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Have you ever tasted a Torta Paradiso, or a paradise sponge cake? As easy and heavenly as its name, this traditional cake from the Lombardy region is made of eggs, butter, and flour and topped with lots of powdered sugar.
Its fluffy texture makes it perfect for breakfast. Generously sprinkled with powdered sugar, this paradise cake turns into an irresistible mouthwatering treat in the middle of the afternoon. Flavorful and delicious, it’s so fluffy that it literally melts in your mouth. It’s so fresh that it falls apart in your hands. It’s so delicious that you have to close your eyes when you taste it, a true paradise in your mouth.
What is the origin of its unusual name?
“This cake is a piece of heaven,” a noblewoman shouted out when she first tasted a cake by a Lombard pastry chef at the beginning of the 19th century. Since then, this cake, the most classic of Italian dessert, has become the symbol of the town of Pavia.
Healthy and top-quality products, such as organic eggs, fresh lemons, and oranges are the simple ingredients that make this cake fluffy, sweet, and full of flavor.
A few golden rules for this paradise sponge cake
- All the ingredients must be at room temperature; mix the dry and liquid ingredients alternately: this will enrich the texture of the cake;
- Use a stand mixer, such as a KitchenAid, to combine the ingredients evenly;
- Bake it in a static oven and never open the door while baking;
- Replace regular sugar with powdered sugar.
Choose the right ingredients:
- Butter: In my opinion, it’s the most important ingredient, so choose a top-quality organic kind. If you live in the countryside, buy it at the local farmers’ market. Take it out of the fridge a few hours before preparing the cake. When at room temperature and softened, butter becomes more malleable and easier to whip with sugar. If it is too cold, it won’t get fluffy.
- Eggs: You may encounter numerous recipes, and all of them call for eggs but their number greatly varies from 2, which is not enough, to 12 which make the texture and the taste of a paradise cake too heavy. Four whole eggs and one yolk are the right quantity; slightly beat room temperature eggs before adding them to the other ingredients.
- Baking powder: This is an extra ingredient that makes the cake lighter.
- Lemon or orange zest: You have to grate the peel just before using it in order to give the paradise cake its unique scent and taste. Choose a fresh lemon which balances the sweetness of the other ingredients and gives the cake a pleasant scent.
- Flour: I use all-purpose flour because it rises better and is more stable. Then I add some potato starch to make the batter fluffier. The results are simply amazing!
The genuine recipe of the Italian Paradise sponge cake
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup of sugar (200g)
- 1 yolk
- ½ cup + ½ tbsp of butter (120g)
- ½ cup + 2 tbsp of potato starch (100g)
- 1 cup + 2 tbsp of all-purpose flour (180g)
- Freshly grated peel from half a lemon
- 1 tbsp of baking powder
- 2 tbsp of vanilla extract
- 1 pinch of salt
- Powdered sugar for decoration
- Optional for filling: sweetened whipped cream, custard (or pastry cream), nut butter, nutella
- Beat the butter with the sugar and the freshly grated lemon peel with an electric beater or in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment;
- Add the butter and sugar alternately and beat for at least 15 minutes until creamy and fluffy;
- Slightly beat one egg at a time and pour it into the mixture; add another egg when you have incorporated the previous one. Beat the mixture at a low speed until fluffy and smooth;
- Sift the flour, the potato starch, the baking powder, and the salt; mix in a spoonful of flour at a time. The flour has to be completely incorporated before adding another spoon. Continue to beat with the paddle attachment until smooth and creamy;
- Pour the batter into a 9-inch (24cm) springform pan lined with parchment paper;
- Pre-heat the static oven to 350°F (180°C) and bake for about 40 minutes. Be careful not to open the door until the surface becomes golden brown;
- Insert a toothpick into the center of the cake: if it comes out clean, your cake is done;
- While still hot, release the side of the springform pan and place the cake upside down onto a large flat serving plate, peel away the parchment paper; let it sit for about 15 minutes (otherwise it will get too moist);
- Invert the cake back onto a cooling rack;
- Let it cool completely and then generously sift powdered sugar all over the top of the cake.
How can you store your paradise cake?
It will keep its fluffy texture for about 2 days at room temperature in a cake container.
You may freeze it in single-serve slices without the powdered sugar.
Some wonderful mouthwatering variations
If you want your paradise cake to be even more heavenly, or if its texture is too compact (if the oven cooks unevenly, sometimes it gets dry), you may fill it with something creamy, for example, some custard or pastry cream, nutella, almond or peanut butter, whipped cream, or jam.
Using the whisk beaters on your mixer, whip a pint (250g) of cold heavy whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Stir in 2-4 tablespoons of sugar (only after the cream has been whipped). Whisk until well combined and refrigerate for about 2 or 3 hours. Cut the cake horizontally into two layers with a long serrated knife and spread the cream onto the bottom layer. Cover with the top layer. Sprinkle the top generously with powdered sugar. You won’t be able to resist it, bite after bite.