1. Food

Pan di Spagna and Torta Genovese Recipes For Layer Cakes

By

Pan di Spagna is quite similar to Genoise, which Italians call pasta Genovese. Both are simple cakes whose major functions are to serve as bases for layer cakes, roll cakes and so on. The difference between pan di Spagna and Torta Genovese?

The preparation: in Torta Genovese the mixture is warmed while it is being prepared. In Pan di Spagna it is not, and the egg whites are beaten to stiff peaks.

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • For Tosta Genovese
  • 4/5 cup (100 g) flour, sifted
  • 2/3 cup (120 g) sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • A teaspoon vanilla extract
  • A 9-inch (22 cm) round pan, buttered and floured
  • For Pan di Spagna
  • 4/5 cup (120 g) flour, sifted
  • 2/3 cup (120 g) sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • A pinch of salt
  • A teaspoon vanilla extract
  • A 10-inch (24 cm) round pan, buttered and floured

Preparation:

In making Torta Genoise, as I said, the ingredients are heated:

Crack the eggs into a round-bottomed (ideally untinned copper) pot, add to them the sugar, and set the pot over a gently bubbling double boiler. Whisk the yolks and sugar briefly, and allow the egg mixture to become warm (not hot).

Remove the pot from the double boiler and continue beating the mixture (at this point an electric beater will be fine) until it has cooled; it should become extremely fluffy.

In the meantime preheat your oven to 380 F (190 C).

Beat in the vanilla extract. Next, gently fold in the four, and pour the batter into the pan; it should reach a little more than half-way up the sides.

Put the cake in the oven, reduce the temperature to 350 F (175 C), and bake the cake for about 40 minutes (a toothpick inserted will come out dry, and the cake will begin to pull away from the sides of the pan).

Let the cake cool upside down, and remove it from the pan.

In making Pan Di Spagna the ingredients are not heated:

Separate the yolks and put them in a bowl with the sugar. Beat the mixture until very fluffy, and almost white. Beat in the vanilla extract too.

While you are doing this, preheat your oven to 380 F (190 C).

Beat the egg whites to very stiff peaks (add to them a pinch of salt), and gently fold them into the beaten yolks. Fold the flour into the batter and pour it into the pan.

Put the cake in the oven, reduce the temperature to 350 F (175 C), and bake the cake for about 40 minutes (a toothpick inserted will come out dry, and the cake will begin to pull away from the sides of the pan).

Let the cake cool upside down, and remove it from the pan.

A note:
Both Pan di Spagna and Torta Genovese depend upon the air incorporated into the batter for their rising. You will find recipes, for example Linda's (at Busy Cooks) that include a half-teaspoon of baking powder. While an Italian colleague likens the addition of baking powder to a Genovese or Pan di Spagna to putting an athlete on steroids, you can add a half teaspoon of baking powder, sifted into the four, if you like.

What to do with Torta Genovese or Pan Di Spagna? In addition to Cassata it's perfect for making layer cakes and such (cut it in half, smother the bottom with icing or pastry cream, replace the top half, and continue to spread frosting or cream), and, if cut into thinner layers, also makes an excellent base for jelly rolls and other log-like cakes (use a square pan in this case).

Last thing: The Origins of Torta Genovese and Pan Di Spagna?
They were developed by a Genoese cook, Giobatta Cabona, who was in the service of Marchese Domenico Pallavicini, Genova's Ambassador to Spain in the mid-1700s. The Marchese asked for "a new cake" in the occasion of a banquet, and Giobatta Cabona presented something astonishingly light and airy, which was called Pâte Génoise, or pasta genovese to honor Giobatta Cabona, while a slightly simplified version was called pan di Spagna to honor the Spanish Court.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.