P & Q: French Strawberry Cake

So seasonal!  (In the US, anyway)  What tricks do you have for creating the perfect genoise?

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70 thoughts on “P & Q: French Strawberry Cake

    • I thought I’d reiterate a very helpful advice from Piebird below. I prepared the genoise batter in a KitchenAid stand mixer; they are excellent for getting strong ribbony eggs; the bump in the bowl will kill you when folding the flour.

      Unfortunately I discovered the unincorporated flour hanging around the bump in the bowl while pouring it into the cake pan. Though I poured the batter back in to redistribute the flour, I ended up deflating the genoise considerably.

      So, if at all possible, you might want to transfer the beaten egg mixture to a plain mixing bowl with the KitchenAid bump prior to folding flour. I just hope I remember next time.

      • 7/21/12 Making this cake for the third time…reading the Q&A for tips before I head to the kitchen…I had planned on doing this…your suggestion confirms it for me. :)

        Carmen

  1. I’m disappointed that strawberry season is already over here in Virginia. Oh well, at least the berries get sugared up for the layers! Hoping to make the cake this weekend (if the brand new puppy stays out of the way!)

      • I’m in NC too – we’re about two weeks past strawberry season here in the Triangle. I might try blackberries and blueberries, they’re just starting to show up at market.

    • I live in Virginia too and the strawberry season was early this year. I really hate to use berries from California or frozen when the strawberries here are so good. (Nothing against the West coast, but with the travel time you don’t get the best produce) I’m going to see what’s available locally and go from there.

      • I ended up using cherries (which I macerated). Strawberries are just starting to come into season up here, but not in time to make this cake.

  2. I also made this already, in April, for my son’s birthday. I am going to make again since I was only able to make 2 layers. I don’t think I had the batter whipped enough and when folding in the ingredients, it deflated too much. I will also try freezing the cake before slicing the layers.

  3. Made the genoise cake twice…twice a failure. Don’t know why.. interested in reading how it turned out for others. I’m not a novice baker…so, don’t know why it flopped twice. I’ve made genoise before (a different recipe, mind you) with success.

    ~Carmen

    • Hi Carmen, what happened? this is different from my standard recipe too, plus I’m baking at sea level instead of 5000′. it’ll be interesting…

      • Marilyn, I just don’t know! I spoke to my brother-in-law, who is a CIA graduate, and he mentioned something about the eggs…must be heated up.

        I’m not concerned if I ever make this recipe again. However, there are other recipes in the book which use the genoise recipe. Now what do I do? That will leave me in the position of not being able to post TWDBWJ recipes if I don’t use the genoise version in the book. Hmmm….a question to pose to the Admins. At this rate, I’ll never host. Oh well…

        AND…my computer is not available right now…so, I’m using the computer in the library….shhh, all quiet please….lol!

        ~Carmen

    • Hi Carmen,
      if it makes you feel any better, I made a double batch twice! actually, heating the eggs like I normally do made the “short cake with the door mat on the bottom” problem even worse. I usually use AP flour when baking at 5000 ft altitude, and add less melted butter. This batter seemed so delicate and collapsed easily; you might succeed without the butter, but of course the cake would be even drier and need more soaking syrup. I’m going to have to use one of my tried and true recipes if we need a genoise again. I would think that would be okay, since we both gave it the old college try, twice!

    • you can still post the TWD recipes if you dont use the genoise recipe. there have been all sorts of things that we have changed parts of or used outside recipes to aid us along… for the whtie bread loaf, i certainly didnt follow the directions to mix the bread the way it said and i got a much better rise out of it since i used methods that i would use for all my other bread baking… i cant see why you couldnt use a different genoise recipe… there is another one in the book where you heat the eggs and sugar – maybe give that a shot? :)

  4. I had no problems with the cake; it turned out fine. I would, however, recommend increasing the amount of the whipped filling/frosting. There was barely enough to fill and frost the cake with none leftover to pipe.

  5. I baked the cake today and put it into the freezer (not serving the cake until 6/18) I didn’t think it was very difficult. Standing with the hand mixer until the eggs were whipped enough was the most time consuming part. I didn’t notice the directions to level the batter and put it up a little on the sides…so my cake is a bit domed. I don’t think that’s a fatal flaw, though. Thanks for the tip to slice it frozen. I’ve never sliced a cake into layers before, so I hope they turn out (relatively) even.

    Strawberry season is long since past (in Florida we have peak strawberry season in february) so I’m planning on using frozen berries in the filling. I picked them during the season. Does anyone think that will be a problem?

