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Friday, 8 August 2014

Pan di Spagna (Sponge cake without baking powder)

Many years ago, this cake was called Pâte Génoise, or pasta Genovese. Its origins can be traced back to the mid-1700, to Genoese cook Giobatta Cabona. He was sent to Spain to work for the ambassador, marquis Domenico Pallavicini and during a banquet he served a cake of incredible lightness and softeness. The cake was given the name of 'Pan di Spagna' - literally Spanish bread - in honor of the host country. The cake mixture was prepared by mixing all the ingredients inside a bowl which rested on a pot of boiling water. Over time, this method was abandoned and the Pâte Génoise became simply the modern sponge cake we eat today.

Pan di Spagna is one of the easiest and quickest cakes to prepare. However, it's very important to carefully follow the right process in order to get perfect results.

Ingredients (serve 6):

4 eggs
8 tbs caster sugar
5 tbs flour
zest of 1 lemon
2 tsp vanilla flavouring
pinch of salt


Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Grease a 20cm/8in cake tin with some butter and dust it with flour. 

Separate the yolks from the egg whites. Beat the yolks with the sugar, the  lemon zest, the pinch of salt and the vanilla flavouring until pale in colour. Add the flour and continue whisking until completely blended.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until fluffy and firm. Gently fold them into the yolk mixture with downward circular movements until completely blended. 

Transfer the cake mixture into the cake tin. 

Bake for approximately 40 minutes, until the top of the cake is golden brown (the top must be firm to the touch). Try also inserting a skewer into the centre of the cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is ready.

Sponge cake is very versatile and can be filled and decorated in many different ways. 

For a creamy frosting I use half a tub of light cream cheese,1 pot of Elmlea Double Light (alternative to cream), 2 tbs honey and 1 tbs caster sugar. I whisk the Elmlea with the honey and sugar until firm, and then gradually add the cream cheese while whisking until completely blended.

The top of the cake can be decorated with either milk chocolate shavings or white chocolate chips.

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