all-access pass

Get unlimited access to every class

Culinary Arts

Chef Dominique Ansel’s Biscuit Recipe (Spongecake or Italian Genoise)

Written by MasterClass

Feb 8, 2019 • 4 min read

The delicate (and gluten-free!) French spongecake called “biscuit” is the foundation of Chef Dominique Ansel’s whimsical chocolate cake recipe, which incorporates thin layers of silky smooth chocolate mousse, all enrobed in a slate-black chocolate mirror glaze. This cake is full of different textures; it’s intricate and very delicate. It’s just the type of cake that Chef Dominique grew up with and now wants to share with you.

Close

What Is Biscuit?

Biscuit (pronounced “bis-KWEE”) is the French word for “cake.” It is easier to prepare than American cakes, as it uses fewer ingredients, and is baked in a sheet pan in one large layer, as opposed to two or three separate round pans. And because of this large canvas, the cake can then be cut into virtually any shape for building your cakes. Biscuit has other names, including spongecake and Italian genoise.

Chef Dominique Ansel’s Tips for Baking Biscuit

  • The egg whites must be beaten in a well-cleaned and well-dried bowl to prevent any grease or water from impeding the white’s ability to incorporate air and become light and fluffy. This is very important since the egg whites will be the sole ingredient to provide lift to the batter and, thus, lightness to the cake.
  • This cake is a French style that eschews chemical leaveners like baking powder and soda for the mechanical lift of air trapped in the protein of the beaten egg whites. When you add sugar to these beaten egg whites, the proteins in the whites become stabilized—and sweetened, of course—forming a smooth ingredient that can be efficiently folded into batter.
  • This cake is known as a biscuit, which is a cake that’s thin and a bit dry in texture, so you’ll have to add moisture by either soaking it with a rum syrup soak and/or layering it with mousse to make Chef Dominique Ansel’s chocolate layered cake.
  • Once the cake is cooled and unmolded, make sure to cut the cake from the inside of the ring mold, so that the cake will fit evenly inside it once you’re ready to assemble the finished dessert.
  • Don’t forget to save the scraps! You can toast them in the oven and crumble them over ice cream.

Recipe: Chef Dominique Ansel’s Spongecake Recipe

Ingredient Checklist

Total 45 min | Serves 1 kg (enough for a 2-layer 8-inch round cake)

  • 11 whole eggs, separated into yolks (226g) and whites (319g)
  • 176g (3⁄4 cup, plus 2 tbsp) granulated sugar
  • 176g (3⁄4 cup, plus 2 tbsp) granulated sugar
  • 102g (3⁄4 cup, plus 2 tbsp) unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

Tip: A large egg is generally about 60 g in weight: the white is 30g, yolk is 20g, and shell is 10g. It’s always helpful to remember when a recipe calls for eggs in grams.

Equipment

  • Stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment Spatula
  • Offset spatula
  • 2 sheet pans
  • Parchment or 2 silicone mats
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • 8-inch cake ring

1) Make egg mixture

  • Preheat your oven to 400°F (205°C).
  • Line 2 sheet pans with parchment or a silicone mat. Spray the parchment/silicone mats with a thin layer of non-stick cooking spray.
  • In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the egg yolks and the first measurement of the sugar (176g) on high speed until light and fluffy (the mixture should be pale and almost white), 4 to 5 minutes.
  • Transfer the mixture to a bowl and set aside. Clean and fully dry the stand mixer bowl.

2) Make French meringue

  • In the stand mixer, whip together the egg whites on medium-high speed until bubbles start to form.
  • While continuing to mix, slowly stream in the second measurement of the sugar (176g) and continue mixing until the meringue is shiny and glossy with medium-stiff peaks.
  • Once you remove the bowl from the mixer, do not let the meringues stand too long or they will clump.
  • Slowly and steadily continue folding them with a rubber spatula to prevent this from happening.

3) Combine the two mixtures

  • Take 1/3 of the meringue and fold it into the yolk mixture with a spatula until combined.
  • Carefully fold in the cocoa powder until it’s evenly combined.
  • Then gradually add the remaining 2/3 of the meringue, little by little, gently folding to combine before each addition. Be careful not to overmix, as it’ll cause the fluffy texture to deflate and you’ll end up with a dense cake.

4) Bake and cool

  • Pour half of the batter onto the first sheet pan, leveling it out with an offset spatula to within 1⁄2 inch of the edge of the mat/pan.
  • Repeat with the rest of the batter on the second sheet pan.
  • Bake both sheet pans for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the middle is fully set.
  • Remove the cake from the oven and let cool to room temperature in the pan.
  • When cooled, use a paring knife to run along the edges of the cake to loosen it from the sides of the pan.
  • Invert the sheet of cake onto another sheet pan or a countertop lined with parchment. Gently peel off the parchment paper or silicone mat. Using your 8-inch round cake ring as a guide, use a paring knife to cut out two even discs of cake from the inside of the ring.
  • Set aside, covered in plastic wrap until ready to use.

How Do You Know When Spongecake Is Done Baking?

Never just rely on a timer, as every oven is different; there are three ways to know if the cake is done:

  1. Jiggle it: the cake should still be a little bouncy in the middle.
  2. Nudge it: press the top gently; it should bounce back.
  3. Stick it: stick a cake tester (or toothpick or paring knife) into the center, and if it comes out clean, you’re done!

People often burn chocolate cakes because it’s harder to tell if it’s cooked through with the dark color of the batter. So be extra careful and check even before the suggested bake time.

How to Store Spongecake

Best enjoyed fresh the day-of. The cake can also be made in advance.

  • In the fridge: cover in plastic wrap and keep chilled for up to 3 days.
  • In the freezer: cover in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container in the freezer for no more than 2 to 3 weeks.
  • To defrost, keep it in the plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 2 to 3 hours until it is moist and soft again. Always defrost in the fridge to keep bacteria from developing, and keep it wrapped so that condensation forms outside the plastic wrap.