Sponge Cake, Bourbon Cream & Berries

Walk into any French-style pâtisserie, and there will likely be a génoise something-or-other in the case. The rich, airy sponge is extremely versatile: it’s used in everything from ladyfingers to petits fours and madeleines. If you’ve never made it before, this is the best possible recipe for a first go. There’s no cutting, piping, rolling, or stacking (as is typical of many génoise-based desserts). We simply bake it in a muffin tin, and then top the little cakes with bourbon whipped cream and a blend of fresh berries.

The trick to making génoise sponge is to use a nice, light touch. First, we whisk eggs, sugar, and salt over a double boiler until the sugar is dissolved, and then we pour it into our stand mixer for another round of whisking. Just when it’s thickened, we add a splash of vanilla and a little lemon zest. From there, it’s all gentle, careful folding: first the sifted all-purpose flour and cornstarch, then the melted butter. Whisk, whisk. Fold, fold. There’s your génoise!

Once the little cakes are in the oven, the rest is a breeze. For the whipped cream, we beat together oaky bourbon and maple-y brown sugar with heavy whipping cream and vanilla until it looks so fluffy, no one in their right mind could resist scooping out a dollop and licking it off their finger. Eaten on its own, it has a strong, bourbon-y kick that’ll make your eyes widen (with joy, of course). But atop the buttery, lightly lemony sponge cakes, the silky cream tastes a little more caramel-forward, with a maple-sweet richness. As for the fresh berries, they add not only a pop of color, but also a sweet-tart note to balance each and every bite.

All done up with the berries and cream, the little sponge cakes have an everyday elegance to them: They’re approachable enough for little, weeknight indulgences with a glass of rosé in one hand and the TV remote in the other. But they’re also lovely enough for birthday or anniversary celebrations with the S.O. — or even socially distanced picnics with your pals (hooray for safe, individual portions!). You may even want to leave a few on the neighbor’s doorstep, just to brighten their day.

Our tips: This recipe yields a lot of sponge cakes for these Covidian days of isolation. Bake them on the weekend, and then tuck some in your fridge for a week’s worth of desserts. Also, for a kid-friendly version, simply omit the bourbon.

Servings: 18


4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing pans

4 large Gelson’s eggs

¾ cup granulated sugar

Pinch kosher salt

Lemon zest from ½ lemon

2 tsp vanilla extract, divided

1 cup all-purpose flour

3 Tbsp cornstarch

2 cups heavy whipping cream

¼ cup packed brown sugar

2 Tbsp bourbon

1 cup strawberries, cored and halved

1 cup blueberries

½ cup raspberries

½ cup blackberries


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Line the bottoms of 18 muffin cups with parchment paper and grease the sides of each cup lightly with butter.

  2. In the top pot of a double boiler, combine the eggs, sugar, and salt, whisking continuously until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is about 110°, 3 to 5 minutes.

  3. Transfer the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until the mixture is light in color and has thickened, 6 to 8 minutes.

  4. Add the lemon zest and 1 teaspoon vanilla and beat until just incorporated, about 10 seconds.

  5. Take the bowl out of the stand mixer, and sift the flour and cornstarch into the whipped mixture. Carefully fold in the dry ingredients until just combined, being careful not to deflate too much air from the eggs.

  6. Carefully fold in the melted butter, making sure all of the flour and butter is fully incorporated into the batter.

  7. Fill each muffin cup ¾-full.

  8. Place the mini sponge cakes into the oven and bake for 7 to 9 minutes, or until they are just starting to lightly brown around the edges and the centers spring back. Cool on a wire rack — do not remove the muffins from the tins.

  9. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the whipping cream, brown sugar, bourbon, and remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla until soft peaks form.

  10. In a medium bowl, combine the strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries, stirring carefully.

  11. Carefully run a paring knife along the edge of each cake, helping it out of the pan. Remove the parchment papers.

  12. When you’re ready to eat them, top each cake with a dollop of whipped cream and a spoonful of the berries. Cakes can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

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