Serves a Crowd

Pão de Ló – A Historical Cake from the 15th Century

June 22, 2011
3 Ratings
Author Notes

Maybe the best known cake in Portugal, this cake dates back to the 15th Century. It was made in Nunneries and, as with all Portuguese cakes, was very rich in eggs.
The recipe of Pão de Ló was taken to Japan in the XVI th Century by the first Portuguese sailors. Because at the time it was also called Pão de Castela , the Japanese adopted the recipe and call it Kasutera, one of the most typical cakes in Japan.
It is similar to the sponge cake but from the fact that it was traditionally baked in a wood oven in clay pots. The oven bread would be closed and the door sealed with fresh horse manure that would then dry and act as a sealer. More recently it’s sealed with flour and water. Yes, we have evolved… phew!
If you are curious, take a look at this video and watch how it is still done today in some villages and how they keep the tradition in large scale.
http://www.memoriamedia.net/central/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=29&Itemid=200
The original recipe called for 24 egg yolks, 6 egg whites to 2 ½ cups of sugar and almost a cup of flour. Everything would be whisked by hand until tripled in size. The recipe I post is a modern approach to Pão de Ló , but with less eggs and quicker to make. It’s an easy cake, moist enough for tea, delicious with rhubarb or raspberry jam… the kind of recipe you make in 5 minutes when you have friends coming over. Serve with iced tea or a lemonade. Basically it’s the same weight of whole eggs to the same amount of sugar. Hope you all enjoy my historical recipe.
Maria Teresa Jorge

  • Serves 8 - 10
Ingredients
  • 6 eggs at room temperature
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Butter and flour a fluted mould.
  3. In a stand mixer whisk the whole eggs, the egg yolks, the salt and the sugar until triple in size, very fluffy and creamy. It’s really important that the eggs are at room temperature.
  4. Fold in the flour very carefully.
  5. Pour the batter in the mould and cook until gold on top and when a toothpick inserted comes out dry - about 30 minutes.
Contest Entries

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Amy Shatrick
    Amy Shatrick
  • Sasha YP
    Sasha YP
  • Helena Dias
    Helena Dias
  • Lucilia Gomes
    Lucilia Gomes
  • Maria Teresa Jorge
    Maria Teresa Jorge

6 Reviews

Amy S. February 21, 2021
I saw this beautiful cake on the Foodnetwork with Andrew Zimmern. What lovely tradition surrounding this and I really wanted to try. I found it simple to put together, but I had disaster when baking. I used a bundt pan (biggest pan I had) and after 30 minutes the cake overflowed and I lost half the batter to the bottom of the oven- I smoked up my house and we are now sitting in 28 degrees with windows and doors open, and fans blowing the air out. My poor pug is sitting on the couch with my husband shivering. My husband is laughing hysterically while I scramble around trying to get the smoke out. I stuck a spoon into what was left of the cake and gave it a taste. I like it. A little crunchy on the outside, warm and gooey on the inside. I will try again, with a different pan. LOL
 
Sasha Y. May 15, 2020
Followed recipe. 30 mins in oven, batter is still wet and running away. What a waste of eggs.
 
Lucilia G. November 14, 2020
FYI these cakes usually 45-60minutes in oven. Most ovens at 350 run closer to 60 minutes in middle rack. This cake u cannot open oven until the 45minutes have past. Hope this helps.
 
Amy T. September 17, 2018
Could you please tell me the origin of the 15th century recipe? From what cookbook?
 
Helena D. December 14, 2014
Can you give us a cooking time estimate.
 
Author Comment
Maria T. December 15, 2014
Hi Helena Dias,
About 30 minutes gives you a dry Pão de Ló.
A typical Pão de Ló is very humid meaning raw in the centre but as I don't like it, this is my version.