January's grey skies were just asking for something vibrant to lift our spirits. I found a recipe for a Genoese sponge with fresh fruit. I had never made one of these cakes before, it is quite stunning experience. The eggs and sugar are beaten for 10 minutes over a pot of boiling water (bain-marie) until thick and tripled in volume. Beautiful, airy and light. A Genoese is a firm sponge, it relies completely on the air provided through mixing to give the cake rise as there are no other raising agents used. Slightly drier than a regular sponge it is traditionally used in tiramisu and can be soaked with syrups or alcohol. It can be topped with fruit and whipped cream, sandwiched together with buttercream or baked in a swiss roll tin to make sponge fingers for a trifle. Easy, extremely satisfying to make and it gives a pop of colour and delight to the coldest days of winter.
Recipe (by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall)
60g unsalted butter
125g plain flour
4 medium eggs
125g castor sugar
Pinch of sea salt
200ml whipping cream
250-300g strawberries or raspberries
Preheat oven to 180C. Grease two 18cm or one 22cm cake tins with butter and dust generously with flour. Line the bases with baking paper. Melt the butter and set aside to cool. Sift flour and salt together and set aside. Put eggs and sugar in a large heatproof bowl that will sit snugly over a saucepan of boiling water. The water must not touch the bowl, the steam will warm and help thicken the mixture. Beat the eggs and sugar for about 10 minutes until very pale and at least tripled in volume. The mixture should form thick ribbons on the surface. Sift half the flour and salt into the egg mixture and fold in very gently with a metal spoon, repeat with the remaining flour. Carefully pour in the butter and fold in until just incorporated. Pour the mixture into the tin or divide between the two tins and bake in the middle of the oven for about 20-25 minutes until golden and firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin until the cake pulls away from the sides, you may need to run a knife around the edges to help it along. Turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
Top with whipped cream and fresh fruit.