Funnily enough I was actually wondering about the same thing a few days ago, specifically the European biscuits like genoise, biscuit de Savoie, biscuit joconde, biscuit viennois, biscuit cuillère (i.e. ladyfingers).I had a few people ask me about different types of cakes; so I’m writing up a brief description of cake categories (like what’s the difference between a sponge and jaconde). so I’ll post that in the next day or so.
Funnily enough I was actually wondering about the same thing a few days ago, specifically the European biscuits like genoise, biscuit de Savoie, biscuit joconde, biscuit viennois, biscuit cuillère (i.e. ladyfingers).
I'm familiar with how their ingredients and mixing methods differ, but without actually having made them myself I was more wondering what their differences are texturally and hence when you'd use one over the other. I know some have classic uses, e.g. joconde is used for Opera cake, cuillère is used for tiramisu, but was also wondering in general when to pick which biscuit to use. From what I understand, they mostly taste very similar, it's their texture and structure where they differ, right?
Just a note on the ones I've listed, gateau de Savoie refers to a thick cake, but as for the biscuit I've seen recipes that are basically like genoise but made with a separate egg method (egg whites whipped separately then folded into the egg yolk foam), so I think it's basically just what we'd refer to as a sponge cake. Larousse Gastronomique describes it as similar to biscuit à cuillère but not as light.
I also haven't been able to find what the actual difference between biscuit joconde and viennois is. Recipes that I've seen for them are basically the same, and in fact in Advanced Bread and Pastry in the text before the formulas section, they refer to the mixing method as the "biscuit jaconde method", but in the formulas section they only have a formula for "biscuit viennois" which uses that mixing method, which leads me to believe they're just different names for the same thing.
Great response! So cuillère is the lightest and most delicate, but absorbs the most liquid, while joconde is sturdier but still absorbs liquids well. Makes sense that you only see biscuit cuillère for applications like tiramisu or charlottes which have very light cream-based fillings.It’s not just about the taste and texture but it’s as much about the structure of what you’re making. You select the cake based on what you need for performance wise.
Savoie (also Savoy) is a light and airy cake, but compared to the cuillere batter is is sturdier. It is normally baked in a decorative mold. And really fine ingredients should be used. Pierre Herme’s uses 3 vanilla beans in his 8” savoy! Then a soaking syrup added after baking. this is a cake you can bake ahead of time and not worry about. You can bake it in a decorative mold and it looks like you put a lot of effort into it without putting a lot of effort into it. Sprinkle some powdered sugar on it just before serving, put it on a lovely platter, scatter some lovely fresh fruit around the base and you have a beautiful dessert. The French and the Americans have two different ideas about what is a sponge and what is a biscuit. The French very much dislike sponge cake. They do not consider the savoy a sponge. And dislike the term biscuit de Savoie that Americans slapped on the cake.
Joconde (also spelled jaconde) is made with a 1:1 blend of nut flour (normally almonds, but other nuts are used) and confectioner’s sugar (tant pour tant). The mix of nut flour and confectioner’s sugar makes for a sturdier and denser cake. It soaks up a good amount of soaking syrup due to the nut flour and confectioner’s sugar. Some cakes like the opera cake is are heavily soaked in flavored syrups. The thick batter makes it easy to manipulate into exact form. Frequently a form is used to ensure a uniform size and low height. The thin layers are used for roulades, entremets, and of course the Opera Cake. Despite the thin layers, this cake will hold up to rolling; the weight of layers of mousse and glazes; and soaking syrups.
Cuillère is the lightest of the batters. I’ve only made it once, in Italy to make ladyfingers for a tiramisu. Very light and delicate, these have to be used shortly after baking. this butter is not going to support a bunch of layers of heavy mousse and glaze. When the ladyfingers are dipped in the espresso in the making of the tiramisu, you have to pull these out within a nanosecond otherwise the espresso will cause them to deteriorate. I lost more than one in my dipping cup. But this light airy batter is easily piped so you can make nice decorative shapes out of it.
Biscuit viennois and joconde (also spelled jaconde) are the same.
