hot water if whisking by hand.

                    The first time I made Genoise, I baked it in a sheet pan, for a Yule Log.

              2. j
                janniecooks Jan 10, 2009 03:25 AM

                Did you fold by hand or using the mixer? If you used the mixer to fold in the flour and cocoa I'd say that was the problem.

                5 Replies
                1. re: janniecooks
                  foodsmith Jan 10, 2009 06:13 AM

                  Gosh no. I would not use the mixer, that would not be folding. And if I did use the mixer then it would have mixed in the chocolate perfectly and the problem would have been deflation.

                  The problem here was not deflation, but my inability to fully get the consistent chocolate incorporated so that there are no light pockets to create a marble effect.

                  1. re: foodsmith
                    MikeG Jan 10, 2009 07:03 AM

                    Without getting into a long discussion of theoretical technique, yes, it sounds like you were over-cautious. "No more than necessary" included the necessary "than necessary" ;) It's not muffin or pancake batter - you definitely want to uniformly incorporate the flour (and butter?), you just don't want to treat it like "normal" layer cake batter, for instance.

                    1. re: MikeG
                      foodsmith Jan 10, 2009 10:16 AM

                      Could it be that I'm also cooking it too long? Because I notice that once cooled the edges on the side and the bottom are quite stiff and dry, and the top is sort of crispy.

                      Can someone post a photo of a completed Genoese slice, I'm trying to get a picture of what it looks like once cut.

                      1. re: foodsmith
                        MikeG Jan 10, 2009 12:58 PM

                        I don't have a picture, but it's definitely a uniform crumb and it should be neither stuff nor crispy though genoises are dry compared to pound/layer cakes.

                        I don't know what happened to yours, though I also don't understand why it didn't overflow the pan if the batter came up to the lip before you even started baking it? Sounds to me like further evidence that what you made was too much like a souffle or something, but the next step of course is to cut into it and see what a cross-section looks like, and of course, how it tastes and feels in your mouth(s).

                        If it's not overly browned, you probably didn't bake it too long per se, though you may have baked whatever it was you ended up with (g,d&r) too long, but again, I don't see how it could've worked properly at all if the pan was so full but didn't overlow - that's just plain weird unless it's a very loose texture with buttery or flour-y spots or some sort of heavy layer at the bottom of the cake....

                        1. re: foodsmith
                          Pastryrocks Jan 10, 2009 03:56 PM

                          If your batter is not mixed properly, then you should have some issues with the finished product, bits of flour or cocoa powder, which will look and taste odd.

                          Also, you should find yourself a oven thermometer and well your at it one for the fridge. With the oven thermometer you’ll know how hot the oven is. Also depending on the age and size of your oven, the oven thermometer will tell you where the hot and cold spots are. If the edges are crispy then either you over baked or baked at a high temp.

                          Also, it’s best to heat your eggs and sugar to 43ºc so that the sugar dissolves. Test to be sure that the sugar has dissolved by rubbing it between your fingers. This will enable the eggs to emulsify better and will help with the crumb.

                  2. l
                    Lisbet Jan 10, 2009 03:22 AM

                    You may find the help you need here:


                    Go to page 2 and scroll down to Chocolate Genoise (choose: "Depends on Technique")

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Lisbet
                      foodsmith Jan 10, 2009 06:51 AM

                      I'm confused as ever now. She mixes the eggs/sugar for only ONE minute??? Everything else I've read has you mixing them 5-10 minutes?! Her ribbon did not look that thick.

                      Then when she does the folding it looks to me like she's deflating it a lot, but amazingly it seems to have come out ok, but I can't tell how spongy it is because the video stops short at the end.

                      Also she says not to butter or flour the pan. Mine have been coming out very hard on the edges and bottom. Can anyone post a picture of a completed slice of Genoese?

                      At this point I am more confused than ever.

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