Torta della nonna (Nonna’s sponge cake) with strawberries and cream

Serves Icon
Time 01 Hour
Pan di Spagna (sponge cake)
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 200g sugar
  • 200g cornflour
  • 1 sachet Italian baking powder (16g), sifted (such as lievito bertolini)
  • 1 sachet vanillina (3g vanilla sugar such as bertolini) - optional
  • Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
  • 1 pinch salt
Alchermes syrup
  • 100g water
  • 30g alchermes liquor
  • 20g sugar
Strawberries and cream filling
  • 600ml thickened cream (whipping cream)
  • 40g icing sugar (confectioners' sugar), sifted plus extra to serve
  • 40g instant skim milk powder
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lenthways and seeds removed (alternatively 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste)
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 350g strawberries

Requires: 24cm round cake pan, electric mixer (or hand beater)

How to Make It
Step 1

Preheat oven to 180°C conventional oven (350° Fahrenheit/Gas 4). Grease a 24cm round cake pan by lightly buttering the base and sides with margarine or butter. Line the base with baking paper, then lightly butter over the baking paper. Add a heaped tablespoon of 00 flour or cornflour, then turn and shake the tin to coat the butter in flour on the base and sides of the cake pan.

Step 2

Using an electric mixer or hand beater, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form. With the mixer (or hand beater) running, add the egg yolks, one at a time. Add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition.

Step 3

Use a wooden spoon to stir in the cornflour, one tablespoon at a time. You want to see air bubbles rise to the surface of the cake mixture before adding additional tablespoons of cornflour. Stir in the sifted baking powder and vanillina (optional) into the cake mixture. Lastly add the lemon zest and stir until well combined.

Step 4

Pour the cake mixture into the prepared cake pan. Bake for 30 mins or until a skewer inserted in centre comes out clean. Allow to cool in the cake pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Step 5

To make the cream component of the strawberries and cream filling, place the thickened cream in a bowl. Add the sifted icing sugar, instant skim milk powder, vanilla bean seeds (or vanilla bean paste) and orange zest. Use an electric mixer or hand beater to beat until stiff peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Tip: The skim milk powder is used to stabilize the whipped cream.

Step 6

To make the alchermes syrup, combine the water, alchermes and sugar in a small saucepan over low-medium heat. Bring to the boil, then remove from the heat. Set aside to cool.

Step 7

Transfer the Pan di Spagna (sponge cake) onto a serving plate. Slice the Pan di Spagna in half horizontally and pour the alchermes syrup over each cake half. Set aside the top half. Spoon the cream filling over the bottom half of the Pan di Spagna. Cut the strawberries into 4, setting aside 6 half strawberries for the top. Arrange the quartered strawberries on top of the cream layer. Place the remaining cake on top, pressing down gently to secure it. Dust with sifted icing sugar (confectioners’ sugar) and top with remaining half strawberries – buon appetito.

Note: Steps 1-5 can be completed the day before serving.

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