As elegant as a wedding cake!
ingredients for 8 servings (total cost about 12 € with organic ingredients)
for the sponge cake
- 150 g (3 medium) eggs
- 90 g pastry flour
- 90 g sugar
- zest from 1/2 lemon
- 1 pinch salt
for the syrup
- 150 ml water
- 15 ml lemon juice
- 125 g sugar
- 30 verbena leaves
- peels from ½ lemon
For the filling and topping
- 250 g ricotta cheese, well strained
- 15 g icing sugar
- zest from ½ lemon
- 300 ml liquid cream (32-35 % fat), well chilled
- 1 pinch of salt
- 300 g fresh strawberries
The genoise and the sponge cake are the perfect base for layer cakes. They have the ideal structure both to absorb the syrup and to hold the several layers, fillings and toppings of the cake. They make tasty, juicy and light cakes and they are my no1 choice, when I want to use summer fruit fillings and creams.
Genoise made its appearance for the first time on the pastry world thanks to the Genoese pastry chef Giovanni Battista Cabona, who prepared this dessert for the Spanish court in the 18th century. The dessert was so appreciated that it was named “Genoese pasta” in honour of its creator.
From a simplification of the Genoise, the sponge cake was born shortly thereafter.
The main difference between the two preparations lies in the fact that in the Genoese pasta the eggs and sugar must be worked at a hot temperature (up to 45-50 o C), while the sponge cake is processed cold. The second difference is that in the genoise, a little butter is added at the end. The sponge cake is normally butter-less.
In this case I used the simplified version to make a strawberry layer cake filled with ricotta cream and topped with whipped cream and fresh strawberry cubes. The result is an extra elegant, airy and fruity cake that could even become a perfect choice for a healthy wedding cake.
So, we begin by making the sponge cake.
We whisk the eggs, adding the sugar progressively and we continue whisking, until they become pale white and their volume is triplicated (about 10 minutes).
We then sieve on top of the batter the flour mixed with the salt in two batches and we gently fold it in the mixture with a spatula, until the flour is fully incorporated in the batter and no lumps remain. We also add the zest.
We transfer the batter in a well buttered, lined with parchment, re-buttered and floured cake tin (of 16-18 cm diameter) and we bake at a 180oC preheated static oven (160 if using ventilation) for about 20-25 minutes. The cake is ready, if it re-bounces when pressing its surface with a finger.
We immediately unmold it and we let it cool completely on a wire rack.
Meanwhile, we prepare the rest of the cake’s components.
To make the syrup, we bring water and sugar to a boil, then we add the lemon drops, the verbena leaves and the lemon peels. As soon as the syrup reaches the boiling point, we turn off the heat, we cover with cling film and we let it infuse, until it cools down.
We beat the chilled liquid cream with the icing sugar, until we turn it to a soft whipped cream. For best results be sure that you have also chilled well the bowl and whisks of the mixer.
We also stir the ricotta cheese to make it creamy, along with the sugar and lemon zest. We then add to it a couple of tablespoons from the whipped cream. We put both the ricotta and the whipped cream to the fridge, as they must be well chilled when we are going to assemble the cake.
Finally, we cut half of the strawberries (already washed and with the stems discarded) in discs and the rest of them in small cubes.
When the sponge cake has cooled completely, we can proceed to the final assembling.
We cut the cake in two even discs with the help of a serrated knife.
We brush the bottom disc on both sides with half of the syrup, then we spread over it half of the ricotta cream. We arrange on top of the cream the strawberry discs and we cover them with the rest of the ricotta cream.
We brush the rest of the syrup on both sides of the second disc and we place it over the ricotta cream layers (top side up). We completely cover the cake on top and sides with the whipped cream.
We pile on the top of the cake the strawberry cubes, as shown at the photos.
We keep it in the fridge for at least 2 hours before serving.