Pan di Spagna - Italian Sponge Cake Recipe

Pan di Spagna - Italian Sponge Cake Recipe
Often used as basis to make other desserts, Pan di Spagna is the Italian Sponge Cake. This simple and light cake has a delicate flavor of lemon; and can be finished just with a dust of powdered sugar. Pan di Spagna is ideal to accompany your favorite tea or coffee.

Although the name Pan di Spagna means Bread of Spain, this sponge cake was actually first created in the mid 1700s by an Italian young baker, Giovanni Battista Cabona from Genoa. Cabona went to Spain as part of the domestic entourage of Domenico Pallavicini, ambassador of the Republic of Genoa in Madrid.

In occasion of a banquet held in honor of the King of Spain, one day the ambassador asked his baker to impress his royal guest with a new and original cake. Working with basic and simple ingredients, Giovanni was able to create a cake incredibly light and soft, and gave it the name of Pan di Spagna, in honor of the hosting country. The whole Court of Spain was in awe, so much so that at first they renamed the sweet masterpiece Génoise, in honor of his Genoese creator.  Soon the fame of the cake spread across Europe, where up to this day is still known as Génoise, while in Italy has maintained its original name Pan di Spagna.

Ingredients and Instructions:

  • 5 large eggs, room temperature

  • 1 ½ cups sugar

  • 1 ½ cups flour

  • 1 tsp vanilla

  • ½ tsp grated lemon peel

  • butter and flour for the pan

  1. Separate the eggs yolks and the whites putting them in 2 separate bowls. Add the sugar to the yolks and beat until the mix reaches the consistency of frosting.

  2. Beat the whites until they stand stiff.

  3. Fold the whites into the yolk and sugar mixture, turning it over slowly and gently, until perfectly combined.

  4. Sift the flour. This step is very important to achieve the lightness of the cake.

  5. Very slowly and just a little bit at a time, combine the flour with the egg and sugar mixture.

  6. Add the vanilla and the grated lemon peel, again, combining them with the rest very gently.

  7. Butter and flour a round 9" baking pan. Pour the batter in it and bake at 350 F, for about 20 minutes. When done the cake top will have a nice golden color and a toothpick inserted in it will come out clean.

  8. Leave the cake to cool down on a rack, and then turn it upside down to remove it from the pan.

  9. Transfer to a serving plate, lightly dust the top with powdered sugar and enjoy.

Buon appetito!

Cinzia Aversa, 2013



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