Italian Sponge Cake (Pan di Spagna)

Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do. Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children.

Alex Haley.

Grandparents are those people who never let you down, who will always be with you, whose gestures are the purest and most authentic ones. They can understand your actual feelings simply by looking at you and, at the same time, they’re able to change them, making you forget any bad thing.

Nonna Tere always tells me the same stories who sound different every time though. Nonno Beppe instead doesn’t really talk that much, but his eyes can covey emotions which cannot be explained in words. Then, Nonna Maria Teresa texts me messages such as: “Hello sweetie! Do you want granddad to buy you some eggs at the Farmer’s market on Saturaday?” so that I can use those lovely fresh eggs to make a glorious cake for him.

And it was by using those eggs, whose yolk is as orange as the Sun is, that I baked his favorite cake ever: a classic Pan di Spagna (Italian Sponge Cake)

 

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I actually tried this recipe different times, looking for the perfect ratio between the ingredients. But now, I’m glad to share with you the perfect recipe and the exact method to make it. It’s quite a simple recipe which requires just a few ingredients, but it can be used for countless cakes: because of that, I’ve decided to give you 2 lists of ingredients; the first one gives you a super spongy cake, perfect to be tasted by itself, but non really fitting to be moistened with syrups. The second list, instead, makes a firmer sponge cake, perfect to be moistened and to be used to make layered cakes, filled with pastry cream, whipped cream or crème chiboust.

Just pay attention to a few steps (especially in the cooling process) and choose the list of the ingredients that suits you best!

 

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for a 9” / 24 cm cake tin:

INGREDIENTS:

For a super spongy cake, perfect to be tasted by itself, but non really fitting to be moistened with syrups:

  • 5 medium-large free range eggs (about 300 grams)
  • 75 grams potato starch
  • 75 grams all-purpose flour
  • 150 grams caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste

For a firmer sponge cake, perfect to be moistened and to be used to make layered cakes:

  • 5 medium-large free range eggs (about 300 grams)
  • 100 grams potato starch
  • 100 grams all-purpose flour
  • 200 grams caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste

Furthermore, you’ll also need:

  • butter and flour for the cake tin
  • extra sugar for the cooling process

note: for this recipe it would be great to have a digital cooking thermometer to check the temperature of the eggs. They are actually very cheap. Buy one online: simply, click here to see one.

METODO:

  1. firstly, butter and flour a 24 cm / 9” cake tin. Place it into the refrigerator until needed. Then, preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
  2. crack eggs in a heavy bottomed saucepan, add sugar and vanilla bean paste. Whisk immediately, then cook on low heat until the mixture reaches 113°F (45°C), constantly whisking. Make sure you do not exceed that temperature, otherwise you’ll end up with scrambled eggs: at this step, is quite important to use a candy thermometer, but, if you don’t have any, simply deep you finger into the mixture, and, as soon as it gets a little warm, take it off the heat. The sugar should be completely dissolved.
  3. once it reaches the right temperature, immediately transfer it to the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and start whipping it on medium speed for about 10 minutes. Then increase the speed to high and whip for another 5 minutes: the eggs should whip up for at least 15 minutes in total. If you’re using an hand mixer, whip the mixture for 20 minutes in total. Eventually, you should end up with a thick, pail in color, light and fluffy mixture. It should be tripled in volume. To test that it has been beaten enough, let some of the mixture fall into the bowl. If it remains “sitting” on top it means that it’s ready.
  4. while eggs are whipping, sift dry ingredients (flour and potato starch) twice. Once the egg and sugar mixture is ready, using a spatula, gently fold the dry ingredients to the batter in two times, making sure to turn the bowl towards you with your non-dominant hand while simultaneously scraping around the edge (also toward you) and finish by folding the mixture over on top of itself. Alternate scraping around the side and through the middle of the bowl until the mixture is just combined together. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Don’t smooth the top or bang the pan on the counter, leave it as it is. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, inserting a wooden spoon in between the oven and the oven door, so that it’s slightly opened (see photo). Use a toothpick to check if the cake is done: it should come out completely clean. My Sponge Cake has baked for exactly 25 minutes.
  5.  once baked, take it out of the oven and immediately sprinkle the top of the cake with sugar. Then, when it is still hot, quickly turn it over onto a flat surface lined with parchment paper. Let it cool like that for about 20 minutes. Once slightly warm, unmold it and let it cool down completely before serving or slicing.

Tips and tricks:

  1. make sure to weight all the ingredients (eggs, flour, sugar, and potato starch) before starting with the recipe.
  2. heating the eggs to 113°F (45°C) is crucial, because the warmer the eggs, the better they whip. However, it’s important not to exceed that temperature, otherwise you’ll end up with scrambled eggs. Anyway, if you don’t want to do this step, make sure to use room temperature eggs and, if they are too cold, soak them for a few minutes in a bowl of warm water.
  3. never bang the bowl on the counter, otherwise all the small air bubbles you’ve just incorporate will escape and the batter will deflate.
  4. while the cake is baking, make sure to have everything ready for the cooling process: sugar and parchment paper should be at hand. In fact, at this step you must be as quick as possible otherwise the cake will deflate. 
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Heating the eggs to 113°F (45°C).

 

Whipping the eggs.

Whipping the eggs.

 

The whipped eggs. As you can see,

The whipped eggs. As you can see, letting some of the mixture fall into the bowl, it remains “sitting” on top: that means your eggs are perfectly whipped.

 

After gently folding with a spatula the dry ingredients.

After gently folding with a spatula the dry ingredients.

 

This is how much the oven door should be opened.

This is how much the oven door should be opened.

 

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Once baked, take it out of the oven immediately sprinkle the top of the cake with sugar. Then, when it is still hot, quickly turn it over a flat surface lined with parchment paper. Let it cool like that for about 20 minutes. Once slightly warm, unmold it and let it cool down completely.

 

The unmold cake.

 

The texture of the cake.

The texture of the cake.

 

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So there it is, the perfect recipe for a classic Pan di Spagna (Italian Sponge Cake), which was absolutely approved by my Granddad Nonno Carlo.

This was my version, I’m waiting for yours.

XOXO Cooker Girl.

 

 

 

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