This genoise sponge cake is super soft, incredibly moist and cotton fluffy. It makes the perfect tea cake, dusted with icing sugar and served with fresh fruit. It’s also an excellent sponge cake base for layering and filling with your favourite creams and fruit.


Today’s post is about genoise sponge cake. I know many of my readers love Japanese desserts, especially Japanese cream cakes, and have been asking for a good sponge cake recipe.

I dug deep into my culinary school recipes and cake books and spent a couple of weeks test baking different sponges, because I wanted to offer a fool-proof recipe that gives the best possible results.

Moist and fluffy genoise sponge cake

I finally determined that this recipe by Japanese pastry chef, Chef Keiko Ishida, is my #1 favourite and here’s why.

  • Bakes beautifully every time. If you do the steps well (watch the video), this cake bakes evenly and browns beautifully. It always turns out soft and extra moist, and the crumb is light and fluffy.
  • Stays moist and doesn’t dry out. Sponge cakes are notorious for drying out soon after baking. But this genoise sponge bakes up moist and stays moist for a few days when sealed and stored well.
  • Tastes as good as your favourite bakery! With its moist, light and fluffy crumb, this sponge tastes absolutely amazing, just like the ones you get in a Japanese bakery! The sweetness is just right, so you can fill and frost with sweeter frostings without worrying it’ll be too much.
  • Makes the perfect cake base for layer cakes. Light and delicate, yet structurally firm, a sponge cake holds fillings and frostings well like this dreamy Japanese strawberry shortcake which features this genoise sponge with whipped cream and fresh strawberries.
Sponge cake layers filled with whipped cream and fresh strawberries for a Japanese-style strawberry shortcake

Ingredients for genoise sponge cake

Ingredients for genoise sponge cake
  • Cake flour or pastry flour. Cake flour is what gives this sponge it’s light and tender cake crumb. It has a much lower protein content compared to all-purpose or plain flour. Since protein forms gluten which gives baked goods like breads its chewy and elastic texture, cake flour’s lower gluten content creates a more tender-textured cake.
  • Eggs, at room temperature. I use large eggs, about 60 gram each.
  • Glucose. Glucose or glucose syrup, also known as starch syrup, is the ingredient that professional pastry chefs use. It is an invert sugar with hygroscopic properties, which basically means it helps cakes and baked goods retain moisture. You can easily find glucose in baking supply stores or purchase it online.
  • Caster sugar. Caster sugar or extra-fine sugar helps cut through the eggs more finely, hence trapping more air and creating more volume in the batter.
  • Butter, unsalted. Butter is much more flavourful than oil. When warmed, it is easier to incorporate into the batter without losing too much air.
  • Milk. Use full-cream milk for best flavour. If you’re avoiding dairy, you can substitute with unsweetened soy milk, nut milk, oat milk or rice milk. Bear in mind that the flavour of certain milks can come through in the cake.
  • Vanilla extract. Use a natural vanilla extract for a purer and more intense flavour. It’s the only flavouring you’ll be adding so use a good quality. You can replace with other extracts like lemon, almond or orange, for different flavours.
A slice of vanilla sponge cake, served with fresh-cut strawberry and garnished with mint leaves

Save for Later:Genoise Sponge Cake: Easy Step by Step Guide (with Video)

Pin this on Pinterest

How to make genoise sponge cake: Step-by-step

When making a genoise sponge, it’s all about the eggs. I’m going to show you how to work the egg mixture and the egg batter so that your sponge will always bake up light and fluffy!

There are a few essential steps to a light, delicate and fluffy sponge:

  • Warming the egg mixture
  • Whipping the egg mixture to the ‘ribbon’ stage
  • Folding in the flour
  • Folding in the butter mixture

Preparatory tasks

First, we need to do a bit of prepping before we actually get going on the cake itself. Start preheating the oven and prepare the cake pan.

This would also be a good time to set up the water bath. Have all the ingredients measured and weighed precisely.

For detailed recipe steps and instructions, please read the recipe card below.

Step 1. Warming the egg mixture

In basic genoise sponge cake techniques, warming the eggs and sugar mixture is essential because heat dissolves the sugars better and improves the natural emulsifying properties of the eggs. The optimal temperature range is between 36 – 40℃ (96 – 104℉).

A warmed egg and sugar mixture will incorporate more air and reach its optimal volume when beaten, hence producing an egg batter that has more volume.

Before warming an egg mixture, beat the eggs lightly with a whisk. Add the glucose and sugar, and stir again to combine (see steps #1).

