Genoa bread (aka “pain de Gênes” in French) is a cake with almonds. In fact, almost half its weight is butter and almonds.
The yellow batter is made with butter, eggs and almond paste. Egg whites are whipped for leavening (some versions don’t bother beating the egg white.)
Often a small amount of flavouring from an alcohol such as kirsch is added.
The top may have sliced almonds pressed into it, and it can sometimes be found dusted with icing sugar.
Genoa Bread is traditionally made in a “pain de Gênes” pan, which has tall sides. It is often served with a fruit confit on top.
Soften the butter, add powdered sugar, add ground almonds, then egg yolks. then add flour and fold in beaten egg whites.
Genoa Bread freezes well-wrapped for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight wrapped in the refrigerator, then unwrap a few hours and let stand on the counter for moisture to evaporate.
Some say Genoa Bread was first made by a pastry chef named Fauvel who worked at the Chiboust pastry shop in St-Honoré street in Paris in the 1840s. He named it at first “gateau d’ambroise” (Ambrosia Cake.) Later, the cake was called “Gâteau de Gênes”, and finally “pain de Gênes”.
Literature & Lore
“Work 125 g (4 1/2 oz / generous 1/2 cup) butter into a soft paste with 150 g (5 oz / 2/3 cup) caster sugar, then beat with a whisk until the mixture becomes white. Blend in 100 g (4 oz / 1 cup) ground almonds, then add 3 eggs, one by one, 40 g (1 1/2 oz, 1/3 cup) starch or cornflour (cornstarch) and a pinch of salt. Work everything well together. Flavour with 1 tablespoon liqueur (such as Curacao.) Butter a round cake tin (pan), line the bottom with a circle of buttered greaseproof (waxed) paper, and pour in the mixture. Cook for 40 minutes in the oven at 180 c (350 F / gas 4.) Turn out immediately onto a wire rack and remove the paper.” — — Larousse Gastronomique (1988 edition). Page 499.
Genoa Bread is sometimes called “Almond Pound Cake” in English.