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Microwave Sponge Cake

Albert Adrià’s recipe for a foam that the microwave turns into a perfect sponge cake in less than thirty seconds. So simple, so brilliant.

This is Albert Adrià’s recipe for a foam that the microwave turns into a perfect sponge cake in less than thirty seconds. Instead of using a whisk or a leavening agent, you’re using nitrous oxide (or carbon dioxide) to aerate the cake batter. It’s so simple that it’s almost hard to see how brilliant it is.

Albert is one of the greatest chefs alive. Albert was the pastry chef and creative director of El Bulli for years, and the catalyst for a lot of what went on at the restaurant. His influence is often greatly understimated. I think of him like the CIA—there’s so much he had a silent hand in shaping, both directly and through the work of his disciples.

Dan Burns (formerly of Noma and the Momofuku culinary lab; now at Torst in Williamsburg, Brooklyn) created this strawberry-themed treatment of Albert’s cake. Don’t worry if you can’t find wood sorrel (or don’t want to make all the stuff that goes with it); this recipe is all about the cake technique.

Ingredients

Makes 6 servings
  • 3/4 C macerated strawberries
  • 1 T strawberry gastrique
  • 1 C mint-water whipped cream
  • + cakes
  • 1/4 C freeze-dried strawberry powder (Make the powder by pulverizing the freeze-dried strawberries in a spice grinder.)
  • 1/4 C wood sorrel leaves

Macerated Strawberries

  • handful small strawberries
  • large pinch sugar

Strawberry Gastrique

  • 1/4 lb strawberries
  • 1/4 C water
  • 30 g (2 T) apple-cider vinegar
  • 25 g (1 T) honey

Mint-Water Whipped Cream

  • 1 bunch mint
  • 1 C water
  • 1 1/2 sheets leaf gelatin (or 3/4 t teaspoon powdered gelatin)
  • 35g (1/3 C) confectioner's sugar
  • 200 g (1 C) heavy cream

Cakes

  • 250 g (about 7) egg whites
  • 160 g (about 9) egg yolks
  • 155g (1 C) flour
  • 160 g (3/4 C) sugar
  • 50 g (1/2 C) almond flour
  • 15 g (1 T) olive oil
  • 6 9-ounce plastic cups (Cut 3 small slits along the bottom edge of each plastic cup. This will vent the steam as the cake cooks. )

Preparation

Make the cakes

Cakes
  • 250 g (about 7) egg whites
  • 160 g (about 9) egg yolks
  • 155g (1 C) flour
  • 160 g (3/4 C) sugar
  • 50 g (1/2 C) almond flour
  • 15 g (1 T) olive oil
  • 6 9-ounce plastic cups (Cut 3 small slits along the bottom edge of each plastic cup. This will vent the steam as the cake cooks. )
  1. Make the batter: Whisk the yolks and whites for 1 minute on high in the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Sift and add the flour, sugar, almond flour, and olive oil. Mix until just incorporated. Pour the cake batter into a whipped-cream charger. Shake it vigorously, and fill each plastic cup 1/3 of the way. (The cake will double or triple in volume when you cook it.)

  2. Cook the cakes: Place a cup into the microwave and cook on high for about 30 seconds. (Our microwave was a thousand-watt model and took exactly 26 seconds on high to fully cook our cake. You may have to try a couple times before you lock down your ideal cooking time.) Carefully remove the cakes from the microwave and let them cool for a few seconds.

Make the Macerated Strawberries

Macerated Strawberries
  • handful small strawberries
  • large pinch sugar

Quarter a handful of small strawberries and toss them with a large pinch of sugar. Allow the berries to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Make the Strawberry Gastrique

Strawberry Gastrique
  • 1/4 lb strawberries
  • 1/4 C water
  • 30 g (2 T) apple-cider vinegar
  • 25 g (1 T) honey
  1. Blend the berries with the water and pass the purée through a chinois to strain out any seeds.

  2. Combine the strawberry purée, vinegar, and honey in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the volume has reduced by about a third. Cool and reserve until ready to use.

Make the Mint-Water Whipped Cream

Mint-Water Whipped Cream
  • 1 bunch mint
  • 1 C water
  • 1 1/2 sheets leaf gelatin (or 3/4 t teaspoon powdered gelatin)
  • 35g (1/3 C) confectioner's sugar
  • 200 g (1 C) heavy cream
  1. Blanch the mint in a pot of boiling water for 20 seconds, then immediately shock it in a bowl of ice water and dry thoroughly.

  2. Blend the mint with one cup of water. Strain (very slowly) through a fine-mesh strainer lined with a doubled-up piece of cheesecloth. Collect in a small saucepan.

  3. Bloom the gelatin in the mint water, then add the sugar. Heat on low, stirring constantly, until the gelatin has fully dissolved and no lumps remain. Cool to room temperature.

  4. Whisk the cream into the mint water/gelatin.

  5. Fill a whipped-cream charger halfway up with the mint cream. Charge with N2O and deploy.

To plate

Remove cakes from their cups using a small spatula. Tear each cake into 5 pieces and dust with freeze-dried strawberry powder. Arrange the pieces on serving plates. Scatter a few macerated strawberries, squeeze out a few dollops of mint whipped cream, and dab the plate with a few drops of gastrique. Finish by tenderly distributing a few wood-sorrel leaves.