I recently discovered a great new show from the UK’s Channel 4, Baking Mad with Eric Lanlard. Eric is a Master Pâtissier and twice winner of the prestigious Continental Pâtissier of the Year at the British Baking Awards – you can read his full bio here. In each episode of Baking Mad, Eric shows how to make several relatively simple but sensational looking desserts, and the show is presented in a light and non-patronising manner – unlike his previous 10-part series Glamour Puds which I gave up on after episode 2.

In episode 1 Eric showed how to make a selection of rather delicious looking cupcakes (Tiramisu, Lemon Meringue and Amaretto Pineapple – get the recipes here), but the recipe that really caught my eye in episode 2 was the Genoise sponge cake, which Eric claimed to be lighter than a Victoria sponge and easy to make. This was totally unlike any sponge I’ve ever made before so I decided to give it a go. You can get the detailed recipe here, so I’ll just provide the high/low lights of my experience.

Side note: Joyofbaking.com states that the Genoise sponge is “named after its place of origin, Genoa Italy, and is a type of light and airy sponge cake.  Different from a sponge cake in that the eggs are beaten whole and a small amount of melted butter is added.  This makes it more tender and flavorful but is less sweet than a regular sponge cake.”

Ingredients:
250g golden caster sugar – I found this in Coles labelled as “raw caster sugar” from CSR
8 medium eggs
250g plain flour
50g butter

for the filling:
500ml double cream, whipped
2 tsp vanilla sugar
mixed seasonal berries
icing sugar to decorate

method:

  1. preheat the oven to 180C and line / grease / dust two 22cm cake tins.
  2. put the sugar and eggs in a heatproof bowl and sit over a pan of just-simmering water. Beat with an electric whisk until hot, then remove from the heat and beat for 10 minutes. The mixture will double in volume and should fall in ribbons from the surface when dropped from the whisk.

    Note: this is one of those cheffy techniques that sounds easier than it is. Whilst beating the mixture over the simmering water, try not to:
    a)   burn yourself on the hot bowl and / or steam coming from underneath it
    b)   set fire to the cloth / oven gloves you grab in a panic to stop the burning
    c)   lose your grip on the bowl and let the eggs scramble
    d)   lose your grip on the bowl and let the bowl tilt forward so your mixture ends up all over the stove
    e)   all of the above

    Double in volume it sure did…this thing was massive!

  3. melt the butter until it starts to turn golden then add to the mixture with the whisk running. Sieve in the flour and work in gently with a metal spoon.
  4. divide the mixture between the two tins and cook for 25-30 minutes.

The suggested method of assembly was to cut each cake in half and fill each layer with whipped cream and berries. I didn’t have any berries, so had to make do with tinned mandarines, and I flavoured the cream with caster sugar and vanilla extract. Not quite as glamorous, but there you go.

The verdict? The sponge was ok, but nothing brilliant so I suspect I screwed it up somewhere along the way – they were also a little overcooked thanks to my temperature-lottery oven. As for the whole cake, there was certainly nothing to complain about, except that it was too high for my cake carrier and didn’t make it to Mother’s Day lunch. Bugger.

I think I’ll stick to Victoria sponges, but I’ll definitely be keeping a close eye on Baking Mad – I suggest you do so if it comes to a TV screen near you.