This Italian Sponge Cake, also known as Pan di Spagna has only 5 ingredients. The perfect cake for making a Classic Tiramisu or even lightly dusted with powdered sugar and served as a snack or breakfast treat.
I first saw my mother-in-law preparing her Homemade Sponge Cake a long time ago, which by the way, she made by hand with a wire whisk! It turns out my sister-in-law was going to prepare one of the most delicious desserts. That’s right, a Tiramisu. It’s still one of my favourites right after Cheesecake, I can never get enough Cheesecake, although you could combine the two and make a Tiramisu Cheesecake.
In the Italian Baking and Pastry making (Pasticceria) Sponge Cake or Pan di Spagna in Italian, is considered one of the most important staples. A very simple recipe, that does need some attention.
The most important part of making a Pan di Spagna is to beat the eggs and sugar on high speed for 15-20 minutes. Because there is no baking powder in this recipe this is what gives the cake its height.
How to make it
In a medium bowl sift together the flour and corn starch. Set aside.
In a large bowl or stand up mixer add the eggs and sugar and beat for 15 minutes, add the vanilla and beat another 2 minutes.
Gently fold half the sifted flour into the beaten eggs and combine, then add the remaining flour and gently fold until smooth and completely combined.
Pour into the prepared cake pan and bake. Let cool before using as a layer cake or even dusted with powdered sugar as a breakfast or snack cake.
What are the differences between Cakes
Chiffon Cake – A traditional chiffon cake is made with whipped egg whites along with baking powder to rise.
Yellow Cake – A yellow cake is lighter in texture than a pound cake and has more eggs.
Pound Cake – A cake traditionally made with a pound of butter, flour, eggs and sugar.
Angel Food Cake – Is a very light cake, since it is made using only egg whites.
Tips for making the best Sponge Cake
- Make sure your eggs are at room temperature, so take them out of the fridge 45-60 minutes before using.
- For this cake I used an Italian 00 flour which has a protein count of about 10 percent. I also added some corn starch to give the cake a soft and tender crumb.
- Do not open the oven door before 25-30 minutes. If you do the cake could very well fall.
- If you prefer you can add the zest of a lemon or orange to the cake. You could also substitute the vanilla with your favourite flavouring.
How to store a it
A sponge cake will remain soft for about 2 days. To keep it soft be sure to wrap it in plastic wrap and store it at room temperature.
How to freeze it
The baked cooled cake should be wrapped in plastic wrap and placed in an airtight container or freezer bag, it will keep in the freezer for up to one month. If you don’t have a big enough bag or container then wrap the cake in foil.
In order to thaw the cake, place the cake on a wire rack and leave it to thaw at room temperature. It should take a couple of hours to thaw. Once it has thawed it should be covered or it will start to dry out and go stale.
What to make with a Sponge Cake
Classic Italian Tiramisu Layer Cake
A Sponge Cake is exactly that, a sponge, perfect for soaking in any type of liquid. From coffee, to liqueur to even juice or milk. Or as the Italian likes to do, dunk it in his morning caffe latte. Enjoy!
Italian Sponge Cake / Pan di Spagna
- ¾ cup all purpose flour (100 grams)
- 3 ¾ tablespoons corn starch (30 grams)
- 4 large eggs (room temperature)
- ½ cup granulated sugar (100 grams)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- Pre-heat the oven to 320F (160C) Grease and flour an 8 inch (20 cm) cake pan (springform if you have one).
- In a medium bowl sift together the flour and corn starch. Set aside.
- In a large bowl or stand up mixer add the eggs and sugar and beat for 15 minutes, add the vanilla and beat another 2 minutes.
- Gently fold half the sifted flour into the beaten eggs and combine, then add the remaining flour and gently fold until smooth and completely combined. Pour into the prepared cake pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes then move to a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy!
Updated from June 6, 2019.
First if all thank you for your wonderful recepies. I always use your recepies and they are all perfect. I have one question dear. I want to make Tiramisu layer cake. Is it ok if i make the sponge one night before assembling the cake? And if yes should i keep it in fridge?
Thank you darling
Hi Carmen, thanks so much, and yes you can store it in the fridge, just be sure to wrap it well in plastic wrap. It will keep for 2-3 days in the fridge. Take care.
Thank you dear 🥰🥰
Hello, Just discovered your website. I’m about to make several of your recipes, so may have questions down the road. At the moment however, I’m eyeing your very pretty cake rack. Would you mind letting me know where you got it or even provide a link to it. It’s the one photographed holding the Italian sponge cake. Looks perhaps to be copper. Thanks!
