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I think I have heard somewhere that ladyfingers are made from the same batter as Genoise cake layers. But I don't remember where I heard it, whether the source was reputable, and if I'm not misremembering something else.

Now I want to make a cake or trifle which will go well with a ladyfinger-like texture. So, when choosing what layer to make, I thought of Genoise. But will I get the same texture as store-bought ladyfingers, and if not, how will it differ?

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There are actually two types of store-bought ladyfingers. One is light and spongey while the other is a lot harder and denser. Just FYI –  Jay Jan 4 '12 at 20:29
    
Very interesting. I've only ever had one kind, and suppose they have been the "hard, dense" ones. Not as hard and dense as Petite Beures, but definitely harder than most cake layers. –  rumtscho Jan 4 '12 at 20:45
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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Delicious variations abound, so it is hard to make absolute statements of what is "officially" a ladyfinger. In my pastry class, we were taught that the classic recipe for ladyfingers is close, but not identical, to genoise. Store-bought ladyfingers can be anything from, essentially, a meringue to a shortbread cookie.

Foam-based batters -- i.e., those that do not use chemical leveners or yeast -- can be divided into two categories: whole-egg and separated-egg. The main difference in results is that the latter tend to be stiffer and can better tolerate being overcooked a little. The primary example of whole-egg batter is the genoise cake. Because the whites are whipped together with the yolks (and sometimes extra yolks are added), it is a finicky batter, requiring more skill to assemble properly than others, but when it works, it is more tender. Separated-egg batters are far more common, as they are easier to assemble; the key is that you whip the whites into medium-to-stiff peaks, then fold it back into the rest of the batter. Examples include chiffon, dacquoise, and the French "biscuit" cakes.

Most recipes for ladyfingers use a separated-egg batter; others use a simple meringue. The meringue version will make a crisp cookie, the version with with the yolk, soft. Either will work well for uses like tiramisu or trifle.

Here is a recipe for ladyfingers from Allrecipes.com and a recipe for genoise from Epicurious. For my ladyfingers, I add a pinch of salt and some flavorings, such as vanilla or nut extract, but the base recipe is essentially the same.

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So, if I want to make a Tiramisu, which do I want to make? –  Jacob G Jan 5 '12 at 2:15
    
@jacobg: Either will work. The meringue will have to sit a little longer to get to the same softness as the separated-egg, but the end point will be comparable. –  Bruce Goldstein Jan 5 '12 at 3:56
    
Thanks @Bruce. I read your answer like 4 times and overlooked the "Either will work well for uses like Tiramisu or Trifle" each time. I fail at reading. :-) –  Jacob G Jan 5 '12 at 4:00
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