The Whipping Method

I think of the whipping method as “European” and I don’t think that’s an inaccurate assessment, since you only tend to come across it when making spongecakes like génoise, joconde, ladyfingers or specialty cakes like rehrücken. I can’t think of any common uses for the whipping method here in the States, except perhaps for flourless chocolate cake. Essentially, the whipping method is how European bakers create very light cake layers in the absence of chemical leaveners.

You need a lot of eggs — plus plenty of sugar, which helps create a thick syrup that keeps the egg foam from collapsing. The neat thing about the whipping method is that it gives lie to the myth that egg foams can only be created with whites. Twaddle. Indeed in most instances where the whipping method is employed you’re whipping either whole eggs or egg yolks plus sugar. Egg whites plus sugar are a rarity in the whipping method universe because, well, then you’d have a meringue, would you not?

But I digress. In general sponges made via the whipping method begin with the egg-sugar foam. Any flavorings (like chocolate) are added next, then the dry ingredients are carefully folded in so as to preserve the bubbles (I said you can make a foam with egg yolks…I didn’t say that foam was stable). Sometimes a meringue is folded in as well to add more volume.

The upside of the whipping method is that it creates sponges that are very light, sweet and eggy-tasting. The down side is that those sponges can be a little dry tasting, at least by New World standards. All this begs the question: why use the whipping method at all when perfectly good chemical leaveners are available? The answer is because egg sponges have a cleaner taste and a lighter texture. The high proportion of egg can also create very plastic sheets of sponge that are perfect for rolling into things like yule logs. And anyway, dry cake is what cake syrup is for!

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10 Responses to The Whipping Method

  1. Ann P. says:

    So many people say that in baking, you’ve just got to follow a recipe because the chemistry is so much more important for the final product than in cooking… but armed with all this information I’ve gathered from your posts, I feel more comfortable improvising with my baking. Great explanation on the basic science of this method. :)

  2. Giovani says:

    The whipping method is useful in American baking for making angel food, but I guess that’s really just a big meringue, no? Thought I’d throw that out there, thanks for sharing your insights.

  3. Henry says:

    I actually like dry(er) cakes as opposed to over-moist cakes. I think most Asians prefer sponge cakes to butter cakes too.

    • joepastry says:

      I am mostly in agreement with you, Henry. Here in the States we seem to be obsessed with moist, rick cake. It can be fine in its place, but there’s much to recommend in a dryer cake, I think. Sometimes in our rush to eat we fail to really taste things, I think.

      - Joe

  4. Sam says:

    Huh. I just read this article because I couldn’t work out what the ‘whipping method’ would be. But it’s the term for the cake making technique that I am most familiar with; I would assume this is how a cake is to be made until I read otherwise. Which is perhaps a throwback to our early British influence?

    It’s an interesting article, and a great site.

    Thanks Joe!

    Sam (in Australia)

    • joepastry says:

      Hi Sam!

      Thanks for the note. Yes, I think the whipping method is really the standard method for making cakes in the classic Continental style. It’s really the only way to make thick sponges without the use of chemicals.

      I appreciate your stopping by — and for taking the time to write! Cheers,

      - Joe

  5. Pia says:

    In Finland the most common type of cake is sokerikakku (lit. trans. sugar cake), which is made using this whipping method you mention here.
    The basic recipe calls for only three ingredients: whole eggs, caster sugar and regular wheat flour. Traditionally you measure out the same volume of everything and that’s it. Whip up the eggs and sugar until it’s fluffed up so that it’s almost white and it’s so thick, you can draw a number 8 on top of the foam with the mixture that’s dripping from the whisk and it stays there for a bit. Then you gently fold in the sieved flour and pour the mix into a lined cake pan and bake immediately.
    It’s very eggy in flavor and the cake dries out pretty fast, but it’s also airy and light. We cut the cake into quite thin layers (about 1″ thick), moisten the layers and use fillings like fresh berries and whipped cream. The cake is really there just to provide some structure for the great masses of fillings and toppings. :)
    The U.S.-style dense, moist and buttery cakes aren’t considered a fillable type of cake over here. We bake similar kinds of cakes, but we bake them in bundt-forms and call them ‘kuivakakku’ (lit. trans. dry cake). We haven’t got a tradition of sculpted or massive layered cakes here, so we often find the stereotypical “three thick slabs of cake with a tiny layer of buttercream in between” too dry and heavy. In comparison, a british friend of mine finds the traditional Finnish-style cake too soft and wet. :)

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