Genoise Cake (Vanilla Sponge Cake 101)
The absolute best sponge cake recipe I’ve ever had! This classic recipe is soft and delicious enough to enjoy on it’s own, but also sturdy and simple enough to use as the base for a complex layered cake! Read below for plenty of tips to help you get the best possible results.
I. Have. Been. Trying. To. Make. Sponge. Cake. For. Almost. 10. Years.
10 YEARS!! That’s almost 10 FULL years of
But seriously, I can’t even begin to tell you all how much I’ve learned from the countless batches I’ve made. I’ve basically seen it all. Over baked sponge cake. Under baked sponge cake. Dense sponge cake. Dry cake. Overly soft cake (yes, there is such a thing – especially if you want to stack it!) Caved in centers. Overly domed tops. Burnt edges with raw centers. And we can’t forget eggy tasting sponge cake (that’s got to be my least favorite one)!
So trust me when I tell you that this recipe is fail proof! This cake is perfectly soft and moist, but sturdy enough to hold up to stacking (if that’s your cup of tea!) Or delicious enough to just serve plain and simple with some powdered sugar dusted on top.
I decided to top my sponge cake off with some blueberry swirl whipped cream!
What’s the difference between sponge cake and genoise:
Absolutely nothing. You can use whichever name you like (“genoise” is definitely better for the flex).
Genoise sponge cake ingredients:
• cake and pastry flour
• baking powder
• eggs: THIS IS WHERE MOST OF THE MAGIC HAPPENS! Room temperature eggs whip up more easily. So try to either take your eggs out of the fridge an hour before whipping them, or (if you’re in a rush) submerge the eggs in some warm tap water for 5 minutes and they should be at the perfect temperature then!
• sugar: Not just for sweetness, but the sugar also helps the eggs whip up much more nicely and stably
• butter: This is another ingredient you don’t find in all sponge cake recipes, but I just really love the flavor it brings! Butter makes everything better, amiright?
• vanilla extract: optional, but recommended! You could also play around with different extracts and flavorings if you like!
How to make sponge cake (genoise):
1. Whisk together dry ingredients.
2. Combine eggs and sugar. Beat until about tripled in volume (about 10 minutes on high speed using an electric mixer). PLEASE DON’T TRY TO DO THIS BY HAND! 17 year old me tried once and failed miserably. I could not feel my arms for a week.
3. Fold dry ingredients into whipped eggs. Take care not to over mix or it’ll deflate the eggs!
4. Whisk together butter, vanilla, and some cake batter. Do this in a separate bowl with about 1/2 a cup of batter, to make it easier to incorporate the butter without over mixing.
5. Add butter mix to main batter.
6. Bake. Pour into a parchment lined baking sheet (or baking sheets) and bake until cooked through. Cool for a few minutes in your pan, then flip onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Key takeaways for consistently perfect sponge cake:
Like I mentioned above, I’ve been trying for years to perfect a sponge cake recipe! So it’s safe to say I’ve learned a thing or 2 about dos and don’ts for making genoise. Here are my key baker’s tips for consistently perfect cakes:
Use cake and pastry flour. I prefer cake and pastry flour over regular all-purpose when making sponge cake just because the cake and pastry flour helps yield a softer and more tender cake. If you don’t have cake and pastry flour, you can make your own substitute at home! It’s not the end of the world if you use all-purpose flour, but you do need to be a bit more watchful over the cake as there’s less room for error!
Include baking powder. You’ll find some sponge cake recipes that don’t include any leavening agent like baking powder (because whipping the eggs with sugar helps provide plenty of air and rise). BUUUUT I have tried making sponge cake without baking powder and with it, and I’ve found the baking powder gives it a nice airiness. I felt the sponge cake without baking powder often ended up on the denser side. But a little does go a long way! Too much baking powder and you may get an overly domed top and cracks in your cake.
Sift your dry ingredients. It makes for a smoother cake with a lighter crumb. It’s also easier to incorporate sifted ingredients into your cake batter.
Use good quality vanilla extract. Sponge cake is PACKED with eggs. And since we can’t really skimp on the eggs, using good quality vanilla extract helps fight off a sickeningly eggy flavor.
Power through when whipping the eggs. I always get moments while I’m whipping my eggs when I think “Can I stop already??!!” It takes a REALLY long time to whip it up (like 10 to 15 minutes), and you may be tempted to stop early. BUT DON’T! This is the most important step. So take your time with it. It’s going to take much longer than you think it’ll need – but that’s normal.
Use a good quality pan. Cheaper and thinner pans can cause your cakes to burn on the outside, before the center has a chance to cook all the way through. So aim to use a high quality, and difficult to bend pan. Lighter colored pans are also preferable because they heat more gradually when compared to darker colored pans.
Line your pan with parchment paper if possible. Sponge cake is meant to be tender and delicate. If you grease your pan, it can cause your cake to essentially fry in the oven – which can lead to overly crisp or burnt edges (and sometimes overly greasy edges). If you have it on hand, I always recommend lining the bottom and sides of the pan with parchment paper (it makes for easier removal too!)
Cool the cake(s) in your pan and then on a wire rack. Once your cake(s) is done baking, let it cool for about 10 to 15 minutes in the pan (so it’s sturdy enough to transfer). Then flip it onto a wire rack, remove the parchment paper, and set it aside to cool completely. If you leave the cakes to cool in your pan, you run the risk of them over cooking from the residual heat on the pan.
Freeze if making a layer cake. This final tip is just if you plan on making a stacked, frosted sponge cake. This cake is quite soft and delicate, so I find it’s easiest to work with if you pop it into the freezer for about 20 minutes to firm up slightly. It also makes frosting much easier!
Check out these other recipes!
Genoise Cake Recipe (Vanilla Sponge Cake Recipe)
- 1 & 1/4 cups cake and pastry flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 6 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line a 9×13 inch baking dish with parchment paper, and set aside. (see note 1 on making different sized sponge cakes)
- Sift your flour, salt, and baking powder into a medium sized bowl, and set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine your eggs and sugar. Using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs and sugar for 10 to 15 minutes, or until about tripled in volume, thick, and a pale yellow color. You should be able to draw a figure 8 with the batter and it should remain on the surface of the batter for about 2 seconds before sinking back down. It will take a bit longer to whip the eggs if using a handheld mixer (versus a stand mixer).
- Add your flour mixture to the whipped eggs. Carefully fold the dry ingredients into the egg mix until incorporated. Take care not to over mix! It's okay if you see a few streaks of flour in the batter because we're going to give it another mix in a second.
- In a medium bowl, combine your melted butter, vanilla extract, and add about 1/2 a cup of the cake batter. Mix to combine. (This is to make sure the butter incorporates into the rest of the batter easily without sinking to the bottom of the bowl!)
- Pour your butter mixture into the rest of the batter. Fold everything together until it's all combined, and you no longer see any streaks of flour or butter. It's going to deflate a bit, which is normal! But keep an eye out to make sure the batter doesn't deflate too much.
- Pour your cake into your prepared baking dish. Place in the center of your preheated 350°F oven, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cake for about 10 to 15 minutes in the pan, then flip onto a wire rack to cool completely.