‘I like that there are so many things you can make even if you don’t have many ingredients. If you just have flour and sugar and eggs and maybe butter and milk, you can still make anything, like pastry or biscuits or bread or custard or pudding or icecream or cakes. And I like that everyone has their own way to cook. Even if two people follow the same recipe, what they make will taste a bit different. I like when I find an ingredient that I’ve never used before. I like that some people find cooking really hard, but I can do it. And I like it when people eat something I have made and they think it tastes nice. That makes me feel good about myself.’ - Extract from Honeybee by Craig Silvey
Place in front of your honoured guests, and declare: ‘Here is a French cake, all dressed up and ready to go dancing!’
Never is Sam’s philosophy more appropriate than a Genoise cake. It boasts just four ingredients, and with no leavening agent, it relies purely on technique (and the whims of the Baking Gods) to rise.
It’s a cake that requires skill and poise, which is why it was the perfect dessert for Sam to prepare when tasked with using only the ingredients from Diane’s cupboard. I’m aware that Sam doesn’t use butter in the book, however, in this case, butter is better.
Now, I’m not going to lie to you, a Genoise sponge is a pain in the arse to make and not always successful. Naturally, since we’re following Sam’s lead, we’ll be using Julia Child’s recipe and method, which is a little more laborious and risky than some. However, we may as well adopt Julia’s gung-ho optimism and cheerfully laugh it off should we end up with what amounts to a crispy discus.
Also, be forewarned and forearmed: this recipe requires a lot of whisking. Here’s what you’ll need.
For the Genoise sponge:
Diane’s Pantry Genoise Spongecake
5 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup of sugar
1 ½ cups of plain flour
For the pineapple curd:
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup pineapple juice (from tin)
1/3 cup sugar
4 tbspns butter
For the caramelised pineapple:
Pineapple chunks (tinned)
2 tbspns sugar
1 tbpsn butter
Right. Let’s get on with it.
Preheat your oven to 170. Grease your cake tin, or line it with baking paper if you’re the nervous type.
Combine sugar and eggs into a large metal bowl. Place the bowl over a bain marie, which, for the uninitiated, is essentially a pot of barely simmering water. Then whisk the eggs and sugar, but don’t go too crazy. Conserve your energy, because technology is going to do the heavy lifting. The goal at this stage is to melt the sugar. So, after about five minutes, probe a ‘clean, washed, healthy finger’ into your egg, and if it’s warm to the touch, and the mix is a bit foamy and about double in size, your work is done.
Bosh your goop into a stand mixer, or get yourself an electric egg beater if you live in 1987. Beat on a medium setting for around five to seven minutes, or until the mix resembles the froth on a pint of Guinness.
Now it’s time to get delicate. Sift in about a quarter of your flour, and carefully fold the fluff until it’s incorporated. Then, drizzle in some of your warm melted butter and do the same. Alternate until all your flour and butter is mixed, transfer the batter into your cake tin, put it in your hot box, and cook for 30-35 minutes.
In the meantime, let’s make some curd.
We’re back to the bain marie. It’s super easy. In a heatproof bowl, combine your eggs, pineapple juice and sugar, and whisk over your barely simmering water until your mix is thick and creamy. It should take around ten minutes. It will be boring, so put your favourite record on before you commit.
It’s very likely that you’ll have some coagulated bits in your curd. If you can be bothered, strain through a sieve. Once you’ve wasted time and dishes doing that, now’s the time to stir in your butter. Done? Brilliant. Bang that in the fridge to chill.
Next, you want to caramelise your pineapple chunks. Just fry the chunks in some butter and sugar at low-medium heat until golden brown. At this point Julia Child would probably dose the pan with a liberal splash of rum or Kirsch and flambe them, so feel free to do that - but if you’re a Honeybee puritan, keep your booze on the shelf.
Once your chunks are caramelized, set them aside.
When your cake is cooked, removed it from the tin and let it cool. Nothing has ever been gained by attempting to laterally dissect a hot sponge, so be patient. Go drink some of that Kirsch, you’ve earned it.
Cake cooled? Good. Let’s do this. Run a serrated knife across your sponge so you’re left with a top and bottom layer. Liberally smear the curd across your bottom, then evenly disperse your caramelised chunks - and yes, I’m aware of how filthy that sounds. Carefully reinstate your top layer, dust liberally with icing sugar, et voila!
Place in front of your honoured guests, and declare: ‘Here is a French cake, all dressed up and ready to go dancing!’ Serve, eat, and most importantly, feel good about yourself. Buon appetit!
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