Hi Tina, thanks, and ask any questions you have. I got that rack at Crate and Barrel, quite a few years ago and yes it is copper. If you are near one of those stores you could ask them. Hope that helps. Take care!
Thanks for your quick reply Rosemary. I’ll check with them. I’m starting with this recipe tomorrow…can’t wait.
Hi Tina, you’re welcome, let me know.
Hi. Your recipe doesn’t indicate qn oven temperature. I’m thinking 350-? Is that correct?
Hi Giovanna, there is a temperature it’s 320F, it’s all written in the recipe card at the bottom of the post. Hope that helps. Take care.
Deborah Culmer says
Hi Rosemary — If I wanted to add some shredded unsweetened coconut to this, is there anything special I should do to adjust the recipe. And do you recommend 1/2 or 1 cup of coconut?
Hi Deborah, I would gently fold it in at the very end. I would recommend to start with 1/4 to 1/3 cup and see how that is. Let me know how it goes. Take care!
Can this be made in a 13×9? If so, how long should I bake it?
Hi Renee, you could but you will have to double the recipe. I would bake it for the same amount of time then test it with a toothpick. Let me know how it goes.
Very easy to put together. Light and fluffy. I used vanilla paste and it was delicious.
Thanks so much Nancy, glad you enjoyed it. I love using vanilla paste also. Take care.
Rhonda Rachal says
I’ve made this cake Twice and it was a flopp both times.. I did exactly as the recipe said. What could I be doing wrong.. It’s flat as a pancake and hard as a brick..
Hi Rhonda, sorry to hear that, use room temperature ingredients, check the oven temp to make sure it is accurate and also don’t open the oven before 25 minutes has passed. Let me know.
pamela rai says
Hi i would like to bake this cake . You said you use OO FLOUR but the recipe you mention ALL PURPOSE FLOUR AND CORN STARCH . Which flour should i use. i also have OOFLOUR. Thank you
Hi Pamela you can use 00 if you prefer, either works. Let me know how it goes.
Cat B says
Hi, I would like to use this in a layered cake and I wondered how tall it is after baking? Will I be able to cut it into layers or should I make 2?
Hi Cat, you could actually get 2 layers if cut, so if you need more than 2 layers then 2 cakes would be needed. I hope you like it.
I will be baking this tomorrow night for Sunday’s Birthday celebration for my kids.
Im curious to know why you don’t use baking powder… first time I bake without it.
I will let you know how it turns out.
Hi Lia, because you beat the eggs and sugar for such a long time (be sure to follow the directions) this helps the cake rise rather than using baking powder. Also don’t open the oven door before the time mentioned in the post. Let me know how it goes.
So far, so good. I tried a different recipe yesterday, and it was an epic fail! The cake was too dry, the middle was sunken and the texture was doughy. I tried yours today. The cake rose as it was supposed to, and seems to be properly cooked and is cooking now. I’ll be serving it with ricotta frosting and fresh fruit. The final test is the taste, of course. I’ll let you know! Fingers crossed.
Hi Susan, I hope it worked out. 🙂
Mary Morgasen says
Really beautiful cake! My son and I are making tiramisu and did not want to use Lady Fingers. This cake is amazing like a spun fluffy layer for adding other layers of flavor to. It is a perfect tea cake alone and makes me miss my Grandma. Love this recipe and thanks so much!
Hi Mary, thanks so much, glad I good bring back memories of your Grandma. And yes it makes an amazing tiramisu. Take care.
Love this recipe!!
Hi Vanessa, thanks so much, glad you like it. Happy New Year.
I like this easy recipe
Can you post the tiramisu recipe to go along with this sponge cake?! I would love to make it sometime! Thank you!!
Hi Nicole, I actually link to it 2x in the post, once at the top and once with a photo. 🙂
Whoops! Apologies! Thank you 🤗
Hay darling am Paula from South Africa I have seen it all & tasted by eyes😋😋😎🤓 now am ready to bake ,even if you can come stay next door to my home it’s fine as long we will cook & bake together .lots of love hle(watch out you will be speaking multi lingo/language next time in south African💃💃✌️❤️ ,malebo hle moratuwa .Thank you so much
Hi Paula, haha sounds like a plan to me. And the more languages and foods I learn the better. Have a great weekend. 🙂
Paula Beaudet says
Just reading your sponge cake recipe and you defined it in the paragraph before it as a cake made with only egg whites but when writing out the recipe you don’t say egg whites you just say eggs. I don’t know if we are to prepare it with egg whites or the whole eggs. Would love to make it as I love the many recipes you have. I’m sure it is only an oversight. Thank you.
Hi Paula, I am a bit confused, I don’t see the paragraph, this post was re made it could have been an old recipe. Let me know.