How to warm the egg mixture. An egg mixture needs to be warmed gently by indirect heating so that you don’t end up cooking the eggs. A bain-marie, also known as a water bath or double-boiler, is best suited for this. It’s really easy to set up too (see steps #2).

Use a smaller bowl to hold the egg mixture, and a larger one to hold hot water that’s been heated to 60 – 70℃ (140 – 158℉). The smaller bowl sits inside the larger bowl, partially submerged such that the sides of the smaller bowl are in contact with the water.

Alternatively, you can heat a pot of water until barely simmering. Take it off the heat, and immediately place the bowl containing the egg mixture over it so that it sits just above the water level. Warm the egg mixture, while continuously whisking, until it reaches the desired temperature.

I prefer this as it keeps both of my hands free to stir the egg mixture and hold an instant-read thermometer, to monitor the temperature.

Wherever possible, use metal bowls (I like to use my stand mixer bowl) instead of glass or other material because metal conducts heat better and quicker.

Step 2. Beating the egg mixture to the ribbon stage

Beating or whipping the eggs introduces air into the mixture. These trapped air bubbles increase the volume of the egg batter phenomenally and are what the cake relies on to rise when heated.

The most common mistake you could make with a genoise sponge is not beating the eggs well enough or long enough to reach the desired ribbon stage.

If this stage is not executed well, you will end up with a thin or runny cake batter that lacks volume. When baked, the sponge will have a dense crumb, and won’t rise as tall.

How to beat the egg mixture. Pour the warmed egg mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Alternatively, you can whip the mixture directly in the bowl with handheld beaters.

Start at high speed. Whip until the mixture is pale, light and fluffy and reaches the ribbon stage. This may take 8 to 10 minutes, depending on the speed (see steps #3). Remember – do not rush through this step!

Finish at low speed. Once the batter is at the ribbon stage, reduce to low speed. Continue whipping for 1 – 2 minutes to reduce the large air bubbles and smoothen the batter. You should end up with a batter that looks smooth like satin with a wonderful glossy sheen (see picture group #4).

Tip: How to check for ribbon stage

  • Consistency. The egg batter should have a thick and airy, foam-like consistency. When the whisk is lifted, the batter falls in thick trails or ‘ribbons’ which stay suspended on top of the batter before slowly disappearing. If the trails disappear almost instantly or within a matter of seconds, it has not quite reached the ribbon stage yet. Continue beating for a few more minutes and test again.
  • Appearance. The egg batter should lighten considerably, and turn a very pale shade of yellow. It should look generally smooth, with some trapped air bubbles at the surface or edges of the batter.
  • Volume. The egg mixture should increase tremendously in volume, as much as tripling in size due to the trapped air bubbles.

Step 3. Folding in the flour

Make sure you sift the flour twice to loosen any lumps and get it to an even consistency.

Sift or sprinkle the flour over the surface in batches (I personally prefer to sift the flour in 3 additions) and gently fold with a spatula. You’ve worked so hard up to this point to trap all that air, so try not to over-work the batter (see steps #5).

Step 4. Folding in the butter mixture

A warm butter mixture (melted butter, milk, and extract) is much easier to incorporate into the egg batter and is less likely to sink to the bottom of the batter.

How to warm the butter mixture. Combine the butter, milk and vanilla extract in a heatproof bowl. Warm it over the hot water bath until the butter melts completely. Ideally, the temperature of the butter mixture should be close to 60℃. Stir the warmed butter mixture thoroughly (see steps #6).

Then, add in some of the egg-flour batter, about 1/6th or 75 grams, and mix until well combined (see steps #7).

Add this back to the remaining egg-flour batter and again, fold gently but thoroughly. Once the batter runs smoothly off the spatula without breaking or clumping, it is at the ideal consistency (see steps #8).

Filling the pan and baking

Pour the batter into the pan, holding the mixing bowl as close to the pan as possible. This is to prevent the batter from deflating. To eliminate air bubbles, run a bamboo or metal skewer through the batter.

Finally, tap twice firmly on the counter. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes until the top of the cake turns a deep golden brown (see steps #9). Test for doneness.

Once the cake pan is removed from the oven, immediately drop it onto the counter from a height of 6 – 12 inches (0.5 – 1 foot). A technique credited to the Japanese, this ‘shock’ helps minimise shrinkage.

Gently lift the cake out of the pan by the paper liner and set it on a wire rack. Peel away the baking paper from the sides and bottom of the cake. To keep the cake moist, immediately wrap in cling wrap or put it into a plastic bag and seal.

