I posted a while back about my first attempt at black forest cake. I was reasonably happy with how it had turned out, but I knew what I would do differently if I made it again. This opportunity came in the form of my very first customer, who, having seen photos of the first cake, wanted me to make one for them.
I wanted to go for a lighter cake this time as the first one was quite dense. I decided to challenge myself and try making a chocolate sponge. For the record, I suck at sponge cakes. They are notoriously difficult for the home baker so I am definitely not alone in this boat. I spent a good amount of time researching recipes and techniques online, and eventually settled for the promising-sounding Moist Chocolate Genoise from Rose Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible.
Genoise (pronunciation) is a very light, dry, and slightly elastic Italian sponge cake. It differs slightly from other sponges in that it contains no chemical leavening, so it relies entirely on air being incorporated into the mixture to rise properly. Other sponges may also use egg whites and yolks separately, whereas a genoise uses the whole egg, often heated with sugar in a bain-marie.
I was rather disheartened when my first pair of genoises came out looking like shriveled cookies. I had sifted the flour 3 times, followed the instructions perfectly, and folded the batter as gently as possible…WHY?! Why was my cake not airy and light like it was supposed to be? But failure was not an option with an expectant customer, so I reluctantly started again.
It went much faster and smoother the second time, and I began to get a feel for how the batter behaves. The second pair of cakes came out so damned perfect I was shocked. They rose all the way to the tops of the pans with a smooth, flat outer crust. It was one of my proudest baking moments. Unfortunately I didn’t have a camera on hand, but I measured them each at just under 5cm tall once cooled (it is normal for genoise to sink slightly whilst cooling).
In my previous black forest I had layered it with a thick cherry filling made by cooking sour cherries with sugar and cornflour. I did the same thing but only used it in the middle layer and on top of the cake. For the other two layers I left the cherries whole and uncooked for a fresher flavour. The sponge cake lived up to its name and was quite moist for a genoise, but I still brushed the cake layers with some kirsh syrup to prevent it being too dry.
I spotted some uncharacteristically nice-looking fresh cherries at the supermarket whilst shopping for ingredients and couldn’t resist buying some. Usually you will only see cherries available in Australia for a limited time during summer for abut $20/kg, so this was an unexpected bonus. Forgive the pun, but I think they were the cherry on the cake so to speak, and I’m glad I bought them. They tasted really delicious.
Once the cake was filled and assembled, it was ridiculously, almost laughably tall. You can just imagine how large each slice was. It was quite an impressive sight though I must admit, and the customer was extremely happy with it. They thought it tasted great too which is the most important thing of all.
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