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Types of Foam Cakes

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The category of foam cakes includes sponge, biscuit, roulades, genoise, chiffon, angel food, meringue, and dacquoise. These cakes have a high proportion of eggs to flour and are leavened solely (except chiffon cakes) by the air beaten into whole eggs or egg whites. They contain very little, if any, fat and have a spongy texture.


Sponge - A light and airy cake that contains three basic ingredients: room temperature eggs, sugar, and flour and is leavened solely by the air beaten into the eggs. A basic sponge cake is made by beating the egg yolks and sugar until thick and lemon colored (when beaters are raised the mixture will form a ribbon as it falls back into the bowl) and then stiffly beaten egg whites (with a little sugar) are folded in. Contains no fat. A very versatile cake that can be flavored with extracts, nuts, citrus zests, liqueurs and can be baked in round cake pans or else a sheet pan. Can be eaten plain or filled with whipped cream, buttercream, jam or preserves, fruit, fruit purees, nuts, chocolate, etc.  (Recipe for Sponge Cake)

Roulade - name given to a light and delicate sponge cake that is baked in a sheet pan (jelly roll pan) and rolled up in a towel while still warm. Once cooled, it is unrolled and filled with whipped cream, ganache, buttercream, lemon curd, fruit, fruit purees, nuts, etc. and then rerolled. Can be dusted with confectioners sugar or frosted with whipped cream, buttercream, ganache, etc. Used to make the classic B?he de No?.  (Recipe for a Roulade)

Biscuit - European name for a sponge cake. 


Genoise - named after its place of origin, Genoa Italy, it is a type of light and airy sponge-like cake.  Different from a sponge cake in that the eggs are beaten whole and a small amount of melted butter is added. This makes it more tender and flavorful but is less sweet than a regular sponge cake. Whole eggs and granulated white sugar are warmed over a water bath and then beaten until very thick. Flour, and sometimes cornstarch, are first folded in and then melted butter (usually clarified butter).  Can be flavored with extracts, ground almonds, citrus zests, or liqueurs. The genoise is leavened solely by the air beaten into the egg and sugar mixture. Must be careful not to deflate the batter when adding the flour and melted butter. This is a very versatile cake that is the base for many desserts. It is usually baked in a round pan and can be eaten plain but is often times split (2 or 3 layers), brushed with a sugar syrup, and filled with jams or preserves, fruit purees, fresh fruit, whipped cream, buttercream, and/or nuts.  (Recipe for Chocolate Genoise)

Chiffon Cake - a moist and tender, light and airy cake that has the richness of a butter cake but the springy texture of a sponge cake. Similar to a butter cake in preparation and formula (although oil is used instead of butter), it relies on the whipped egg whites for its leavening, along with baking powder. A quick and easy batter to make as there is no creaming of the fat and sugar because the fat is in liquid form (vegetable oil). The dry ingredients are mixed together and then the oil, egg yolks, water, and flavoring are beaten in. The egg whites are first beaten separately until stiff, but not dry, and then folded in to the batter.  The batter is quite thin and is traditionally baked in a tube pan. 

Chiffon Cakes were developed in the 1920's as an easy variation to the angel food cake but didn't appear in print until the 1940's. Flavorings include extracts, chocolate, cocoa powder, nuts, zests, spices or chopped fruits. (Recipe for Orange Chiffon Cake)


Angel Food Cake - sometimes referred to as Angel Cake and because of its airy lightness is said to be the "food of the angels". This cake has no egg yolks, fat, or artificial leavener so it relies totally on stiffly beaten egg whites for leavening. Its sole ingredients are egg whites, cream of tartar, sugar, flour, salt and flavoring (such as extracts). Angel Food Cake has the highest sugar content of all the sponge cakes and this added sugar is needed to support and stabilize the whipped egg whites. Because the egg whites give the cake its volume and structure care must be taken when adding them to the dry ingredients so they do not deflate.   

Traditionally baked in a ring-shaped tube pan it is placed upside down to cool to prevent it from falling and sticking to the pan. Usually served plain or with fresh fruit, fruit purees, and/or whipped cream. A moist, fluffy, feather-light, delicate cake that is fat and cholesterol free.  (Recipe for Chocolate Angel Food Cake)

Meringues - Pronounced muh-RANG. Simply a beaten mixture of egg whites and sugar (sometimes with cream of tartar), that are baked in a slow oven to produce a delicately crisp, white confection that seems to literally melt in your mouth. There are two types of meringue; soft and hard. The difference between the two is the amount of sugar added to the egg whites. Soft meringue is made with only a small amount of sugar. The whites and sugar are beaten only to the soft peak stage and is then used as a topping for pies and cakes, puddings, mousses, and the famous Baked Alaska. The meringue is baked until the peaks are browned and the valleys are lightly browned.

Hard meringue has a larger proportion of sugar to egg whites than a soft meringue. Hard meringues are beaten until stiff peaks form. The meringue is then placed in a piping bag and piped into various shapes; a round shape with a depression in the center so the baked meringue can be filled with fruit, cream, custard, ice cream, chocolate, or into hearts, shells, disks, mushrooms, and cookies

When making a meringue the egg whites should be at room temperature and free of any specks of egg yolk. Make sure the bowl and beaters are clean and free of grease to obtain maximum volume.  Superfine sugar makes for a smoother meringue as it is easier for the sugar to dissolve. To make your own take granulated white sugar and process in your food processor until very fine (about 30 seconds). Adding the sugar gradually to the egg whites ensures that the sugar completely dissolves and does not produce a gritty meringue. A test to see if the meringue is done is to rub a little of the meringue between your thumb and index finger. It should be smooth, not gritty. If it feels gritty the sugar has not fully dissolved so keep beating until it feels smooth between your fingers. Cream of tartar is tartaric acid and is a fine white crystalline acid salt which is a by-product of the wine making industry. It is used in the whipping of egg whites to stabilize them and allow them to reach maximum volume. Hard meringues are baked in a slow oven to allow the evaporation of the moisture out of the meringues slowly. If the oven temperature is too high, the outside of the meringue will dry and set too quickly. You will end up with the inside of the meringue being chewy and sticky instead of dry, crisp and crunchy. You will also notice the outside of the meringue separates from the inside. If you make meringues on a rainy or humid day, you will probably have to bake the meringues longer than on a dry day. If your meringue starts to brown, the oven temperature is too high causing the sugar to caramelize. To prevent cracking of the meringues, do not open the oven door during the first half to three quarters of the baking time.  (Recipe for Meringue Cake)

Dacquoise - traditional French cake consisting of two to three layers of nut-flavored (almonds or hazelnuts) discs of crisp meringue that are sandwiched together with whipped cream or buttercream (can be flavored), and sometimes fruit (especially strawberries) and the top is dusted with confectioners sugar. 

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