The cake will keep well at room temperature in an air-tight container in a cool, dry space for up to 3 days.

Genoise sponge cake tips

  • Warm the eggs to an optimal temperature between 36 – 40℃ (96 – 104℉). This helps to dissolve the sugar better and improves the emulsifying properties of the eggs.
  • Warm the egg and sugar mixture. It will incorporate more air and reach its optimal volume when beaten, producing a cake batter that has more volume.
  • Use a metal bowl (not glass) to hold the egg mixture over a pot of hot water or in a hot water bath since metal conducts heat better and quicker.
  • Use caster sugar or fine granulated sugar because the finer sugar particles cut through the egg whites more effectively, trapping more air.
  • Use the flour specified in the recipe. Swapping out cake flour for all purpose or plain flour will result in a different texture. This sponge cake won’t turn out as fine-textured or as tender when made with plain flour.
  • Sift the flour twice so that it’s loose and at an even consistency.
  • When adding to the egg batter, sift or sprinkle in the flour in 3 additions and fold gently but thoroughly.
Genoise sponge cake. set on a wooden board

If you’re making this genoise sponge in advance or ahead of time for a layer cake, immediately wrap in a few layers of cling wrap so that the cake retains its moisture.

Place in a freezer bag and chill for up to 5 days in the refrigerator. If you need to keep it longer, freezing would be the better option. This cake freezes well for up to a month.

Thaw the frozen sponge cake overnight in the chiller the day before you intend to work with it.

Baked genoise sponge cake, cooled

How to overcome common problems with a genoise sponge

Why does my sponge cake sink in the middle?

Though there are a few possible reasons, a baked sponge that sinks in the centre after it’s out of the oven is usually due to:
Insufficient baking time: Because ovens behave differently, the baking times are suggested guidelines but you may need slightly less or more time. Always test the cake for doneness and bake for a few minutes longer if needed.
Wrong type of flour used: Flour provides the structure in a cake as its proteins interact with fluids in the batter and affects the strength of the batter. However, if the flour’s protein content is too low, or if there is not enough flour in the recipe, the cake will lack structural integrity and may collapse.

Why does my sponge cake have a dense crumb?

Under-whipped eggs: Warm the egg mixture to the optimal temperature range so that it can reach its maximum volume when whipped.
Flour added all at once: This will cause the batter to deflate. Add in batches by gently sprinkling the flour over the surface.

Why did the cake crack on top?

Oven too hot: A cake pan that’s placed too close to the top heating element, or in an oven that’s too hot, will cause the cake to form a top crust early. This will crack as the inside of the cake continues to cook and rise, pushing upwards. To prevent this, set the cake pan on a rack in the lower half of the oven. Use an oven thermometer to check the internal oven temperature.
Wrong pan size: Using a pan size that’s too small can cause the cake to crack as well. Ideally, the batter should fill no more than two-thirds of the pan. Use the pan size specified, or a cake pan of almost equivalent capacity.

Why is the egg batter runny?

Under-whipped eggs: A thin, runny batter is usually a sign of under-whipped eggs or eggs that did not get to the crucial ribbon stage. Beat the egg mixture for as long as needed until the ribbon stage.
Over-worked batter: The batter can be easily over-worked when folding in the flour and butter mixture, causing it to deflate.
Warm the butter mixture, and lighten it by mixing in a bit of batter so that it can be incorporated quickly into the remaining batter.

Vanilla genoise sponge cake slice served on a plate with fresh cut fruit

I know this has been a long post but I do hope these detailed steps and tips will have you on your way to mastering the genoise sponge!

Remember to share with me (if you’re on Instagram, tag @foodelicacy or #foodelicacy) so I can see! – xx Celia

Here are more delicious bakes you might enjoy:

Genoise Sponge Cake Featured for Pinterest

Genoise Sponge Cake {with VIDEO}

4.84 from 18 reviews
Prep Time: 30 mins
Cook Time: 45 mins
Total Time: 1 hr 15 mins
Yield: 8 servings
This sponge cake recipe by Chef Keiko Ishida is super soft, incredibly moist and cotton fluffy. It makes the perfect tea cake, dusted with icing sugar and served with fresh fruit. It's also an excellent sponge cake base for layering and filling with your favourite creams and fruit.

