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
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.