genoise sponge cake with mascarpone filling
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Birthday cakes – what a nightmare. Usually smothered in filling, topping, frosting and icing and so sickly that you feel off even before the second glass of champagne. Or trying to kill you with chocolate, literally. Preternaturally smooth, a little kitten could use it as a skating rink. With some ghastly marzipan decorations, or worse still, pretending to be a football, Barbie doll, a train or Batman. I don’t quite understand why birthday cakes cannot be tasty – and tasteful.
And so before my last birthday (oh yes, I make my own birthday cake in this house, no respite for the wicked) I thought I’d make something restrained. Elegant. A cake you could have two helpings of without having to throw up. This is the result – it is seriously nice.
Now genoise is my favourite type of sponge, being authentically spongey – you can cut it in layers with a thread because it just springs right back. It’s light and fluffy like a patisserie cloud but not dry, lasts well, takes on any fillings you wish for and comes in a plain or chocolate version. Mind you, it’s intricate to make, occasionally will collapse and you have to treat it with respect because it’s a grown-up cake.
No baking powder – it’s air that holds it. That’s why you need to go through the process involving a bain-marie, or at least a bowl with warm water, a hand-held mixer AND a standing one if you have it, all the ingredients at room temperature and the eggs having the living daylights beaten out of them, swelling up to something like five times their volume. And you get to throw the cake around! See recipe details below.
The filling is just that – filling, only icing sugar dusting on top (to cover up potential cracks). It’s my favourite mascarpone and double cream stuff, with seasonal fruit. Blueberries are not awfully fragrant or flavoursome but they don’t make the filling soggy. Raspberries good but you must eat the cake on the day or it will swim. Passion fruit awesome, but I have some passion fruit objectors here so no go. Isn’t it a pain how you try to please all the people all the time?
Genoise recipes are aplenty but The Delectable Hodgepodge deserves a mention as her recipes are so clear and precise I might as well shut up and just admire.
genoise sponge cake with mascarpone fillingServings: 8-10Time: a couple of hours
- For a small cake, baked in a 20cm (8in) tin, to serve 8 people
- 80g (2/3 cup) plain flour
- 10g (1 tbsp) corn flour
- 3 whole eggs and 1 egg yolk
- 90g (1/2 cup) sugar
- 30g (2 tbsp.) butter, melted and kept warm
- For the filling:
- 150g (2/3 cup) mascarpone
- 100g (1/2 cup) double cream
- 2 tbsp. sugar
- 120g (1 cup) blueberries plus a few more for decoration
- icing sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Prepare a round 20cm (8in) tin by buttering and flouring it thoroughly. Place a disk of parchment at the bottom. Mix the flours and sieve them 2 or 3 times. Prepare a pan with hot water – or bain-marie – large enough to contain the bowl you will be making the batter in. Break the eggs and the egg yolk into the bowl and beat on low speed with a hand-held mixer until the eggs become foamy. Add the sugar, little by little. Keep beating on low speed until the eggs warm up slightly – to just about body temperature.
Take the bowl out of the water and beat in a standing mixer (with a balloon attachment), or continue with hand-held, at high speed for about 5 minutes, then medium speed for another 5 minutes. They should inflate to about five times their original volume, turn pale and form ribbons when the mixer paddle is removed. Sieve the flour over the egg mix from high above in two or three goes folding it in very gently each time before sieving in more. Make sure the mix does not deflate. Then get a heaped spoonful of the batter and mix with the warm butter, then fold it gently back in.
Pour the batter into the tin and twist it sharply to remove large air bubbles. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the sponge crackles slightly when pressed with a finger and leaves a small indentation. Take out and drop from 20cm height onto a couple of folded tea towels, two or three times. This is the best part, and it works so well it’s amazing – contrary to appearance, it stops the sponge from collapsing and sinking. Turn the tin upside down onto a wooden board and leave for 5 minutes. Turn it the right side up, remove from the tin and cool completely on a cake rack.
To make the filling, whip the mascarpone with the double cream and sugar until it forms peaks. Smash half the blueberries roughly with a fork and stir into the filling, together with the whole fruit.
When the cake is completely cold, make a shallow incision with a sharp knife along the edge, halfway through its height. Take a length of cotton thread and wrap around the cake, fitting it into the incision. Twist the thread as if you wanted to strangle the cake until it cuts through. Using a large fish slice or a bread peel remove the top layer carefully and put aside.
Spoon the filling onto the bottom part – no need to spread it too precisely as it will spread itself once the top comes on. Slide the top layer onto the filling and press gently all around with your hand, until the filling shows up at the edges. Place a few reserved blueberries on top for decoration.
Dust generously with icing sugar and store in the fridge until ready to serve.