Every baker needs basic building blocks—the go-to batters and mixtures needed to assemble myriad desserts and fancy, filled, and frosted cakes. In the French repertoire, that's genoise; but here's a recipe for hot milk sponge cake, which is moister and richer with a finer texture, and less fussy, too. You can enjoy this plain or fill and frost however you'd like. See the full article for my recommendations: lemon curd, black and white, and cranberry cream. —Alice Medrich
1 9-inch round cake
(100 grams) sifted (before measuring) unbleached cake flour (I use King Arthur)
large eggs, at room temperature
large egg yolks, at room temperature
pure vanilla extract
(150 grams) sugar
(30 grams) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease and flour the sides of the pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
Whisk the flour with the baking powder. Sift the mixture three times and return it to the strainer set over a bowl.
Whip the eggs, yolks, sugar, and vanilla in the stand mixer at high speed for 2-4 minutes until the batter is light-colored, tripled in volume, and when the whisk is lifted the mixture falls in a thick fluffy rope that dissolves slowly on the surface of the remaining batter foam.
While the eggs are beating, heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan until it the butter is melted and the mixture is extremely hot to the touch. (It must be very hot when you add it to the batter.)
Remove the bowl from the mixer. With the strainer or sifter, sift one-third of the flour over the eggs. Fold with a large rubber spatula until the flour is almost blended into the batter. Repeat with half of the remaining flour. Repeat with the rest of the flour. Pour all of the hot milk mixture over the batter and fold gently but authoritatively, scraping batter up from the bottom of the bowl and rotating the bowl until the milk and butter are incorporated. Scrape the batter into the pan.
Bake 20 to 25 minutes until the cake is a deep golden brown on top and springs back when gently pressed with fingers, or tooth pick comes out clean. Set the pan on a rack to cool.
At your convenience, when the cake is warm or completely cool, run a small spatula (I use a small plastic spreader with very thin flexible “blade”) around the inside of the pan, pressing against the sides of the pan to avoid tearing the cake. Invert the round the cake and peel off the parchment liner. Turn the cake right side up to finish cooling. The cake should be completely cool before filling, frosting or storing. The cake may be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature for 2 days, or frozen up to 3 months.
For suggestions on how to dress it up, go here: http://f52.co/2zPc16d
My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on Craftsy.com, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).