  6. Nick Malgieri gives great instructions for splitting cake layers in “The Modern Baker”. I’ve watched him do it, and it works really well. Basically, you cut into the cake a little bit and rotate the cake around the knife, cutting a bit more as you work your way around.

    Here’s how Nick explains it:

    “Use a sharp, serrated knife. Hold the knife parallel to the work surface and cut a line just 1/2 inch (1 1/4 cm) deep into the side of the cake all around where you would like to cut through, rotating the cake against the knife. When you reach the starting point of the cut, continue rotating the cake against the knife, sawing with the blade, and pressing the cake more firmly against the knife. By the time you reach the center, the layer will be sliced.”

    This method works great, and because you cut around the whole way to begin with, you end up with a nice, even cut (not like the lopsided ones I used to make).

  7. The key to a successful genoise is to not overmix/over-fold the batter once you add the flour to the eggs. I find that a large balloon whisk does the trick. Also, the eggs have to be properly beaten.

  8. Genoise I’ve made in the past tend to be too dry and I was worried that this one might be as well. Glad to say I was wrong. Loved this cake! My favorite BWJ recipe thus far. Brought it to a family bbq and it was devoured. I like this cake rustic so I didn’t frost the sides at all. That way you could see the inside without slicing in to it.

    I used my favorite whipped cream recipe from Cook’s Illustrated’s Strawberry Cream Cake. Whip 8 oz of room temp cream cheese with about 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 tsp vanilla extract and a pinch of salt. Then add 2 cups cold heavy cream and whip until stiff peaks. The cream cheese gives the whipped cream some extra structure and a really delicious tang.

  9. My cake ended up doughy at the bottom. I don’t think I folded in the flour and butter mixture thoroughly enough and it sunk to the bottom. The cake however was pretty tasty and beautiful to look at. I piped my frosting using a pastry tip into a baggie and it worked fine. BTW, in Cookwise by Shirley Corriher she reccommends heating the eggs slightly, also a much longer beating time to stabilize the foam. I think I will just go with the recipe as written just to prove to myself that I can do it!

    • Hi Amy, my students used to get tough doughy genoise bottoms if they didn’t sift the flour over the beaten egg-sugar mixture for the folding step. the flour would clump together and fall to the bottom of the bowl and then it was very hard to get it to fold in. they would end up over folding and lose most of the air from the batter. do you think this is what happened? also, if you don’t mind dirtying another dish, it can help to transfer the egg foam to a wide shallow bowl before adding the flour. it’s hard to get to the bottom of a narrow bowl, and flour seems to get caught on that little bump in the center of the KA mixer bowls. hope this helps. p.s. this is a tricky recipe, I deflated my batter quite a bit when I folded in the butter; it’s probably pretty dense.

      • I had a similar result as Amy with a doughy bottom to my genoise. It also didn’t rise very well. I think next time I will make sure my eggs are totally room temperature, whip the eggs longer and at a higher speed to get the “ribbon” stage, and take your advice Piebird and sift the flour over the beaten egg-sugar mixture for folding.

        I am also wondering what temperature the butter should be when added at that critical step? I thought it was supposed to be slightly warm but should it be cooled instead? I watched the Julia video and it said “slightly warmer than body temperature.” I’ve read different opinions online.

      • I also sifted the flour directly over the bowl of eggs/sugar, just like I did when making an angel food cake recently. That seemed to help, I think. As well as just folding the batter a few extra times to find the hidden flour clumps.

  10. What is it actually supposed to look like when you get it out of the oven? I am not sure if mine is right or wrong! It isn’t very tall, that is certain. Getting three layers will be tricky… The middle sunk down quite a bit from the parts I pulled up the sides of the pan as the recipe indicated. I actually made two today as I wasn’t sure if the first was right and I am still not sure! Using a whisk with the flour is a good idea… Is mine wrong since it fell a bit in the middle? The whole thing was WAY taller when I put it in the oven, then throughout the baking process it falls in the center… Help! I am baking this for my daughter’s birthday tomorrow and though she won’t care if it isn’t right, I am trying to do my best!

    • Hi Sharron, are you baking at altitude? sounds like the cake was over leavened. if the eggs are beaten to the point of containing maximum air, then the bubbles can’t expand much in the oven so the cake rises during baking as desired. instead the bubbles pop and the cake falls, one of the major hazards of baking cakes at altitude. I noticed this seemed like a pretty fragile cake when I made it. hope this provides a clue.

