The dessert equivalent of the Mona Lisa, this cake is a masterpiece in its own right. Held in such high esteem by the pastry chefs of France, that the name Joconde was conferred upon the sponge. In France, La Joconde means Mona Lisa, a painting that captured the hearts of the Gauls when Leonardo da Vinci first came to the court of King Francois I in 1516, the famous painting in tow.
The mystery and the romance that surrounds the Mona Lisa and her ubiquitous smile have enthralled generations, consumed lives, inspired love, and crushed it. And it is my thinking that a cake whose flavors can induce an emotional response to be compared with those invoked by such a painting must be enjoyed whenever possible.
Although the Joconde alone is not much to look at, it is an essential element to a number of classic desserts. The base for mousses, the decorative collar to a number of entremets, and the layers between an opera cake’s espresso buttercream and chocolate ganache. The Joconde serves as the wind beneath the wings of countless desserts and as such deserves the recognition and the appreciation of anyone who enjoys something sweet now and again.
The Joconde Biscuit
4 egg whites, room temp
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups almond meal
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
6 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 whole eggs
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
Prepare a 15×21-inch baking tray by placing a rectangle of parchment paper on the bottom, being sure to grease both the tray and the parchment.
Preheat your oven to 450℉
Mise en Place is always important when baking, especially a foam based cake like the Joconde. Being sure to have all your ingredients measured out, and at room temperature will almost guarantee success in the kitchen.
In the bowl of a standing mixer beat the egg whites and cream of tartar.
When the mixture begins to foam, start adding in your sugar gradually, roughly a tablespoon at a time.
Continue to mix until you have reached firm glossy peaks. Transfer the meringue into a separate bowl.
Using the bowl of the standing mixer again, (no need to clean in between these steps). Combine remaining ingredients and mix for 5 minutes on high speed using the whisk attachment. Fold in ⅓ of the meringue and combine thoroughly, add remaining meringue and melted butter and fold carefully until fully combined.
Spread Joconde batter evenly using a large offset spatula and bake immediately for roughly 10 minutes.
Do not overbake the Joconde or it will lose its flexibility. Allow the cake to cool to room temperature before turning it out, wrapping, and refrigerating. The sponge can be held in the refrigerator for up to a week, and frozen for up to three months.