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Monday 2 August 2010

Cooking Fears: Genoise Cake and Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Life is too short to wear cheap shoes. It's also too short to drink cheap wine, but most people already know and agree on that. I have a feeling though that you might not be with me on the shoes, so allow me to explain my thinking. Please.

I always flinch when I see the cost of footwear in shops. But when you consider how long you'll wear a good pair of boots for, and how frequently, the cost per wear falls quickly. I bought some brown leather ones in New York a few years ago, and messed up the exchange rate (read: I was schmoozed into buying them by the very friendly shop assistant, and didn't bother to work it out). It was only when my Mastercard bill came the following month that I realised my error, and told myself that I was going to have to wear them at least three times a week over the next three years to make them cost effective. Fortunately, they combine impeccable style with unbelievable comfort and I have not once regretted the purchase. Unlike my cheap sandals from Muji which gave me a blister that took a month and a half to heal. Vile.

One strawberry, or many? It's a tough decision to make.

They have met with the fate of untold numbers of well-heeled Cardiffians' shoes though: worn down soles. It's all this traipsing around on Victorian paving slabs.

Anyway, I thought they were ready for the bin, and was distraught. I'm not in a position, financially speaking, to be chucking money around at the moment. New shoes would mean reverting to my lentils and rice diet, and I had enough of that last month. So I had them re-heeled, which was a first for me. And readers: it should be a first for you too. I have new old shoes, and at a bargain price.

Rewarding first time experiences are great. Like making genoise cake, and Swiss meringue buttercream. I had put it off long enough. I would no longer be slave to my fears. Just because I don't have a Kitchen Aid, does it mean I can't make these things? They both pre-date the stand mixer after all.

Genoise. Nude. Shock!

Rose Levy Beranbaum helped me out on this one. I can't tell you enough that you should buy her book. Buy it. Buy it. Buy it. It'll change the way you bake forever. And it's really cheap on Amazon right now.

Proof that I did this without a stand mixer. What are you waiting for?

Life is too short not to make genoise cakes and Swiss meringue butter cream. Get on it.

Genoise Cake
(from Rose's Heavenly Cakes

You will need:

50g melted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 large eggs at room temperature
125g caster sugar
66g plain flour
60g cornflour or potato starch

Optional jasmine syrup:

60g sugar
60ml water
1 tsp jasmine extract

  1. Grease and line a 24cm cake tin. Flour the sides too. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Warm the butter: if it contains lots of residue (using unsalted will limit this), pass it through a strainer. Add the vanilla, and pour into a small bowl.
  3. Bring a sauce pan of water to a simmer and place a heatproof bowl over it. To the bowl, add the eggs and sugar; stir until just warm to the touch.
  4. Remove the bowl from the heat, and beat the egg mixture with electric hand beaters on high speed for at least 5 minutes until it has more than quadrupled in volume.
  5. Sift together the flour and cornflour. Remove a little of the egg mixture and whisk it into the bowl with the melted butter and vanilla and set aside.
  6. Working quickly, fold in half of the flour mixture into the egg mixture and once it is incorporated, fold in the rest.
  7. Scrape down the bowl to insure all the flour has been incorporated and then fold in the butter mixture. Immediately pour into the prepared cake tin.
  8. Bake for 20-30 minutes until the top is golden brown and the sides begin to slightly pull away from the pan.
  9. Make the syrup: heat the sugar and water in the microwave until dissolved; add the extract.
  10. Once out of the oven, turn out the cake onto a wire rack immediately. Cool completely before brushing with the syrup, and icing with strawberry meringue buttercream.

Strawberry Meringue Buttercream
from (Martha Stewart's Cupcakes)

2 large egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
175g butter, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla
100g strawberries

  1. Purée the strawberries. Set aside.
  2. Place the egg whites and sugar in a heatproof bowl over simmering water. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture feels warm to the touch. Remove from the heat.
  3. Beat the egg whites and sugar for 10 minutes until stiff peaks form.
  4. Add the butter a little at a time and beat in.
  5. Beat two minutes more, and then add the purée. Mix in and use immediately, or keep in the fridge for up to three days.


  1. Mmmmmmm, this looks SO yummy (and cute!) I have tried making strawberry buttercream before and totally failed on a couple of occasions because I could never get it to come to gether without breaking...I will have to try your recipe as it looks perfect! The jasmine syrup also sounds like a great addition!

  2. I love Rose's Heavenly Cakes, its has the best Cream cheese frosting EVER. That cake looks beyond amazing. If I could live in cake form, this would be it. One giant display of strawberry-frosted goodness.

  3. Thank you for helping me justify my expensive shoe habit! And that cake looks lovely. I, too, lack a stand mixer, and am reluctant to try impressive cakes like that. Yours turned out beautifully though :)

  4. I just brought some amazing looking strawberries home from the store. I think I'll give this a try. This will be my first genoise cake, too.

  5. Oh that butter cream sounds divine!!!

    And a shoe habit is nothing to get all in a tizzy about. :) We should all have a good healthy habit like that! I started getting shoes re-heeled about 2 years ago now, and I think my world realigned. "new" old shoes are still the same comfort that you always enjoy! I hate feeling like I need to spend new money on shoes that I am not even sure will be comfortable.

  6. I don't think I would have been able to tell you don't have a stand mixer, it looks fabulous! And I think I'll have to go take a look at that book :)

  7. LOL on your shoe tale, glad you worked it out. THis looks so so good

  8. Swiss meringue butter cream! Yes please!

  9. Looking just lovely! Your strawberry buttercream looks delightful!

  10. Mr P, this looks incredible... i will make it next weekend..Oh no I can't... i'll be in New York buying shoes!

  11. I don't have a stand mixer either and I've always been afraid of recipes that require beating. Maybe it was just an excuse I made for myself but your post was helpful and encouraging.

  12. Thats genoise looks absolutely great and the strawberry looks delicious!!

  13. Did you use a hand mixer? AND/Or did really whip that butter cream by hand? \ 0 / BRAVO!

    and Rose's book is the best! :)

  14. that strawberry buttercream looks amazing! I would love to taste that cake!

  15. Your cake looks absolutely scrumptious. The buttercream looks dreamy and I am drooling over the pics. Great post!

  16. I keep coming across this way of making frosting, but still haven't tried it. Your strawberry version might just make me do it - it looks fab, as does the cake of course.

  17. Love your blog! I posted you as my fave blog of the week! Keep 'em comin!

  18. I DESPISE the fact that I can't make genoise. And brioche for that matter. It actually makes me want to rip my hair out.

    This looks amazing... and light.

    That's why I want to rip my hair out.


That's what he said.

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