Ingredients

  • 115 g cake flour or pastry flour
  • 3 large eggs, 60 g each
  • 15 g glucose, glucose syrup or starch syrup
  • 120 g caster sugar
  • 30 g unsalted butter
  • 45 g milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions
 

  • Pre-heat the oven to 170°C (338°F) with top and bottom heating mode. Set an oven rack in the lower half of your oven.
  • Line the base of a 6 x 3-inch tall round cake pan or 7 x 2.5-inch standard round cake pan with parchment paper. Line the sides with a long strip of parchment paper that sits about 1-inch (2-cm) above the rim. Note: A 6 x 3-inch tall round pan will give you a taller cake as shown in the post.

Make the warm egg mixture

  • Sift the cake flour twice. In a clean mixing bowl, beat eggs lightly with a whisk. Add sugar and glucose, and stir with a whisk to combine.
  • Heat some water in a pot until barely simmering. Take it off the heat, and place the bowl containing the egg mixture over it so that it sits just above the water. Keep whisking until the egg mixture is warm, between 36 – 40℃ (96 – 104℉).
  • Pour the warmed egg mixture into a stand mixer bowl. Alternatively, you can use handheld beaters and whip in the bowl.

Beat the egg mixture

  • Whip on high speed until the egg mixture thickens considerably and turns pale and foam-like (watch the video), about 8 to 10 minutes. Test for ribbon stage.
  • Once the egg mixture is at the ribbon stage, whip on low speed for 1 – 2 minutes until it looks very smooth and glossy.

Fold in the flour

  • Sift (recommended) or sprinkle the flour over the egg batter, in 3 additions. Each time, fold in gently with a spatula until well incorporated, before adding the next batch.

Make the warm butter mixture

  • In a separate bowl, combine butter, milk and vanilla extract. Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water until the butter melts completely. Stir to mix thoroughly. Note: The temperature of the mixture should be close to 60℃. 

Fold in the butter mixture

  • Add 75 g of the egg batter into the butter mixture and mix thoroughly. Add this mixture to the rest of the egg batter. Fold gently until all of the batter has an even consistency. Once the batter runs smoothly off the spatula without breaking or clumping, it is at the ideal consistency.

Fill the pan and bake

  • Pour the batter from the mixing bowl into the prepared pan as closely as possible to prevent the batter from deflating. Run a bamboo or metal skewer through the batter. Tap the pan twice firmly on the counter.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes until the top of the cake turns brown. Do a finger test for doneness: Gently press a few fingers on the center of the cake to see if it springs back. If your fingers leave indents, the cake isn't quite done baking yet. Bake for at least 5 more minutes before checking it again.

Cool and serve

  • Remove the cake pan from the oven and immediately drop it onto the counter from a height of 6 – 12 inches (0.5 – 1 foot). Gently lift the cake out of the pan by the paper strips and set onto a wire rack. Peel away the baking paper from the sides and bottom of the cake.
  • To serve, sift confectioner’s sugar over the cake and slice. Best eaten warm on the day it is baked or chilled. If not serving immediately, wrap in cling wrap or put the cake into a plastic bag and seal to help the cake retain its moisture. 
  • To store, place the cake in an air-tight container in a cool and dry space. It will keep well at room temperature for 3 days. If you need to keep it longer, seal with several layers of cling wrap and chill for up to 5 days or freeze in a sealed freezer bag for up to a month.

Notes

How to test for the ‘ribbon’stage

  • Consistency. The egg batter should have a thick and airy, foam-like consistency. When the whisk is lifted, the batter falls in thick trails or ‘ribbons’ which stay suspended on top of the batter before slowly disappearing. If the trails disappear almost instantly or within a matter of seconds, it has not quite reached the ribbon stage yet. Continue beating for a few more minutes and test again.
  • Appearance. The egg batter should lighten considerably, and turn a very pale shade of yellow. It should look generally smooth, with some trapped air bubbles at the surface or edges of the batter.
  • Volume. The egg mixture should increase tremendously in volume, as much as tripling in size due to the trapped air bubbles.
 

Nutrition Information:

Serving: 1serving, Calories: 173kcal, Carbohydrates: 28g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 5g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 1g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 70mg, Sodium: 29mg, Potassium: 47mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 16g, Vitamin A: 192IU, Calcium: 19mg, Iron: 1mg
Cuisine: Asian, Japanese, Western
Course: Breakfast, Dessert, Snacks and Treats, Tea
Author: Celia Lim
Did you make this recipe? Be sure to leave a rating and a review in the section below, and tag @foodelicacy on Instagram and hashtag it #foodelicacy so I can see!