Great response! So cuillère is the lightest and most delicate, but absorbs the most liquid, while joconde is sturdier but still absorbs liquids well. Makes sense that you only see biscuit cuillère for applications like tiramisu or charlottes which have very light cream-based fillings.
I saw a question from someone else that also got me interested: they were asking about the difference between using a hot foam method (i.e. for genoise) and a separated sponge method (i.e. for sponge cake and what joconde is a variant of). Because the eggs are are heated before and the egg whites aren't separated to be whipped separately, would I be correct in assuming that genoise is even more dense and sturdy than sponge cake layers or biscuit joconde, and not quite as absorbant?
I noticed that most roulade recipes use the separated sponge method, so it goes with my guess above that it makes a lighter and more delicate cake that's more suitable for rolling.
Ah, that tunnelling info was just what I was wondering about the yesterday - how timely! I made the nicest-tasting, but also the ugliest Victoria sponge I have ever made yesterday. One reason was that I used a conventional oven setting and got distracted and forgot to adjust my oven temp so baked it for 20min at 160C rather than 180C before I realised. But I also had a lot of bubbling, especially on the surface. Thanks to @Norcalbaker59 's post I'm pretty sure it was a slightly too wet batter, plus slightly over-zealous mixing - I normally mix cakes by hand, unless they're big, but just wasn't feeling it yesterday and used my stand mixer so I reckon it was over done. Hopefully I can turn out something a bit prettier next time. But also thanks to Norcal I weighed my eggs and scaled my recipe from there, which I think helped the taste no end.
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Haha, nice analogy! It’s the first recipe I ever baked as a little kid (in the form of fairy or butterfly cakes) as it was so straightforward 2 or 4 or 6 ounces of everything and halve the ounces for the number of eggs. Obviously I’ve refined it a bit since! But I remember doing it at home aged around 4 years and again at school at 5 and being amazed at the transformation. Our first cooking lesson at senior school aged 11 was to make fairy cakes using fruit. Lots of kids tried super crazy stuff with some spectacular disasters but I remember I just stuck to that basic recipe, spread the tops with jam, covered with desiccated coconut and half a glacé cherry on top. They looked the business, I can tell you! Think the other kids hated me.@Emmie I think you baked a lovely Victoria sponge all things considered. There’s something just so wonderfully comforting about that cake. You don’t when I first discovered it I thought what a plain cake. Because compared to American butter cake with all the icing on it it seemed lacking. But it really isn’t because it’s a pound cake so it’s so rich in flavor. It kind a like putting a silk lining in a jacket. You don’t see the lining, but you feel it every time you slip it on.
Haha, nice analogy! It’s the first recipe I ever baked as a little kid (in the form of fairy or butterfly cakes) as it was so straightforward 2 or 4 or 6 ounces of everything and halve the ounces for the number of eggs. Obviously I’ve refined it a bit since! But I remember doing it at home aged around 4 years and again at school at 5 and being amazed at the transformation. Our first cooking lesson at senior school aged 11 was to make fairy cakes using fruit. Lots of kids tried super crazy stuff with some spectacular disasters but I remember I just stuck to that basic recipe, spread the tops with jam, covered with desiccated coconut and half a glacé cherry on top. They looked the business, I can tell you! Think the other kids hated me.
I used fresh cream and strawberries in this one for a treat. In the summer, I’m going to make an afternoon tea - I usually make my own scones and cake but I’m going to make the bread as well this time!
I dunno - Americans and tea gives me the shivers. I went to visit my friend in Queens and she made me tea in the microwave. I drank it because, you know, I'm British and polite but it was the stuff of nightmares. But the Japanese know their tea so that's reassured me a bit.See, you were always a baker at heart, even as a child you took care not to destroy the essence of that cake. Preserving the history in our food preserves not just a part of our lives, but a part of our culture.
There’s nothing like cake with tea. Japanese just love their strawberry cake....I think if there were a national cake it would be the strawberry and whipped cream cake. I still try to bake gluten free cake to have with tea. Tea just doesn’t feel complete unless there’s a little something to serve with it.
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