      • I’m at sea level… That does sound like what happened though. Maybe the problem is that I have extra-large eggs, so I am getting more egg than I need? I guess I technically have about 2 tablespoons too much egg… Maybe I will try again with reducing the amount of egg by 2 tablespoons. It also took me MUCH longer than 4-5 minutes to get the eggs beaten to the point described in the recipe, but if I had only done 4-5 min it would have been soupy and not at all what you theoretically need. I appreciate your help! I want to master this!

    • you’re right to suspect the extra large eggs I think. you can also beat the egg-sugar mixture at a higher speed. I usually use the highest or second highest KA speed for recipes like these. good luck if you try it again.

  11. I really did not have a problem with baking the genoise. I used the whipping attachment on my KitchenAid and did not over beat it. It turned out well and the entire cake was delicious. I would do it again and served it at a dinner party.

  12. Oh oh CONVERSION PROBLEMS.

    I’m trying to figure out how much 2 pints of strawberries are.

    Is this correct that 1 pint = 2 cups

    I was ready to start and am already stuck

    THANK YOU

    • Strawberry Measures, Equivalents, and Substitutions
      • 1-1/2 pounds = 2 pints or 1 quart
      • 1 pint fresh strawberries = 1-1/2 to 2 cups sliced
      • 1 pint = 12 large strawberries
      • 1 pint = 24 medium strawberries
      • 1 pint = 36 small strawberries
      • 1 pint = 2-1/2 cups whole small strawberries
      • 1 pint = 1-1/4 cups pureed

      Info from about.com

      • Cathleen, thank you so much,
        that was so cute of you and so detailled.
        I’ve really appreciated it.
        Thanks

  13. I’ve been google-ing and found out the Genoise is made using a “bain marie” or flame but Julia is not heating the batter…
    Is this a “fake” Genoise, then?

  14. Aaaargh! My genoise fell after it came out of the oven to a meager 3/4″. No way I’m getting 3 pieces out of it. I’ll be lucky to get 2. I’m thinking about trying again (after all, isn’t that why we bake ahead of time?), but I might just use it as is.

    I knew when I was folding it that I had overmixed the batter. But there were lots of clumps of flour at the bottom of the bowl, so it seemed like it needed to be mixed more. The other issue I had was that I ended up adding my flour 1/3, then 2/3, instead of 1/3, 1/3, 1/3. Stupid waxed paper was just too slick!

  15. FOR THOSE WHO DID NOT HAVE 10-SEC RIBBONS:

    I started with cold eggs and after 10-15 minutes the ribbons still disappeared instantly. Then I poured hot water in a large bowl and put my smaller bowl in it and continued whisking it. It turned out perfectly. I guess there is really something in the previous comments that you need to have lukewarm eggs. :))))

  16. I have a general question: should hosts for the week post the recipe on monday instead of tuesday? so that people in time zones ahead of the hosts can link back to them?

  17. I enjoyed making this recipe and would do it again. I did search the internet to see if there was a video. I was not too sure what the genoise should look like. I didn’t find a photo or video, so like a good cooking soldier, I marched on. Mine turned out really nice. The genoise was about 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 inches high. The berries were sweet enough (Had to purchase Driscoll since ours were out of season) and the whipped cream was yummy. I agree with another blogger, there needed to be more cream. I barley covered the cake and did not have enough for the flowers around the top.

  18. My genoise came out great! I used a 7″ pan with a removable bottom, it was ideal! I had a 2 1/4 inch cake which divided into layers great! I would not use anything but this pan for making this in the future. My center caved a tad, but I think I built up the edges a bt too much. I also used mxed berries, blackberres, raspberries and strawberries. We used the leftover juice over vanilla ice cream… Oh my, it was incredible! We Loved this cake.

  19. I didn’t think I was going to get to this one, but at the last minute decided to give it a try. I think my cake turned out great, although I only dared slice it into two layers (and then cut my finger–sigh). But I just made one of the prettiest cakes I’ve ever made with it with raspberries instead of strawberries (that’s what I had–frozen ones). And I might have added just a little chocolate to mine. Those who know me should not be surprised. Can’t wait to slice it and see how it looks (and tastes)!
    Katrina @Baking and Boys!

  20. Finally, success! I baked the genoise cake and cut it in half….cake texture was correct! YaY! Now to decorate it…

    I think my prior issue was in adding the flour in thirds. This time, I sifted it in small amounts in the batter, folding it as I sprinkled it. Also, I transferred the batter to a huge bowl before incorporating the flour.

    A shoutout to Bakeaway with Me…reading her post made me try it again…

    Third time is a charm… :)

    Carmen

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