Genoise (French Butter Spongecake), with variations

Lemon Pound Cake

Lemon Pound Cake

by Cat, May 2012 (Photo, right, from Tish Boyle’s blog (1); be sure to try her recipe for Lemon Pound Cake with Wild Blueberry Sauce (or with Montana Huckleberry Sauce) (1))

Includes: 1. Gênoise: French Butter Spongecake; 2. Lemon or Orange Variation; 3. Chocolate Variation

See also: 1. Aerating Eggs & Sugar, such as for egg-leavened cakes2. Cakes & Torte’s Menu

I first learned about this wonderful cake on my 26th birthday, when I was given Paula Peck’s book (2) by a friend who knew how much I enjoyed cooking and baking ‘the real deal’. Gênoise was the first recipe I tried. It is still one of my favorites, tho I don’t make it much anymore, since I’m avoiding sugar and white flour. When I want shortcake, this is what I make, then use lots of unsweetened whipped cream on the dessert (the cream helps slow the absorption of sugars).


This recipe is from The Art of Fine Baking, by Paula Peck (2). Paula provides two methods for mixing the batter: one for using a stand mixer; and the other for mixing by hand. Because I only recently got a stand mixer, I followed the hand-mixing method, which requires less work than if you were to follow the mixer method but using a hand-whisk. I present both methods here; they both use the same ingredients.

NEVER use any fat other than butter for this recipe. No margarine, shortening or ‘spread.’ And don’t try to skimp on the butter – it just won’t be the same. This recipe calls for Clarified butter, which is pure fat from which all the milk solids and water have been removed. See my recipe for Ghee (Clarified butter) for details.

If using an electric mixer, or if beating by hand, the methods are different and require different equipment. See Intro, above, for more detail on the equipment. Both mixing methods are given here.

If beating by hand, you need 2 bowls: one to beat the whites and the other to beat the eggs.

Depending on what you plan to make with your gênoise, you will use different pans as listed below under equipment.

There are many ways you can vary the flavor of your gênoise, but my favorite is lemon. See “Variations” below the recipe.

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • 6 large eggs, warmed to room temperature (in the shell)
  • 1 cup sugar (or ⅔ cup sugar, ⅓ cup sweet dairy whey)
  • 1 cup sifted Organic unbleached white flour
  • ½ cup sweet butter, melted and clarified; or ghee (see Ghee (Clarified butter))
  • 1 tsp vanilla


  • bain marie (see intro) and simmer plate, OR 2 bowls
  • electric mixer (hand or stand fitted with whisk) OR rotary hand mixer/egg whisk
  • baking pans; choose from the following:
    • two 9” layer-cake pans OR
    • three 7-inch layer-cake pans OR
    • one 11” x16” jelly-roll pan OR
    • two shallow 10” layer-cake pans

Method using mixer:

  1. Clarify butter and allow to cool slightly. or lightly warm it if made previously.
  2. Preheat oven at 350°F. Grease and lightly flour selected baking pans.
  3. Crack eggs into top of bain-marie (see Intro, above), and add sugar. Stir just until combined. Set bain-marie on stove burner; use lowest heat setting and a simmer plate. Warm for 5 – 10 minutes, until eggs are lukewarm. Lightly stir the egg/sugar mix 3 – 4 times to prevent from cooking at bottom of bowl. When mixture is lukewarm to your finger, and is a bright yellow syrup, remove from heat.
  4. Begin beating egg mixture with electric mixer at high speed for 10-15 minutes (or transfer mixture to bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk), until mixture becomes light, fluffy and cool. Scrape sides of bowl with a rubber/silicon spatula as needed. Eggs will nearly triple in bulk and resemble whipped cream. This is essential for a light genoise. [Beating by hand with rotary beater will take about 25 minutes, so consider using the alternate method, below].
  5. Sprinkle flour, a little at a time, on top of the whipped eggs, folding in gently with bare hand or spatula (or electric mixer on lowest speed), and adding slightly cooled, clarified butter and vanilla. Do not over-mix.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake in preheated oven 25 – 30 minutes, or until cakes pull away from sides of pans and are golden brown and springy when touched lightly on top. Remove from pans immediately, and cool on cake rack.

Method for hand-mixing:

  1. Prepare butter, preheat oven and prepare pans as in steps 1 – 2 above.
  2. Separate eggs into yolks and whites in separate bowls. Add vanilla to yolks and set aside.
  3. Beat whites until they hold soft peaks. Beat in sugar, 1 Tbsp at a time, beating well after each addition. Continue to beat until mixture is very stiff, about 5 minutes.
  4. Fold about ¼ of egg whites into yolks; pour over remaining beaten whites. Sprinkle flour lightly on top and fold gently together, adding cooled clarified butter at the same time. Fold only until flour and butter disappear into batter.
  5. Pour into prepared pans and bake as above.


Lemon or Orange Gênoise: Add 1 tsp grated orange or lemon zest plus 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed orange or lemon juice, to the clarified butter before folding into cake batter.

Chocolate Gênoise: Substitute ½ cup dark unsweetened Dutch cocoa for ½ cup of flour. Sift cocoa and flour together once before folding into batter. I like to sift a bit at a time over the batter, then fold in.


  1. Tish Boyle’s Blog, recipe for lemon pound cake with wild blueberry sauce (
  2. The Art of Fine Baking, by Paula Peck (see Beloved Cookbooks)

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