Orange Whisky Genoise

When Rose came to stay, I confessed to her that I’d never dared to make a genoise. I could swear that her eyes lit up with delight as she whipped out some Wondra.

“I’ll show you how,” she said. “It’s easy.”

rose genoise

The lemon genoise that Rose made that day in my kitchen was one of the most perfectly moist and tender cakes that I have ever tasted. It floated softly like a cloud before melting on my tongue into waves of syrupy lemon sea. And although the recipe as a whole had seemed dauntingly complicated, Rose’s patient explanation of each step showed me that I really had nothing to fear from such an infamous undertaking.

I waited awhile before making a genoise entirely on my own, however. Although each step in itself now seemed to be quite manageable, my three little kitchen helpers added an extra layer of complexity that I wasn’t sure would be entirely beneficial to the proceedings. Finally, one morning last week when only my two-year-old T was with me at home, I plucked up the courage.

I was spurred on partly by the packet of Carr’s Sauce Flour that was sitting in my flour cupboard. I was curious to discover whether or not it would perform similarly to Wondra flour, a product that is unavailable in the UK.

Rose introduced Wondra to the genoise-making public in her presentation on flour to the Experimental Cuisine Collective at New York University in 2008 (see the third and fourth parts). Marketed as a ‘quick mix wonder’ for thickening sauces and gravies, Wondra is manufactured by a process called agglomeration. This involves hydrating or wetting the flour to form clusters among the particles. These large, agglomerated clusters are then spray-dried to produce uniform particles that flow freely, like salt or sugar. The resulting ‘instantized’ flour dipserses easily and quickly in water. This is because the larger particles are able to overcome the natural surface tension of water better than the finer particles of non-instantized flour (which is also why regular flour tends to forms lumps that are wet on the outside but remain dry on the inside when added to water).

Rose found that this enhanced dispersibility of Wondra was particularly useful when used in a genoise – the flour particles mixed easily and quickly with the batter, which helped to avoid overstirring and deflation of the whisked eggs.

As I said earlier, we can’t get Wondra in the UK. We can get a flour that is similarly marketed as being ‘thickeningly easy’ in sauce and gravy-making, however – Carr’s Sauce flour.

It’s not quite the same. It isn’t bleached, for a start. Or agglomerated (unless they’re just not admitting to that bit). Apparently, it’s made from “wheats that by nature do not form glutinous lumps with the addition of liquids.”

It doesn’t really look the same as Wondra, either. It doesn’t flow freely but behaves like regular flour in the packet and on the spoon. It’s also whiter.

sauce flours

It does disperse easily in water, however … and also in genoise cake batters.

I’m a shockingly inexperienced genoise-baker, but I can certainly confirm that the texture and taste of the orange whisky genoise I made last week with Carr’s Sauce flour were at least as good as I remember them being when Rose made her genoise with Wondra flour. If my own cake didn’t rise quite so high as it should have done, it was purely because about a third of the batter ended up all over T, my little kitchen helper!

I have some Wondra left over from Rose’s visit, so perhaps I will attempt a direct comparison one day soon. For now, I’m happy in the knowledge that I can ‘face my fear and do it anyway’ ;-) .

orange whisky genoise

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6 Comments

  1. Jeannette

     /  July 11, 2009

    To be perfectly honest I don’t think I’ve made Genoise either, Kate! So that makes two of us! I have made fatless sponges, similar I think. I love your Avery scales in the background, we had one exactly the same in my dad’s shop, I could have had it when he retired, wished I had now. Do you have to get it serviced from time to time? I have weighed out so many sweets on those scales, our shop was across the road from the school so we had queues of schoolchildren many times a day asking for 2 ozs of their favourite sweeties, all to be weighed on that scale, actually we had two of them, it was a very busy sweetshop. Those were the days!

    Reply
  2. Susan

     /  July 12, 2009

    Your genoise looks wonderful! I attempted my first genoise last week and it was the most terrible attempt at a cake I’ve ever made! I swear, it clung to the sides of the pan, sunk around the inner circle and humped in an uneven amoeba shape in the center. Gah! I could have used it as a patch for a hole in a tent or a frisbee! It was so tough and rubbery! I watched dozens of videos on youtube and wrote copious notes, got all my ingredients ready before I started..all to no avail! But..I won’t be put off by a mere cake. Other people do it, so, so can I. I know I can!

    Now, about your recipe, uh..where do I find it? I’m in California and we have Wondra in just about every store here! Is there anything other than the Wondra that’s different about the basic genoise you (or Rose) use?

    Reply
  3. I adore those scales, Jeannette – they were a gift from a very good friend, and I’ve treasured them ever since. I didn’t know they could be serviced, though! I found a little hole on one side where you can put your hand in and twizzle something to set the pointer to zero … which seems to work well enough! I use them for everything I make (which is why my recipes are always in pounds and ounces).

    Hi Susan – do give Rose’s recipe a try. You can watch her demonstrating how she makes a genoise and find her recipe here on her blog (if you use Wondra, you should substitute this by weight for the cake flour and cornstarch components of the recipe). For the orange/whisky part, I used 4oz of orange juice and a shot of whisky instead of water/liqueur in the syrup.
    I hope that helps :-)

    Reply
  4. Susan

     /  July 12, 2009

    Thank you, Kate. I’ll study her recipe and video (probably several times!) before I give genoise another go. I love the idea of using that skimmer to fold the batter. I had used a standard home spatula and it’s surface is less than half of the skimmer. I folded the flour forever it seemed. Not good, I know.

    I watched the entire talk Rose gave about flour while demo’ing the angel cake. How interesting! I’m a home baker, so I just do what the recipes instruct. I think if I delved too far into it, it would probably paralyze me with “what ifs”..as in “what if this flour has picked up too much moisture, or odors, or too high gluten or is too old or rancid..and on and on! We call that TMI..too much information here! It can be dangerous to we lay-people!

    Reply
  5. Mmm the genoise looks excellent! I’ve never heard of that flour before… very, very interesting.

    Reply
  6. Rose in your kitchen! I’m so jealous! :)

    Reply

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