A More Challenging Cake Attempt

A few weeks ago I wrote about how I purchased a new cookbook. This cookbook is one that I was excited to finally purchase and it’s surely one to take my baking skills to the next level. That couldn’t be more true than when I attempted one of the most challenging cakes in the book, and of my life: the French Classic Genoise.

A light and fluffy cake that is loaded with fat is a what sets this cake apart from similar ones. Thanks to me watching a few seasons of The Great British Baking Show, I’ve heard about this cake, but never attempted it myself. First off, I was surprised by how few ingredients are in the cake. Also, the small amount of cake flour was also surprising. I remember thinking “How will it all shape up at the end?”

Turns out, it ended up being okay for a first attempt. Though the process was not without problems.

Making It

This cake has a short ingredients list. And it’s also mostly fat thanks to the amount of butter and eggs that are in the cake. However, there is no leavening agent in the batter. The lift that occurs is caused by the egg whites. Though a stand mixer is not required, it does make it a whole lot easier. You need to beat the egg whites for 5 minutes! They get really light and fluffy. And their texture and color changes which is kind of cool to watch!

But before you even do that, you have to cook them a little bit on the stove top until they reach 110 degrees F. It’s the first time I’ve had to do this, but I’ve seen many people do it when making various fancy pastry things such as meringue frostings or choux pastry dough.

Once the eggs and sugar were heated (which is the proper term, they were not fully cooked, nor is that the goal), I added the vanilla and the butter. Then it came time to add the flour. And this was when things got a little interesting.

The directions specifically stated that you were to “fold in” the flour, not use the paddle of the mixer. I don’t have a spider strainer, which is the tool recommended for you to use at this step. Instead, I used the closest thing I had, a slotted spoon.

I was very careful not to be too aggressive with the folding and eventually felt that all of the flour was mixed in. I even paid special attention to the bottom of the bowl since the book says that is where flour can “hide away.” I didn’t think anything of it until I started to pour the batter in the prepared pan.

That’s when I had to stop and sighed. There was a lot of un-mixed flour. So, I did the only thing I could do at that point: carefully pour the batter back into the bowl and continue to combine it all together, until I was positive I didn’t have anymore flour not evenly mixed in.

Once the cake batter was in its pan, I placed it in the oven and set it bake.

Baking It

Despite this cake bake being a little bit of a hassle to create, the baking process has no hiccups. It baked in the called for time and once it was cooling, I began to make the soaking liquid and the frosting.

The cake had to cool for while in the pan and when it came time to remove it, I was a little nervous. I knew the cake would be very fragile due the delicate crumb. There was a lot of flipping that had to happen in order to get the proper side of the cake to face “up.” I was also trying hard not to get too many ridges from my cooling racks in the cake. But then I remembered that there would be frosting on top, so it didn’t really matter.

Decorating It

As the cake cooled, I had to make soaking syrup that helps prevent the cake from being too dry. I decided to use some Grand Marnier liquor that I’ve lying around since the days of making Ina Garten’s Boston Cream Pie.

Then I started on the frosting, which was a traditional buttercream frosting base that you then let set up for an hour or so then whipped it. Doing this created a light and fluffy mousse-like frosting. I will have to remember this trick for the future since the result was to die for.

Once the cake was completely cooled and the mousse frosting was ready to spread, it was time to finally finish this dessert.

I smeared the liquor syrup with a pastry brushed and allowed it to soak in. Then, I flipped the cake over and bathe the other side in syrup. Once that was fully soaked into the cake’s crumb, it was time to frost the cake.

The chocolate mousse was light, airy, and easy to work with. It was almost like smearing paint instead of frosting. As you will see below, however, I was not over the moon with how the mousse tasted.

Eventually, the finished cake looked like this.

I allowed the cake to rest in the fridge for about 20 minutes before I attempted to slice into it. Due the my kitchen’s warmth, the frosting had gotten quick warm and slippery. While I waited for the time to slice, I remembering thinking to myself “This is a lot of work for a single layer cake. Would this single layer cake be enough?”

Granted, I wasn’t making this cake for anyone or for any reason in particular. I just felt like making it. But still, why was this cake designed to be only a single layer?

Well, I had the answer once I sliced into it and took a bite.

Tasting It

This cake sliced easily and you could see the delicate crumb. Also, it was interesting to see the little bit of wetness on the top and bottom of the cake from where the syrup had initially soaked in.

I was surprised to taste the cake’s lightness despite the flour mixing issues being present. The high fat content of this cake was also noted, as it tasted different from any other cake I had tried before.

The frosting, though light and beautiful, was a little too bitter for me. It was made with dark chocolate and I’m not a big fan of dark chocolate. It needed something to help bring out a little bit of sweetness because this cake really wasn’t doing it for me. That also seemed to be the collective opinion of those who tried it.

The Verdict

While I am glad that I attempted to make this cake, the taste of this cake (or perhaps this recipe) isn’t for me. However, I did try something out of my comfort zone. It also allowed me to use new techniques that I haven’t yet tried before. I’m also still baffled over why the cake is only a single layer. Maybe I just prefer height in my desserts. *shrug*

I am excited to make more recipes from this cookbook though. In fact, I think many of the recipes I bake in 2023 will be out of this book.

Happy New Year everyone!


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