Thursday 11 March 2010

Recipe: Pan di Spagna (Genoise)

Doubtless I'll get shot down by the purists who differentiate between Pan di Spagna and Genoise, on the basis that the former incorporates the yolks and the whites of the eggs separately, whilst the latter incorporates them in one go. There are some other differences in method also - but, since the end result is effectively identical, whether you're following a recipe for Pan di Spagna or one for Genoise, then I have no qualms about listing this recipe equally under the latter heading. I've followed various different Genoise recipes, over the years - generally either Le Notre's version, or that from Alain DuCaisse - but this recipe for Pan di Spagna , which comes from Harry's Bar in Venice is by far the best: straightforward, quick and entirely reliable.

The history of the cake seems a little confused. Apparently the brainchild of an Italian cook called Cabona in the mid 1700s, the italian name refers to the fact that he was in Spain when he first came up with the idea - but his provenance from Genoa suggests that the same cake might also have been called Genoise by the rest of Europe for much the same reason.

The Harry's Bar version is used to great effect between layers of Creme Patissière in soft- fruit tarts, as a double layer enveloping a purée of either apple (or pear) in the Harry's Bar version of apple pie, and as the central element for both their meringue and chocolate cakes. It is also excellent as the base layer, soaked in appropriate alcohol, for any sweet soufflé. In almost all its uses, the cake needs to be sliced into thin layers before use - for which you need either a steady hand and a sharp knife, or else a wire cake slicer (Westmark sells one; I've always understood these things to be called a 'harp', but the Westmark one which I have goes under the name of 'lyre').

For 1 x 23 cm diameter cake.

Ingredients: 4 Eggs, separated; 150g Sugar (or Splenda); 140g Flour, sifted; 1 tsp Vanilla essence.


1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees C.

2. Beat the yolks with the Sugar until the mixture is pale yellow; add the Vanilla essence, and mix in.

3. Whisk the egg whites until stiff, then stir a third of this into the yolk/sugar mixture, and fold in the remaning two-thirds of the beaten whites.

4. In three lots, gently fold the sifted Flour into the egg mixture, then pour the mixture into a greased spring-form pan.

5. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 25 minutes; allow to rest for a minute or two still in its tin, then remove from the tin and allow it to cool completely.