Portuguese Sponge Cake (Pão de Ló) | Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street

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This rustic golden cake is unbelievably eggy, rich and tender

Portuguese Sponge Cake (Pão de Ló)

Appears in March-April 2021

45 minutes 25 minutes active, plus cooling

Portuguese Sponge Cake (Pão de Ló)

Outside Lisbon, home cook Lourdes Varelia baked for us a classic Portuguese sponge cake called pão de ló. Its outward appearance was, to us, unusual—deeply browned, wrinkly and sunken, and the dessert was brought to the table in the parchment in which it was baked. And another surprise was in store: slicing revealed a layer of gooey, barely baked batter between the upper crust and the airy, golden-hued crumb. Sweet, eggy and tender, the unadorned cake was simple yet supremely satisfying. When attempting to re-create pão de ló at Milk Street, we turned to a recipe from “My Lisbon” by Nuno Mendes, who, in an uncommon twist, adds olive oil, giving the cake subtle fruity notes along with a little more richness. We adjusted ingredient amounts and added some baking powder as insurance for a lofty rise; we also modified the mixing method and the baking time and temperature. The cake is delicious with Mendes’ suggested garnishes—a drizzle of additional olive oil and a sprinkle of flaky sea salt—but it also is excellent with fresh berries and lightly sweetened whipped cream. Leftovers will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days.

8-10

Servings

Tip

Don’t overbake the cake. The best way to test for doneness is to insert a toothpick 2 inches from the edge, not into the center of the cake; the toothpick should come out clean. The type of cake pan—dark-colored nonstick or conventional light-toned metal—affects how quickly the cake bakes, so the recipe includes two different baking times, one for dark pans and one for light. Don’t be alarmed if the cake sinks and shrinks dramatically and forms folds and creases as it cools; this is normal.

45 minutes

25 minutes active, plus cooling

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