October 21, 2014

A family treasure, rediscovered: The Sponge Cake

Fresh sponge cake and espresso: an Italian treat.

Fresh sponge cake and espresso: an Italian treat.Finally after years of talking about this, we found the Sponge Cake recipe!

It is a recipe our mom has been raving  about for years. Every time we ask her a question about any cake recipe we write about she always says, “I wish I could find Nana’s recipe. Ohhhh, how she used to whip the eggs and the sugar by hand!”

The Italian sponge cake is the most popular type of cake in Italy. Like the famous Genoise cake from France, this sponge-like cake serves as a foundation for many wonderful and very elaborate desserts, the most popular being the wedding cake.

Traditionally it was  made with 20 eggs, cut crosswise into three discs soaked in rum, liqueur and espresso coffee and then filled with several custard creams — a chocolate, an almond and a vanilla.

It keeps well and sometimes Nana would call it a “keeping cake,” because it could be dried and kept for a long time and still taste amazing when soaked in fruit syrups or any soaking liquids. Tiramisu is one of her favorites.

But today we are talking about serving it fresh: it is light, delicate and spongy. Nana would serve this with a summer fruit, usually the sweetest, juiciest peaches and definitely Papa’s favorite whipped cream sweetened with sugar and vanilla. 

In the summer, you can find Joy and me hanging around the produce section smelling the peaches and remembering the good ol’ days with our grandparents. We hope you enjoy this very special cake…..our Mom just loved it!!

Nana’s Italian Sponge Cake

with Sweet Summer Fruit

and Chantilly Cream

9 eggs

1 1/2 cups sugar (we used our favorite Vanilla Sugar*)

3/4 cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 teaspoons lemon extract

2 teaspoons Sambuca

1 1/2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

Preheat oven to 350F.

Combine the eggs and the sugar in bowl of mixer and mix for 10 minutes on high speed. Add oil and all the extracts. Now add dry ingredients. Prepare your tube pan or bundt pan by greasing and flouring perfectly. Pour into pan of choice and bake for 45-50 minutes until top is golden. Test with a toothpick to make sure it is cooked through. Every oven is slightly different. Cool in pan for 10 minutes and turn out into serving plate.

Chantilly Cream

Delicately sweet, this whipped cream was a favorite of our Nana’s. Judy and I use it as much as we can! It is a perfect choice for any dessert.

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

2-3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar, sifted, more if needed

Combine all and whip until stiff peaks form, taste and add more vanilla or sugar to your liking.

* Vanilla Sugar – 2 cups of white sugar and 1-2 vanilla beans. Split beans and push into sugar. Store in an airtight container and swirl container around for a few days so vanilla can perfume the sugar.