Pan di Spagna

Sponge Cake

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Preparation info

  • Makes one

    9- or 10 inch

    cake layer
    • Difficulty


Appears in

Great Italian Desserts

By Nick Malgieri

Published 1990

  • About

This typical Italian sponge cake probably originated in Naples during the rule of the Spanish Bourbons; hence its name, which means “Spanish bread.” It is a very fine-grained cake layer thanks to the addition of cornstarch. In Italy, potato starch would be more common, but the cornstarch gives identical results.


  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • Pinch salt


Butter and line with paper a 9- or 10-inch round cake pan that is 2 inches deep.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the vanilla. Whisk in half the sugar and continue to beat until very light and frothy, about 5 minutes, either by hand, with a hand mixer set at medium speed, or in a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the whip.

Combine the flour and cornstarch and sift once to aerate.

In a clean, dry bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt until they hold a very soft peak, either by hand, with a hand mixer set at medium speed, or in a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the whip. Beating faster, add the remaining sugar in a very slow stream, beating until the egg whites hold a firm peak.

Fold the yolk mixture into the whites with a rubber spatula. Sift the flour and cornstarch over the eggs in 3 additions, folding them in gradually. Do not overmix the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, until it is well risen and feels firm when pressed gently with the palm of your hand.

Immediately loosen the layer from the side of the pan with a small knife or spatula. Invert the layer onto a rack and leave the paper stuck to it. Turn the layer right side up and cool it on a rack.

Unless you are going to use the layer within a few hours, double-wrap tightly in plastic and keep in the refrigerator up to 5 days, or freeze.


Flavor the batter with 1 teaspoon grated orange or lemon zest or 1 tablespoon anisette.

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