I love challenging myself. Baking is such a great way to do that on so many levels. It takes discipline, planning, vision, and most of all, patience. Here I will be telling how I made these amazing cupcakes, ultimately sharing the experience with anyone who will read this.
Genoise cake is far less difficult than the theory behind egg chemistry! No, really, it is easier than a box recipe, has about the same amount of work, and the end result is superior to any box cake on the planet. I will be making this cake again when it comes time for me to start practicing my piping skills. To mix this batter, It only took about 15 minutes. At 350, cupcakes need less time in the oven, these were done in 20 minutes. So 35 minutes from egg cracking to pulling the cupcakes from the oven.
Baking and cooking can be intimidating. Any time humans try a new thing, it is met with a certain questions we might not have immediate answers for. Cooking is much more slap dash and a little of this and a little of that, where baking has to be much more 11/16ths of a tablespoon of tempered something or others, or whatever. Baking needs to be much more controlled than making stir fry. There are specific rules to baking that get tossed out the window when we make dinner. Understandably, not everyone is willing to go through the heartache of adhering to the rules of baking, or there would be more bakers in the world.
Now, for anyone who has not made a genoise cake, yet wants to, do not fear! It really isn’t difficult. Yes there are some techniques that do require the baker to be present during the whole process, but whatever, no extra packaging from a box. The beauty of Genoise cake is that it gets its rise from eggs only. No baking soda or powder! Just glorious eggs.
The recipe I used was from an older book called The Art of Fine Baking, by Paula Peck, my copy was first edition released in 1961. It is a fantastic recipe that is easy to follow. With 5 staple ingredients. Six eggs (room temperature, this is important), one cup of sugar, one teaspoon of vanilla, one cup of sifted flour, and one half cup of clarified butter.
Eggs! Let’s think about eggs for a minute. I do not refrigerate my eggs. I keep my eggs on my counter (not many recipes call for chilled eggs). My roommate used to cringe about this because of how all Americans were raised on cold storing just about everything. She was concerned that the eggs would spoil, or make us sick. I usually only get a dozen at a time, which are consumed within a week. Either scrambled or used in baking, I eat a lot of eggs (I am going to have to write a separate blog just about eggs). I try to stick to jumbo eggs, however, I will settle for large.
Sugar is sugar is sugar. I can not eat a lot of what I bake. Being a diabetic, this is the area of baking that is dangerous to me. I have to compensate the rest of my food intake and usually up my workout routine, I feel it is all worth it. When I have to bake something, I try to make it savory or stick to dessert-type things that are less sweet, not made with sugar substitutes. Artificial sweeteners are poison. I often use organic maple syrup instead of sugar when possible. But not in the Genoise. This cake needs the sugar, one cup of it.
Vanilla is amazing. We are programmed from birth to crave it. Vanilla is the first flavor most humans taste. Biology is a wondrous thing: Breast milk is vanilla flavored! So, yeah, we love vanilla from the get go. I try to use everything organic, vanilla being no different. It usually comes with less packaging as well.
The flour I use is Wheat Montana unbleached all purpose white. Sifted through a wire mesh strainer. I have a sifter, but it is more work than just shaking a strainer, and the mesh is exactly the same. I rarely have any debris to discard from my flour. It is a superior product, and has never failed me.
Clarified butter is one of my favorite things. It brings a rich buttery flavor to anything! There are a gajillion how to’s on clarifying butter. My input: I use salted butter. Then the milk solids sink to the bottom, plus, I don’t have to use as much salt in what ever it is I am making. If you have not already picked up the habit of clarifying butter, I suggest giving it a try. It is a worthy effort for flavor. Butter substitutes will not work the same. Of course they can be used, I kind of feel the same about butter substitutes as I do about artificial sweeteners.
With everything gathered and measured, the techniques are what make this recipe so intimidating. So many of the recipes I found said to whisk the eggs and sugar over boiling water until they turn into a golden syrupy texture and are tepid in temperature. This is one of the reasons eggs need to be at room temperature. If they are chilled, this process can take some time. I didn’t do this part over boiling water either. I used boiling water from the kettle into a pot on a low temp on the stove, and put my egg bowl over that.
If the eggs and sugar are whisked over too high of a temp, they turn to ultra sweet scrambled eggs, which are yucky to eat. I started with an electric whisker, but decided to use a hand whisk when I saw my eggs and sugar never went into a syrup form, they only fluffed. So I had to slow the process down by simply not mixing as much, when the eggs rose to body temp, I took them off the heat and returned to my electric hand mixer and whipped the hell out of the eggs until they tripled in volume.
Genoise cake is supposed to be light and fluffy. The volume created with the eggs is what makes this cake so amazing. The flour comes next. Added slowly to not crush all the whisking. Folded in neatly, and treated like a meringue. adding drops of the vanilla along with it.
Then the all important clarified butter. This too must be at body temperature so it can be incorporated easily. Yes, test the cake batter, it will not taste like the run of the mill birthday cake, or store bought pastry. It tastes special before it is even baked! Of course I had to let my room mate try it. her eyes got big, and she made sounds of yumm and more yummmm as she gleaned the bowl.
I made 18 cupcakes, 6 of which were used to bribe my new employer into hiring me. and sadly, my roomie and I were subjected to the temptations of inhaling the other dozen. I am not a huge fan of icings and frostings, so I decided on lemon drizzle icing and fresh strawberries to go on top. Just a hint of flavors to enhance the beauty of this cake.
I encourage anyone to try this bake. Whether you have made it a million times, or have never touched a from-scratch recipe! This is a great day to bake a cake.